Project Controls Software

To be able to find answers quickly and easily, you must know where to look. Even large organizations that have to deliver multiple projects of any size, still rely heavily on Excel spreadsheets. Standardizing projects on processes that are based on industry and internal best practices not only saves project managers from many of the worst surprises but also improves project performance.

The complete picture with Excel as the project controls tool

Excel, by far and wide the most used cost management tool in companies nowadays has a lot of advantages. Some of the main ones being:

• Commonly available for all working within a company environment, Excel does not need a special license.

• Excel generally does exactly what it is told to do.

• It has some very good data analytics tools that are readily available.

• It is an extremely versatile piece of software that lends itself to uses in various environments.

However, it is in some of its greatest strengths that lie some of its greatest weaknesses.

For instance, the versatility of Excel leads to individual customization so much that 6 months or 1 year down the line, when the employee has moved on to other jobs or companies, the process is replicated by another employee with his or her customized spreadsheet. This does not help in aligning the different cost management modules that are required to produce the results expected by a professional project controls team.

Another thing is locating the proper data among a large number of spreadsheets can be time-consuming. Also, it implies a lot of manual work that leaves a significant margin for errors, and disconnected processes for project budgeting, forecasting, and performance measurement.

Excel also implies a large amount of manual data input that leaves a significant margin for making errors. Inherently, it assumes disconnected processes for estimating, cost control, progress measurement and therefore forecasting.

In advanced project controls tools, the latest cost engineering best practices are embedded into each routine, tasks and subtasks, yet still leaving enough room to customize the data input and output to each customers’ unique requirements.

This would, therefore, negate the need to develop special Excel-based, user-specific tools for each activity that is usually understood only by the person that developed it. In today’s fast-paced and quick changing world, company personnel move from role to role and from company to company multiple times within their career. Therefore, these custom solutions do not lend themselves to long term use. Typically, they get parked when someone new comes on board, does not understand the developed solution and inevitably, develops their custom solutions, thereby perpetuating the issue. These efforts use up valuable work hours that could have instead been put to better use in analyzing the resulting data.                                             

The benefits of process standardization via project controls software tools

One of the main benefits of using an advanced project cost management tool is process standardization. For people to be able to find answers quickly and easily, project c personnel must know where to look. If Excel has been your go-to solution, looking for the right data amongst many spreadsheets can be a time-consuming exercise.

Using a project controls software tool can help standardize work processes, customize it to individual company requirements, organize big data, save finalized documents at a centralized location and more.

When project cost data is saved in this manner, it is possible to create templates with company-specific data, including the usage of cost breakdown structures (CBS), work breakdown structures (WBS) and contract breakdown structures (CTBS) to facilitate alignment of cost data for the various departments within the company for their specific needs. This can then be easily reused by any new project. It also facilitates easy access to any (new) team member and assists collaboration by sharing documents, timelines and status updates.

Having a standard approach to the processes to be used by each project should speed up project delivery.  The reason being that each project can be provided with all the information that they need at the project initiation stage, which eliminates the efforts of designing, understanding and implementing the project support framework.

*This article is based on the AACE International technical paper ‘Integrated Software Based Project Controls on Major Capital Projects’ written by Abhoy Ganguli.

About Cleopatra Enterprise

Cleopatra Enterprise is the innovative and industry-leading Project Cost Management Software for industries such as oil & gas, chemical, mining, pharmaceutical, infrastructure, and construction industries. With a mission to help companies complete projects within time and budget, Cleopatra integrates cost estimating, scheduling, cost control, and project benchmarking.

For more than 20 years, Cleopatra Enterprise has been used by more than 500 industry-leading companies in 75 countries to control technical projects and turnarounds and improve project performance. If you'd like to talk to an expert about our software Cleopatra Enterprise, please request a demo now.

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