Programme project controls have we lost our way
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Programme & Project Controls Have we lost our way ?. Steve Elliott. Outline. Introduction -- SE & Crossrail A simple view of Project Controls What is success for Project Controls Some observations Summary & Conclusion Discussion. Introduction.

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Programme project controls have we lost our way

Programme & Project ControlsHave we lost our way ?

Steve Elliott


  • Introduction -- SE & Crossrail

  • A simple view of Project Controls

  • What is success for Project Controls

  • Some observations

  • Summary & Conclusion

  • Discussion


  • 35 years in engineering & construction projects

  • Chartered Engineer & Certificated PM – FIMechE, FAPM

  • First experienced Project Controls in Petrochem with Exxon/Esso

  • Project Experience

    • Heavy Engineering & Power, Oil & Gas, Petrochem, Pharmaceuticals

    • Infrastructure (Airports, Rail, Water)

    • Worked for contractor, consultant and client organisations

  • Last 2.5 years - Programme Controls Director at Crossrail

  • Concept of a railway in large diameter tunnels – 1941

  • Current scheme has its origins in 1943 – London Plan

  • 1974 term “Crossrail” emerged – London Rail Study

  • 1989 - proposal of standard (BR) gauge tunnels

  • 2001 CLRL formed, 50/50 JV between DfT and TfL

  • 2005 the Crossrail Bill put before Parliament

  • July 2008 – Crossrail Act 2008 received Royal Assent

  • Construction commenced in May 2009 at Canary Wharf

  • Crossrail on track to open for business in December 2018

  • Station mock up at Leighton Buzzard

Europe s largest construction project

Europe’s largest construction project

  • £14.8bn funding

  • 37 stations

  • 8 new sub-surface stations

  • 21km twin-bored tunnel

  • 19 Boroughs

  • 140 main works contracts

  • 10,000 suppliers

  • 4,340 commitments

Crossrail route

Crossrail route

  • Why build Crossrail

  • Crossrail will cut journey times and provide additional capacity – increasing London’s rail capacity by 10%

  • Passengers will be able to travel from Heathrow to Tottenham Court Road in under 30 minutes,

  • Paddington to Canary Wharf in around 16 minutes, Whitechapel to Canary Wharf in 4 minutes

  • Generates ~ £42 billion in economic benefits

  • One of, if not the the most economically attractive rail developments in recent history.

  • Enables the regeneration of areas around the stations along its route

  • Improved accessibility likely to attract new private sector development.

Current status
Current Status

  • Almost 50% complete

  • Spent (& Earned) to date – circa £5 bn

  • £800m spent of property aquistions

  • Around 9000 people working on the programme

  • On schedule and within the Sponsors funding envelope

  • Only rolling stock left to procure – contract award in Spring 2014

  • Spent all my career on projects – large, small, simple, complex

  • Across numerous different sectors – and after 35 years I often see:

    • A poor grip of the fundamentals of Project Management & Controls

    • Too much time looking backwards – driving analogy

    • Too many specialisms and too few rounded controls professionals

    • An obsession with detail that obscures the wood from the trees

    • Slow take up of IM technology in some sectors – eg construction

  • We cannot change the past

  • It’s too late to change the present

  • So we are only left with the future

  • Isn’t that what Controls is really about ?

Knowing what

has to be done

(Integrated Scope, Cost, Time)

  • Baseline

  • Plan

  • Review

  • Physical

  • Progress

  • Measure

Reviewing to check

corrective actions

have had an impact

(Follow up)

Knowing what

has been done

(Earned Value)

Risk &


  • Course Correction

  • Analysis &

  • Forecasts

Knowing how


compares to

the plan

(So What &

looking forward )


corrective action

(Doing something

to make a change)

  • Knowing what has to be done – the plan

  • Understanding the risks and opportunities in that plan

  • Knowing what has been done

  • Knowing what has NOT been done and why

  • Knowing how performance compares to the plan

  • Recommending corrective action to achieve the plan

  • Communicating the above - at the right time, in the right format

  • All at an APPROPRIATE level of detail


  • No 1 -- Lack of appropriate effectiveness models and structures

  • No 2 -- Dis – integrated Project Controls

  • No 3 -- Inappropriate levels of detail and unnecessary accuracy

  • No 4 -- A need to better exploit emerging IM/IT technology

Observation no 1
Observation No. 1

  • Programmes & Projects often lack an Organisational Effectiveness framework

  • There is no agreed simple, robust structure – much more than a WBS

  • Scope and structure alignment is left uncontrolled and silo working is rife

  • Controls professionals need to be at the core of projects to drive this

Programme Controls Effectiveness Framework

Vision &


Culture & Values


Systems &



Processes &


People &


The 7 Levels of Effective Strategy, Governance & Control










Risk Management

Risk Appetite

Ensure alignment

To Strategy

Programme & Projects

required to fulfil Strategy

Crossrail Structure




1 - Programme

7 - Areas


Programme Management

Control & Reporting

Strategy & Governance

35 - Projects


140 - Contracts

(of Control Accounts)

Project Management

Several Hundred - Control Accounts

(of Work Packages)

Task Management

Thousands of Work Packages

(of Activities, where the work gets done)


  • Fundamental– usually not given the attention it requires

    • If not well developed and controlled – control will be virtually impossible

    • Challenging in early phases – teams prefer flexibility and will resist

    • Different specialisms want different structures

    • Misalignment occurs vertically and horizontally

    • Its for ALL the programme – i.e. not just a WBS (Typically focused at Levels 5,6 & 7)

Its all about being in control – NOT – being controlled

Observation no 2
Observation No. 2

  • Lack of integrated controls

  • Commercial, Planning, QS’s – not joined up

  • Often each discipline has it’s own structure, processes etc.

  • They could be working on different projects

  • Controls professionals need to get a grip of this

Dis integrated controls
Dis - integrated Controls

  • What happened to Cost & Schedule Engineering – Ingegneria Economica

  • Oil & Gas vs. Construction vs. IT -- Worlds apart in approach & capability

  • Procurers, Planners, Estimators, Contract Administrators, Cost Engineers.

  • The UK is too focussed on developing specialists

    • In fact the various Institutions promote this – it’s in their interests to do so

    • We produce professionals who know more and more about less and less

  • We need Project Controls professionals – rounded, experienced, multi-skilled

  • We need standards to drive and ensure skills and competence

Glaxo -- Stevenage versus Glaxo – North Carolina

Same Client, similar approach:

Client Team + PAE + Management Contractor with LS Subs.




One facility cost twice the other – guess which one!

Observation no 3
Observation No.3

  • Three parts to this and each feed of the other and create a spiral which is difficult to stop

  • 1 --- A drive for more and more detail – does it mean better control – NO!

    e.g. the 10,000 activity costed programme > 1 million activities in Crossrail – P6

  • 2 --- An unnecessary quest for decimal point accuracy

    e.g. Anticipated Final Cost £10,925,863,253 --- HS2 – Budget £42.6 bn

    CPI and SPI 0.957, CPI 0.893 – 3 decimal places - who is fooling who?

  • 3 --- Reports with pages and pages of data and detail – but little analysis

    Clients and Sponsors, usually persuaded by consultants and government departments often request excessive levels of information and metrics.

    Which they then do very little with.

  • Create an illusion of greater control and accuracy

  • More data to manipulate & information to report

  • Leads to more resources

Observation no 4
Observation No. 4

  • We must exploit the full power of emerging information technologies

  • BIM and 4, 5 D models – real integrated Project Controls software/tools

  • Portable devices -- still too much paper

  • Simple to use software – the days of PM tool experts are numbered

  • There are some really good examples, but they are few and far between

  • The petrochem/oil & gas/IT sectors are way ahead of construction

  • What could it be like in the future

    • BIM and 4, 5D -- the virtual project world

    • Automated progress measurement using intelligent components

    • Smart handover of projects to operators and users

    • The capture, cataloguing and Intelligent use of life cycle data

    • Realtime reporting instead of month end snapshots

    • Clients will expect much more automation and less resources

Summary need to focus on t he fundamentals move forward
Summary --- Need to focus on the fundamentals & move forward

  • The application of a robust Strategy, Governance and Control model

  • Need to develop more rounded Project Controls Professionals

  • Need to constantly remind ourselves what the real purpose of controls is

  • Need to develop standards for competency and excellence

  • Really embrace BIM/4 & 5D technology to improve efficiency

So what should we be doing to address these issues
So what should we be doing to address these issues

  • Ensure that Planning and Controls is at the CORE of projects & programmes

    • not an add on function or a support function or a PMO

    • The pilot/navigator analogy

  • Carefully consider the level of detail you are getting into

    • Challenge – why do you need this – remember the first slide – plan/measure/recover

    • We cant change yesterday or today – too long in the rear view mirror causes crashes

  • We can and should all develop and broaden our skills

    • Get involved in other disciplines – planners in cost; QS’s in schedules – radical!

To conclude have we lost our way
To conclude --- Have we lost our way?

  • In some areas, I think we have – but we can easily find it again if we focus on what matters -- the fundamentals

  • Put more effort in developing rounded PC Professionals

  • Fully exploit information technologies and emerging devices

  • And stop wasting precious time, resources and money creating overly complex, too detailed, fragmented control models which don’t provide Sponsors, Project Directors, Managers and colleagues what they NEED. Which is :

  • Knowing what has to be done – the plan

  • Understanding the risks and opportunities in that plan

  • Knowing what has been done

  • Knowing what has NOT been done and why

  • Knowing how performance compares to the plan

  • Recommending corrective action to achieve the plan

  • Communicating it all at the right time, in the right format