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Finding that “just right” project control resource

Highly proficient project control resources are often in short supply – particularly those resources well versed in scheduling and earned value management (EVM) requirements.  When looking for the right resources, companies frequently go down the path of looking for a “tool jockey” – someone who knows how to use a particular scheduling or cost toolset.  This is a common approach for companies that think buying a piece of software will solve their project management issues or will make them compliant with the EIA-748 Standard for Earned Value Management Systems (EVMS) 32 guidelines.

There is no “easy button” in project management.  When the source of the problems with a project control system is the underlying process or lack of process ownership, buying software or hiring a tool jockey temporarily plasters over the root cause.  If anything, buying software and hiring someone just because they know which menu options to pick can make things worse.  Software won’t fix process issues.  The result?  Useless data and finger pointing when things do not improve.  The frustration level goes up for everyone and makes it even harder to complete work on a project efficiently.

Is there a better approach that can make a positive difference on your project?  Absolutely!

Instead of focusing on x number of years of experience with this or that tool, this degree, or that certification, consider taking a more holistic approach to finding a quality project control resource.  Look for a cross-functional project control resource that combines an intrinsic knowledge of project control processes, understands what’s important, and knows how to apply best practices such as EVM using the toolsets of choice.  The image below illustrates this.

Cross-functional project control resource qualities

It all starts with a base of scheduling expertise.  Why?  Combined with a clear understanding of the scope of work, the work breakdown structure (WBS), every project requires a sound network schedule – the road map to complete the work within an agreed upon timeframe and budget.  What are the tasks?  How long will they take?  What is the sequence of work?  Where are the constraints and dependencies?  What resources are required to do the work?  Are they available to do the work when scheduled?  What are the project’s risks?  Does the schedule reflect the actions necessary to reduce risks to an acceptable level?  Is the schedule executable?  Is the budget sufficient to execute the work as scheduled?

Scheduling is often described as an art.  Working closely with work teams or technical resources, it requires a level of passion and desire to create a useful model of how the technical resources intend to perform the work.  It also requires a level of understanding of how scheduling fits into the overall project control process, what’s required to create a sound schedule, schedule risk assessment, and how to create a schedule driven budget baseline.  Knowing how to use a toolset effectively is necessary, but secondary to the scheduling expertise.

A business process background matters because the project control person frequently needs to interact with other functional personnel such as accounting, procurement, contracts, cost estimating, systems engineering, manufacturing and production, human resources, and others.

A good understanding of other business system requirements and data structure assists in establishing the appropriate coding framework to integrate the project control data with other systems.  This has a direct impact on the schedule and cost toolset configuration.  The project control data architecture should accurately model the way you do business.

An appreciation of what is important to other functional personnel, who is responsible for what, and the particulars of a company’s standard operating procedures also helps.  It makes it easier for the project control team to establish useful workflow procedures that everyone follows.

Someone who understands the related project control domains such as developing basis of estimates, defining accomplishment criteria, budgeting, work authorization, resource management, risk assessment, performance analysis, and change control is important because all of the components for managing the project need to fit together.  Maintaining the integrity of the work scope requirements, schedule, and cost data for the life of the project is a priority.  Management needs reliable and timely project status and performance analysis data so they have actionable information to make informed decisions.

They also need an understanding of the EIA-748 Standard for EVMS 32 guideline requirements.  What is even more important is the ability to translate those requirements and implement them to fit a business environment.  How are EVM best practices instilled into the normal project control process, procedures, and day-to-day activities?  It also requires an understanding of what a government customer or prime contractor expects – from specific data requirements, artifacts, and data deliverables to various customer reviews.  For example, conducting an Integrated Baseline Review (IBR) is a common requirement on a government contract.  An IBR ensures all parties have a common understanding of the scope of work, schedule, budget, resource requirements, and project risks.  Everyone needs confidence that an executable schedule and budget plan has been established.

A cross-functional project control resource also knows how to use the applicable toolsets effectively to support the project control process, maintain quality schedule and cost data, and produce required data views or deliverables.  The ability to configure, implement, integrate, and use various commercial off the shelf (COTS) software in different environments following industry best practices can simplify and reduce the time necessary to get a new project up and running.  A cross-functional project control resource can also reduce the risks associated with implementing a new project control toolset because they know what works and what to avoid.

What’s the benefit of a cross-functional project control resource compared to a “tool jockey”?  There are many.  Where do you see you need help with your project control system?  For example, a cross-functional project control resource has the ability to:

  • Wear multiple hats and see the big picture. They can help bridge the gap with other functional entities.  They can help you define your project control roles and responsibilities to establish process ownership.
  • Perform schedule and cost data quality assessments to provide fact-information you can use to identify the root cause of poor data or data integration issues.
  • Ask the right questions to help you create an accurate model of your business system data and processes. This is the basis to create a data architecture for the project control system – the data framework for properly configuring the schedule and cost toolsets.
  • Provide hands-on training and mentoring in industry best practices, scheduling, cost, risk, EVM, and using the toolsets effectively.
  • Help you enhance your process and workflow procedures such as the process you follow to develop a network schedule, produce a schedule driven budget baseline, establish a project’s performance measurement baseline, conduct a baseline review, analyze performance, maintain the estimate at completion, and manage changes.
  • Produce desktop instructions specific to the toolsets you use. These help your project personnel to become more proficient with your project control best practices and the toolset.

Are you looking for short or long-term cross-functional project control resources?  We specialize in these hard to find resources.  Give us a call today.

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