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  • Writer's pictureMATRIX PMO

Project Controls – What are they and why are they important?

How does YOUR organization define project success?

According to the Project Management Institute, the leading not-for-profit professional membership association for the project management profession, project success is defined by whether projects goals are achieved within the authorized budgets. Despite the best intentions, many organizations discover that their projects often miss their targets. This can happen for several reasons and below are just a few examples:

  • Focusing on technical detail and not on business value

  • Lack of accountability and measurable results

  • Inconsistent processes for managing project milestones

  • No consistency for planning and executing projects

  • Not including key stakeholders in the early stages of the project

  • Project management tools and techniques are not provided to the project team

  • Inability to motivate and manage project team members to achieve consistent performance

Regarding large capital projects, majority result in schedule delays and cost overruns. While looking at major projects in the world, there are many studies that highlight subpar performance on more difficult and larger projects. According to Morris and Hough, (1987, 7-12), project overruns ranged from 40% to 200%. While inflation plays a factor, other causes are due to scope changes and poor cost estimation.

How does MATRIX define a successful project?

MATRIX defines project success as the way by which we align three critical components of the project. These include:

  1. Achievement of desired result(s)

  2. Completion of the necessary scope to achieve the desired result(s)

  3. Project performance within the established criteria

At MATRIX, we would not consider any project a success if it did not accomplish the results desired. The principle of “results” can also be defined as fulfillment of a business case or accomplishment of the business purpose. In the end, the project goal is always the same – achieve strategic goals but in a controlled manner.

So, what separates a project that is delivered within budget and on-time versus an inflated and delayed project? In majority of instances, the answer is great project controls.

However, the word “control” is a contradiction because there is little about projects that we can truly control. What can be controlled is how we allocate resources, decisions we make and the actions we initiate. Consequently, project controls allow us to effectively allocate project resources, come to better decisions and lead to the initiation of better actions.

How do we improve project success by using project controls?

To successfully execute a project, the first step is to plan the process by which the project should be executed and having the necessary tools in place to plan, schedule and control costs. At MATRIX PMO, we recognize that project controls play a major role in the success or failure of every project. Having a well-designed project control system that is scalable to your project is a great foundation but unfortunately cannot always guarantee smooth sailing.

To take full advantage of any project or portfolio management software, you should have a strategic business partner that is fully vested in your organizational success. If the risk of cost overruns and schedule delays could result in permanent damages (e.g., economic, ecological, legal or legislative, to name a few), consider MATRIX PMO, where we provide predictable project delivery.

Citations: Morris, P.W.G. and Hough, G.H. (1987) The Anatomy of Major Projects - A Study of the Reality of Project Management. John Wiley & Sons Ltd., Chichester.


MATRIX is your single source for project management, project controls and project oversight services. From initiation to closeout, MATRIX provides the industry’s finest project management staff with Project Management Institute (PMI) Project Management Professional (PMP) certified project managers. At MATRIX, we believe in the power of a cohesive unit emphasizing teamwork and collaboration. Our goal is to provide the “complete package” by developing a team of professionals, hand-selected to provide the right skills and competencies to match the complexity of your project. While others provide just personnel, our Project Management Office (PMO) delivers results. With 15+ year of experience and over $600M in turnkey PMO contracts, we guarantee to improve your project predictability, management, and performance.


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