Project controlling – effective project monitoring (incl. checklist)

In project controlling, compliance with the project plans is checked and the current progress in the project is recorded. Project plans that are not controlled lose a large part of their value. Everything planned in the project must be subject to regular project controlling during project implementation!

Project Controlling – Definition

Project controlling is a core task in project management. It includes all activities that are necessary to implement the project according to plan.

The goal of project controlling is to ensure that the project goals are achieved in the desired quality, while adhering to the planned deadlines and costs. The project management is responsible for project controlling. In large projects, there is often a dedicated project controller who performs this task on behalf of the project management.

Goals of project controlling

  • Securing the achievement of the project objectives
  • Determination of the current project progress
  • Determination of critical plan deviations (target/actual comparison), analysis of causes and evaluation of consequences for the project
  • Planning and implementation of project management measures
  • Social project controlling
  • Documentation of the results of the project controlling in a project status report

Core areas of project controlling

Project controlling is an integral part of project management over the entire duration of the project. Project controlling includes all activities that are necessary to realize the project according to plan. Project preparations and project plans, which are created in the initial phase of the project, serve to determine the desired course of the project as precisely as possible and to think ahead.

During active and effective project control, the target specifications of the project planning are compared in regular cycles with the actual values achieved in the course of the project, which are introduced by the experts responsible for implementation and results. The target/actual comparison refers both to the project object and to the course of the project.

Any deviations found between target and actual values must always be considered in an integrated manner and subjected to a critical and cause-related analysis. Experience shows that deviation is not equal to deviation. The evaluation of the effects and consequences on goals, deadlines, milestones, costs, result quality, customer satisfaction, mood, etc. is optimally carried out together with the technical experts.


Checklist: Project planning as a prerequisite for project controlling

As a prerequisite for efficient project controlling, project planning must be as comprehensive as possible. The checklist below shows which plans are necessary in detail. These questions should be clarified before the implementation of the project is started!

  • Are the project goals measurable, realistic and coordinated within the project team?
  • Is there a written project order?
  • Is the cooperation in the project team sufficiently regulated?
  • Project organization is known
    – Project roles are described
    – Work package managers are defined
    – Communication structures are defined
    – Rules of cooperation are agreed upon
  • Is there a detailed performance planning in the project
    – Project results are known
    – Project phases (= main tasks in the project) are defined
    – Work packages are defined and described
    Is there a detailed schedule in the project?
    – Milestones are known and scheduled
    – Detailed schedule at work package level exists
  • Is there a detailed personnel deployment plan?
    – Personnel resources are planned at work package level
    – The availability of personnel resources is ensured
  • Is there a detailed cost planning in the project?
    – Project costs are planned at work package level
    – Budget plan prepared
  • Is there an analysis of the project environment?
    – The environment is known
    – Critical influencing factors are identified
    – Measures to minimise risk are documented
  • Is there an investigation of the project risks?
    – Risks are identified and assessed
    – Risk-minimizing measures are defined
    – Contingency planning exists
    – Risk budget has been applied for and approved
  • Project controlling structures are defined
    – Goals and tasks of project controlling are clarified
    – The tasks in the team are known
    – The controlling cycle is agreed, as are the deadlines
    – Participation in the Controlling Meeting is regulated
    – Regular deadlines for project controlling are planned
    – There are agreements about deputy regulations
  • Project reporting structures are defined
    – Objectives and tasks of reporting are clarified
    – Report content and design are defined
    – The reporting cycle is defined as follows
    – The addressees of the project report are known

Principles of project controlling

  • Controlling means steering! Control is only a partial aspect which is necessary for controlling – it should not be the focus!
  • Plans that are not „controlled“ lose a large part of their value – therefore, everything that is planned must also be „controlled“!
  • Project controlling is much more than schedule and cost controlling – the project must be kept in mind as a whole!

Execution of project controlling

Project Controlling Meeting

At periodic intervals (14-day, monthly), the current status quo (snapshot) in the project is recorded together with the project team. A separate project controlling meeting is best suited for this purpose.

The project controlling meeting serves the periodic and active coordination and monitoring of the project plans and takes place regularly over the entire course of the project. Periodicity and dates of the meeting are determined in the project start phase.

Changes in the intensity of the controlling cycle are possible and are decided specifically and situatively by the project manager. Participants in the project controlling meeting are project managers, project controllers (if a specially defined person is available in the project), project core team and optionally other employees from the project organization.

The following parameters are considered in project controlling

  • Project objectives according to project order
  • Performance progress in the project (work packages according to work breakdown structure)
  • Quality of service
  • Dates and Milestones
  • Costs / financial resources / use of resources
  • the project environment (stakeholders) and the design of the relationship to the various environments
  • Project risks and critical success factors
  • Social relations in the project and the cooperation of all project participants

Preparation for the project controlling meeting

In the course of preparing for the controlling meeting, the work package managers consolidate the information regarding their work packages. This is best done in a written status report. Central information that is generated and documented is:

  • Ongoing activities
  • the current status of the previous progress of the work packages
  • Assessment of the performance progress of the work packages
  • Assessment of compliance with deadlines and costs
  • problem areas
  • open points and necessary decisions.

Execution of the project controlling meeting.

The project controlling meeting is chaired by the project manager. In the meeting, the work package managers present the current status of their work packages. The personal presentation by the work package managers promotes the exchange and networking of the experts among each other.

Current problems can be discussed directly in the project controlling meeting and, if possible, solved. The result of the meeting is a synchronized information status on the current project status for all participants. Difficulties and problems are known, but also the areas in the project where things are going well and according to plan.

In the course of the follow-up of the meeting, the project plans are updated and the result is documented by the creation of a protocol.


Creating a Project Status Report

After the project controlling meeting, a project status report is created on the basis of the current information in compressed form. The project status report serves the project manager as the basis for the regular meeting with the project client. It is an important document in the course of the project and is usually presented to the steering committee.

The regular preparation of project status reports brings transparency, security and continuity to the project development process. The report should be accessible to all project members.