The project control profession is under pressure around the world.
Companies want good data on which to make better decisions but they often don’t make the full investment needed to set up functional systems, train and recruit skilled staff and prioritize the role of project controls in the organisation.
Executives often see project controls as an overhead and the project teams view them as obstacles. It’s tough to admit, but this is how the project control function often is perceived.
I experienced this personally in the 2014 oil crash. I was working on oil and gas related projects and as oil prices collapsed, companies slashed costs in order to stay in business. The irony was that many stopped investing in the software, training and people that they needed in order to properly manage costs effectively.
When I read project controls experts writing about the state of the industry, I hear this frustration being expressed all the time. The work that they do is critical to the management of modern engineering projects, but it also seen as overhead that is under increasing scrutiny.
I found myself in the position where I had an increased workload and less resources than ever before to actually carry out the work.
Automate the Boring Stuff
As a matter of survival, I began to learn skills that would allow me to automate and streamline the project planning and reporting tasks that I needed to perform.
I became more adept at importing and exporting data from Primavera P6. I learn how to use and develop data transformation tools in MS excel. The business intelligence tools that have been developed over the last five years within MS Excel offer amazing automation and visualion tools. I outline what these tools are and what they can do in the following articles:
Communication is the Only Free Lunch in Project Management
One of the most depressing parts of project controls is to put a huge amount of effort into maintaining accurate schedule and cost data only to find that a proportion of your team don’t really understand it and are effectively ignoring it.
I now believe, in a fast moving project environment, if data is not easily understandable, it may as well not exist.
As I attempted to solve this challenge, I discovered Microsoft’s dashboard environment Power BI. Power BI allowed me to start to create easy to understand dashboards that gave the project team the information they needed to manage the projects. This tool is part of most versions of Office 365 and allows traditional project control systems such as Primavera P6, Prism or Cobra to produce easy to maintain and easy to understand dashboards.
As my skills grew, I changed from being the guy who didn’t have time to give people the information they needed to the person who could help the project team in a variety of ways.
Here are some examples of using Power BI with Primavera P6 data:
If your interested in exploring some of this tools on your project please contact me at mannix.carney at gmail dot com