The project control book is a simple, often overlooked tool that helps you keep track of critical project documents, status, issues and other action items. It can go a long way to improving stakeholder communications, be it a formal meeting or random encounter. Here’s how to set up and maintain a good one.
What’s in your Wallet?
Have you seen the Capital One credit card television commercials that end with the tag line “What’s in Your Wallet.” A recent commercial features a barbarian horde pillaging consumer credit ratings only to be thwarted with the Capital One credit card.
This visual often reminds me of project managers using a project control book to fend off project problems and overcome project barriers.
During project delivery, project managers are assaulted with a barrage of questions, concerns, issues and problems that require a prompt response. The project control book is an often overlooked and simple tool that helps the project manager keep track of critical project documents, status, key communications, decisions, and other project control documents. In its simplest form, the project control book is a three-ring binder with different tabs to separate key project documents and allow the project manager to quickly access project information.
Project Control Book Format
The basic format for a project control book includes the following tabs or sections:
- Project Charter Executive Summary
- Scope Summary
- Project Budget
- Project Forecasts
- Appropriation/Contract Requests
- Team Roster
- Communications Matrix
- Milestone Chart
- Level 2 Project Schedule
- Weekly Status Report
- Monthly Stakeholder Summary
- PMO Reporting Scorecards
Change Request Log
Gate Review Presentations and Signoffs
- Lessons Learned
Supplemental Project Deliverables
The Project Scope section should include an executive overview of the project. Depending on the size of the project charter, the overview may be the project charter or just an executive summary. The format is flexible and should adequately capture the scope, purpose and intent of the project. A scope summary slide helps convey the functions and business units impacted by the solution. On a recent program, the program manager created a summary slide that identified the different functions being deployed to large and small market countries.
The Project Finance section provides a snapshot of the project financials including the approved budget, appropriation requests, and financial forecast including year to date project spend. Depending on the company’s finance guidelines, the project may include contract summaries or appropriation requests that allocated financial resources to 3rd party vendors or internal departments.
The Communications section contains the critical communication components including the team roster, relevant organization chart, communication plan, and any project critical communications. A project kick off presentation or project orientation packet can be included to quickly orient newcomers to the project. Projects often acquire new team members and the Communications section can be quickly reference to communicate the scope of the project and identify the key stakeholders in the project.
The Schedule section is frequently referenced in the project control book. Depending on the size of the project schedule, the hard copy may be limited to the 2nd level roll up. The level 1 view of the project schedule typically provides phases and key milestones and the 2nd level provides sufficient granular detail to answer most project scheduling questions. If more detail is required, the PM should reference the electronic project schedule and drill down to specific dates and tasks.
The Project Status section includes the most recent project status report and any relevant supplemental reporting. Project health scorecard or any summarized stakeholder reports can be included in the section.
The Issue, Risk and Actions section is an optional section depending on how the organization maintains issues, risks and action items. The project manager may include critical or high level issues, risks, and follow up items rather than printing all the issues, risk, and key follow up logs.
The Gate Review section includes a phase gate review presentations and critical customer sign offs. Depending on the company’s gate review process, this section may include gate review reports, presentations, and relevant sign-offs. As a project progresses through each gate, key issues, dependencies, and risks are often documented with a gate review sign off. This section is useful for other stakeholders to reference in case they missed the gate review.
The Project Closure section includes any project close documents such as lessons learned or project completion notifications. Including the lessons learned is useful for future projects. The project manager can quickly flip to the lessons learned document and review past pitfalls for the next project.
The Supplemental Deliverables section is a catchall for any other critical project documents. Key meeting minutes, focus group presentations, and training plans are just a few of the key documents that can reside in the project control book.
Use as a Project Control Book Guideline
These sections should be used as guidelines and be tailored to the size of the project. The project manager may reorganize these sections based on the custom project life cycle stages or the traditional phases of Initiate, Plan, Execute, Control and Close. The intent is to provide a summary level binder of key project information. The average size of the project control book isn’t larger than a two-inch, three-ring binder.
In the digital age of fileservers, electronic document repositories, and collaboration technologies such as Microsoft SharePoint or EMC’s eRoom, the concept of a hard copy project control book seems antiquated. Wireless network connections are becoming readily available and the project managers are constantly connected using BlackBerrys, Windows, Android and other PDA devices. Despite the rise of the digital medium in project management, the project control book still remains a useful tool to share and communicate project information.
The amount of digital information available increases the need to accurately organize and manage the information. Fileservers are notorious for unstructured directories with redundant files. Establishing and maintaining a project control book helps filter key documents from the document management chaos and support the project management in a wireless world.
Maintaining the project control book doesn’t require much effort as the project manager simply replaces weekly status reports or updated project schedules with new versions. The concept can also be applied across programs with release level control books. The control book also supports knowledge transition when a project manager transitions an in-progress project to another project manager.
Most project managers spend 90 percent of their day communicating, and the project control book supports the communication. During the day, people often drop by the office and ask questions about the project. As project and programs grow in complexity, it becomes increasingly difficult for the project manager to know all the details. The project control book provides the details to answer the numerous questions generated by the project stakeholders.
Compare the basic format to your project’s needs and ask yourself “What’s in your project control book?”