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How do project managers control whether a project is on schedule or on budget? The quick answer is that they learn the project control process. This helps them ensure that a project is completed on time and on budget. Complete this lesson to learn more.

The Project Control Process

The Project Managers Institute (PMI) lists the project control process as part of the monitor and control process group. This group of work consists of the processes required to track and monitor the progress and performance of a project and identify any areas that require changes. Project control is a continuous process that requires the project manager to observe, gather information, and make changes to the project as necessary. The process of monitoring and controlling the project can be thought of as a feedback cycle.

What Is the Project Control Process?

The project control process compares actual performance versus the planned performance of the project. A project manager uses a formula to determine if the work that has actually been completed matches what was originally planned for completion at any given time.

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For example, a project planned to have 50% of the work completed and budgeted to spend $100,000 by the 6-month mark. A project manager can calculate the actual amount of work completed and budget spent versus what was planned. If the two figures are not equal, corrective action may be required.

The project control process will also identify and track new risks and issues. Tracking risks and issues is important because either one, if not controlled, can quickly cause the project to overspend or fall behind schedule.Project status reports are another method used to determine if a project is under control. A project manager will meet with the project team regularly to gather status report information from each work group involved in the project. Status reports are another method a project manager can use to identify when the project may be experiencing issues that require corrective action.

Project Control Tools

There are several different project control tools, which include expert judgment, analytical tools, and meetings.

Expert Judgment

The project manager will use their past experience, or expert judgment to influence decisions on the current project.

Often, the project manager will use the entire project management team to help make decisions for the project.

Analytical Tools

There are many analytical techniques the project manager can use to identify the potential for variations in a project’s performance. Regression analysis, causal analysis, and earned value management are just some of the analytic tools a project manager uses to track a project’s performance.


Meetings can be face to face, virtual, formal, or informal, and can include project team members, executives, and stakeholders. Meetings are useful to the project control process because they create a method for project stakeholders to discuss issues and concerns.

Results of the Project Control Process

There are many different beneficial results of the project control process:

2. Project Documentation Updates

Depending on the change required, a project manager may need to update the project documentation, like the project plan, schedule, cost management plan, or quality plan.

If the change adds scope, budget, or extends the project schedule, then the project manager must update his project documents. Many project managers have not communicated or documented changes that occurred along the way and have paid for this mistake.

3. Work Performance Reports

Work performance reports are the reports that represent the work of the project. The reports will show current project status versus the project’s planned performance.

A project manager will look at actual hours worked and compare to planned hours. This comparison will help determine where the variance has occurred.

Examples of Project Control Process in Action

Example One:

As John prepares for his monthly executive project review, he uses his analytical formulas to calculate his cost performance index (CPI) as 1.1 and his schedule performance index (SPI) calculates to .

9. This information tells John that his project is under budget but falling behind schedule. To determine why he is behind schedule, he pulls his work performance report and sees his planned work hours and notices that he should have 2500 man hours used at this point in the schedule.

His actual work is 2200 work hours. John realizes that he does not have enough people working on the project deliverables and contacts resource managers to assign more resources.

Example Two:

Steve is running a manufacturing project of a new widget. His first production run is not meeting quality criteria. As the second run of widgets starts to fail quality inspections, he decides to perform a walk through as production resumes. He notices numerous stations are not assembling properly. Steve realizes that the production team has not been trained.

He initiates a corrective action to train each team member on job specifics. Steve estimates what the corrective action will cost and how it impacts the schedule. He then adds the added costs to his planned costs, updating his budget and then publishing an updated schedule.

Lesson Summary

The project control process is the portion of work that monitors and controls the project work. The project control tools used to help control a project include expert judgment, analytical tools, and meetings.

The results of the project control process are change requests, documentation updates, and work performance reports.

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