You can’t manage, what you can’t measure

09.Mar 2021

Projectcontrolling at Combeenation

According to the motto “shoot sparrows with cannons”, it has long been a challenge to adapt controlling instruments in small and medium-sized enterprises sensibly and to use them appropriately. Often misunderstood as "controlling", it is less about "exercising control", but rather about planning and steering the right goals, in a supporting sense for the management, advising, navigating and communicating. Controlling as a “process and way of thinking” acts as an interface but also as a “critical counterpart” to management and forms a control process (to control) between the business decision-makers and the controller. The tasks and goals of controlling are diverse, but one area at Combeenation has established itself professionally in the last six months: project controlling.

Controlling Complexity

New paths are created by walking them ...

... increasingly complex projects with high deadline and cost pressure, longer project times and cross-departmental teams require systematic project management and project-relevant controlling skills. Reliable information about deadlines, costs and quality as well as constant target tracking are necessary for the success of projects. All project controlling activities at Combeenation are geared towards generating early and precise forecasts about project development and thereby bringing transparency to the complex project structures and processes. It is not just about providing conclusions about the retrospective project development, but also showing prospective alternative courses of action and enabling early countermeasures in the event of deviations.

How is this process of systematic monitoring and control of projects designed at Combeenation?

Controlling Combeenation Control Center

At the beginning it is necessary to define a certain standardization of structures, processes and key figures. This starts with a largely standardized project structure plan, which is based on an equally predominantly standardized offer calculation. Together with the customer, in the course of a kick-off workshop, the project requirements are specified with those responsible from the areas of customer success management, project management and developers.

Controlling is already crucial in the pre-project phase with the help of a multi-level contribution margin calculation in order to determine the breakeven point by comparing the expected project sales and the planned direct project costs and overheads.

Combeenation Controlling Dashboard

This ist the foundation for updating the expected project result with the actual values through ongoing project control with regard to deadlines, costs, services and capacities at different levels. The actual values resulting from the implementation of the project are continuously compared with the planned values as well as with the forecast values. The results are corresponding diagrams and trend analyzes that clearly show deviations that have already occurred and / or which are to be expected and which must be analyzed with regard to their causes and effects on the further course of the project.

Project Controlling Combeenation

At Combeenation, weekly meetings between Controlling, Project Management and Customer Success Management, in which the current projects are discussed and the actual and forecast times are updated, have proven their worth. For each individual project, detailed project controlling is carried out from the pre-project phase to the final costing. The following information is made available at work package and milestone level at any point in time in the project and thus enables impending deviations to be identified in good time.

However, an isolated consideration and comparison of planned and actual costs does not provide any information as to whether deviations are due to a lower level of progress or a more economical service provision. If, for example, the actual costs are lower than the planned costs, on the one hand this can be attributed to efficient project implementation, but on the other hand there can also be excessive cost consumption, namely when significantly fewer services than planned have been performed at the same time. For this reason, cost control must also include the level of performance, in the form of target costs. These are the costs that are allowed to accrue as planned for a given service, i.e. the so-called completion value or "earned value". As a result, the cost and time efficiency of the project can now also be calculated at Combeenation.

The administrative challenges grow with the size of a project landscape.

Controlling Combeenation Time Cost Quality

In short: the more projects, the more planning, control and resource management are necessary. Especially when the projects run in parallel and a project management team is responsible for several project teams. Multi-project controlling is recommended so that shared resources and content-related dependencies between different projects do not lead to problems with resource management and, as a result, a loss of overview and control jeopardizes the success of the project. This offers a concrete procedure for prioritization and subsequent planning and control of such a complex project landscape.

All current and upcoming projects are listed or prioritized in the Combeenation Project Road-Map with regard to the degree of progress and timeline. In the weekly project controlling jour fixe, the respective project manager assesses deadlines, quality, costs and evaluates the overall status of all ongoing projects, whether they are being carried out according to plan or whether there are slight or serious deviations. The result is a clear representation of a consolidated overall project structure (project portfolio) using traffic light controlling based on central cross-departmental coordination, coordination and communication. It is a permanent quality assurance, a systematic provision and administration of all project-relevant information.

"You always know more afterwards"

Controlling Combeenation Control Center

This also applies to Combeenation projects. And although a project is defined as a new type of undertaking, the wealth of experience from previous, similar projects can be used to better plan and control future ones. To do this, retrospectives are used; in which one looks back on what has been achieved. The focus is on the results achieved so far, the team and its way of working, with the aim of continuous improvement - in the sense of "lessons learned".

In this context, the project is also recalculated, planned and actual project results are calculated on the basis of partial and full costs, and deviations are analyzed in order to take subsequent measures to avoid or at least reduce them as far as possible in the future.

Long story short 

The entire project stands and falls with project controlling. Because only with project controlling you get transparency about the projects and immediate intervention in case of deviations is possible. It helps to identify potential problems early on in the execution of the project and to initiate corrections. With its analyzes, project controlling contributes to the fact that the goals are adapted if necessary and the success of the project is not jeopardized.