Guide to Project Monitoring and Control Phase of Project Management

Smartsheet Contributor Kate Eby

March 8, 2022

Monitoring and control provide project managers with real-time status reporting that informs decisions and maintains communication among stakeholders. Project managers use monitoring data to determine if work is on task, on budget, and delivered on time.

Included on this page, you’ll learn how to create a project and control plan and best practices for implementing the plan.

What Is Project Monitoring and Control?

Project monitoring and control helps you measure project performance. Use the process to look at the project plan, review project status, identify potential problems, and implement changes when necessary. This phase coincides with the execution phase of the project lifecycle.

You can use this phase to keep a project on schedule and within budget while also managing risk and avoiding scope creep. At the end of the monitoring and control phase, the customer accepts the completed project deliverables.

What Is the Main Purpose of the Project Monitoring and Control Phase in Project Management?

The primary purpose of monitoring and control in project management is to identify problems before they occur and make adjustments. These changes may require reevaluating and updating the project plan.

Alan Zucker, Founder of Project Management Essentials, LLC, who has more than 25 years of project leadership and management experience in Fortune 100 companies, identifies the purpose of monitoring and control: "Project managers regularly track performance focusing on cost, schedule, and scope. If the project is off-track, the project manager takes corrective action."

 

Importance of Project Monitoring and Control

Project monitoring and control are essential to completing a project on time, on budget, and within scope. Monitoring and control processes identify deviations from the project plan. Project monitoring and control ensure that performance is seamless, efficient, and on track. 

Alan Zucker describes the importance of project monitoring and control for delivering a successful project: "Project managers know that no project proceeds perfectly according to plan. We must be diligent in tracking performance to see if it meets our expectations for success. If not, we must determine what is needed to keep the project on track."

Project Monitoring and Control Process

The monitoring and control process tracks performance metrics to keep a project on schedule, on budget, and within scope. The process helps project teams discover problems before they occur. 

  • Monitor Key Performance Indicators (KPIs): Monitoring KPIs keeps project deliverables on track and performance up to date. Project managers use data on timelines, budgets, and quality to enable better decisions, make changes to avoid problems, and capitalize on opportunities. 
  • Monitor Change Requests: Measuring project performance data helps reveal whether the project is on track or if changes are necessary. If the project is off course, then a change request will be submitted and implemented to make a course correction. 
  • Monitor Project Scope: This step helps ensure that any changes to the project scope are verified and documented. You’ll need to update any relevant documents, such as a project scope statement and work breakdown structure. You’ll also want to determine any timeline and cost adjustments that are relative to a scope increase that can cause a shift in strategy.
  • Identify Risks: Ideally, risk identification should occur throughout a project; when risks arise, you have the relevant information available to make the right decision. 
  • Communicate with Team Members, Stakeholders, and Clients: Maintaining regular communication keeps projects on track and helps avoid misunderstandings that cost time and money. It’s vital that stakeholders and team members receive all relevant information in a timely manner.

How to Create a Project Monitoring and Control Plan

A project monitoring and control plan integrates factors such as success, scope, schedule, resources, risk, and costs. The plan is developed during the  project lifecycle’s planning phase

  1. Outline the project.
    Establish scope, schedule, and budget baselines for benchmarking according to the project plan. The plan defines project goals, resources, and milestones. 
  2. Break down the project into subtasks or units of work.
    A work breakdown structure is a useful tool that project managers can use to create subtasks and manage work. This visualization helps project managers track and simplify performance and deliverables. 
  3. Execute the project plan, and report and analyze to identify variances.
    Determine if variances are acceptable and continue to monitor them. Find the cause of unacceptable variances and make adjustments.

How to Implement Project Monitoring and Control

Project managers use three to five key performance indicators to report monitoring data and define objectives to keep the project on track. KPIs must be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely.

  • Monitor Project Parameters: The project plan will include the scope of the project and measurements for success. Project managers use KPIs to track schedule, effort, and cost and to ensure they align with the project plan. 
  • Monitor Stakeholder Involvement: By positioning and communicating with the project team, management, and clients, you keep everyone engaged and on task. 
  • Monitor Risk: When you complete risk assessments throughout the life of the project, you avoid issues and enable mitigating negative impacts on the project timeline and budget.
  • Monitor Project Performance: Project managers use KPI dashboards to identify problems and measure work progress.
  • Take Corrective Action to Control Progress: Project managers use the project plan as a baseline to control progress and track changes until resolution or the project enters the closure phase.
  • Monitor and Manage Data Documentation: Documenting performance and changes in the project keeps stakeholders involved, mitigates issues, and informs future projects.

Project Monitoring and Control Best Practices

Project monitoring and control best practices require constant attention to detail. These best practices can empower project managers and teams to balance time, cost, and budget.

  • Define Project Management Team Roles: Make sure that team members know the expectations and the timelines to meet.
  • Identify a Point of Contact: When problems arise, there should be a dedicated person who is responsible for tracking, documenting, and monitoring any issues. 
  • Determine the Frequency of KPI Reporting: When developing the project plan, decide how often you’ll conduct KPI reporting and stick to that schedule. This data is essential for monitoring and control performance.
  • Define Variance Thresholds for Schedule, Budget, and Cost: Decide what percentage of change is acceptable and the variance threshold figure that requires change. 
    • For schedule variance (SV), subtract planned value (PV) from earned value (EV). 
    • For budget variance (BV), subtract the money spent from the planned budget for each line item and divide it by the original budget to calculate the percentage.
    • For cost variance (CV), subtract actual cost (AC) from earned value (EV).
  • Determine if Variance Cause Is Common or Unique: Work continues without change under expected and acceptable variance. If the variance is caused by the unexpected, identify and implement the proper change. 
  • Scrutinize Change Orders: Review documented change requests with the project team to approve or reject them.
  • Monitor and Control Scope Creep: Mitigate scope creep to maintain project parameters and recognize that project change may impact outcomes.
  • Conduct a Rigorous Approval Process at Completion: Make sure to document and file all approvals appropriately.

Zucker adds, "Soft skills are often missed, so focus on communication and effectively maintaining stakeholder interest. Projects can benefit from a fresh perspective, and an advisory board of specialists provides oversight and guidance for project managers."

 

Project Monitoring and Control Techniques

Project managers depend on monitoring and control to track, review, and report on project performance. They rely on this phase to make informed decisions, avoid crises, and maximize performance and opportunities. 

Project monitoring and control techniques address three areas in project management:

  • Project Plan Monitoring: Use the critical path method (CPM) to identify essential project milestones and keep deliverables on schedule.
  • Project Budget Monitoring: Use earned value management to assign project tasks according to their cost.
  • Project Status Monitoring: Use project status reports to standardize the reporting process and identify completed tasks, key takeaways, risks, and real-time progress.

Project Monitoring and Controlling Strategy

Successful projects require diligence and precision in monitoring and control, so having the right strategy can make all of the difference. A good monitoring and control approach looks at quality, risk, and stakeholder engagement levels and communicates all project outcomes.

These tips can help you adhere to a project monitoring and control strategy:

  • Establish a cadence and well-defined process for managing change requests. 
  • Tailor performance reporting to project needs. 
  • Do not overburden the project team with information requests. 
  • Position stakeholders where they are needed most according to their expertise. 
  • Prioritize performance data that is actionable and requires a decision. 
  • Take into account how decisions impact the schedule, budget, and scope. 
  • Establish a transparent decision-making process and communicate and document outcomes.

Project Managers Rely on Smartsheet for Project Monitoring and Control

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