“What do you do exactly?” Debunking Common Myths of Project Controls Professionals

By Courtney Gosewisch, CCP, Project Controls Specialist

I am a Project Controls Professional and I have had the opportunity to work on a variety of projects so far in my career. Although they always range in dollar value, complexity, and technology type, I consistently encounter misconceptions about project controls and why it is an essential role on the project team. Our role is often a bit of a mystery to other team members, so let’s dig into the top three myths about project controls.

Myth 1 – “I’m already doing that!”

Project managers are used to controlling the financial and scheduling aspects on their projects without an additional resource. However, the larger and more complex the project becomes, the more moving pieces will be involved. Project controls is resource support for project management, specializing in cost, schedule and proactively identifying potential issues and their sources. We immerse ourselves in the details of cost reports, accounting functions, planning, progress updates, change orders, and risk management. We generate reports and analyze trends to advise project managers of possible cost and schedule issues and create recovery plans. This support provides timely information to inform project management and ownership decisions, leading to speedier solutions and important remedial actions to benefit the project as a whole.

Myth 2 – “You are here to be the cost and schedule police!”

It is a common misconception that project controls professionals are on the team to force the project back to baseline. Although extensive planning efforts occur early in project development to set a baseline schedule and cost estimate, a project team rarely devises a perfect plan. There are always unforeseen issues that can impact budget and schedule. Project controls experts identify and understand deviations, track the effect of scope changes on established baselines and mitigate issues proactively. It is not the expectation for the project to progress exactly on baseline, but we can explain variances and impacts that will help project management stay ahead of the curve.

Myth 3 – “You are here to monitor my work.”

I hear this often when I am on a project site to verify progress and participate in team walk-throughs, but actually the opposite is true. Project controls is on site to learn, understand, and ask questions. The more questions we ask, the more accurate our reports will be! We are here to understand the physical site, work sequencing, team roles and responsibilities, and to build trusting relationships. The more integrated we become on the team, the better we can assist in identifying potential issues during construction execution and in providing appropriate mitigation strategies. This helps the team avoid having to react to adverse situations that might occur.

Project controls is here to serve as an extension of the project manager. Our focus is on-time and on-budget delivery of a project, which is a very detailed and complex task on larger projects. Having a resource dedicated to this effort allows project managers to focus their attention on the entire project and to make timely decisions with accurate, detailed information. We are here to analyze and advise, understand deviations, and proactively manage the cost and schedule components of a project. We are a critical component in the project management process.