Project management/Project control systems
Project Management tries to gain control over variables such as risk:
- Potential points of failure. Most negative risks (or potential failures) can be overcome or resolved, given enough planning capabilities, time, and resources. According to some definitions (including PMBOK Third Edition) risk can also be categorized as "positive--" meaning that there is a potential opportunity, e.g., complete the project faster than expected.
Customers (either internal or external project sponsors), external organizations (such as government agencies and regulators) can dictate the extent of three variables: time, cost, and scope. The remaining variable (risk) is managed by the project team, ideally based on solid estimation and response planning techniques. Through a negotiation process among project stakeholders, an agreement defines the final objectives, in terms of time, cost, scope, and risk, usually in the form of a charter or contract.
To properly control these variables a good project manager has a depth of knowledge and experience in these four areas (time, cost, scope, and risk), and in six other areas as well: integration, communication, human resources, quality assurance, schedule development, and procurement.
Project control systems
Project control is that element of a project that keeps it on-track, on-time, and within budget. Project control begins early in the project with planning and ends late in the project with post-implementation review, having a thorough involvement of each step in the process. Each project should be assessed for the appropriate level of control needed, too much control is too time consuming, too little control is too costly. Clarifying the cost to the business if the control is not implemented in terms of errors, fixes, and additional audit fees.
Control systems are needed for cost, risk, quality, communication, time, change, procurement, and human resources. In addition, auditors should consider how important the projects are to the financial statements, how reliant the stakeholders are on controls, and how many controls exist. Auditors should review the development process and procedures how they are implemented. The process of development and the quality of the final product may also be assessed if needed or requested. A business may want the auditing firm to be involved throughout the process to catch problems earlier on so that they can be fixed more easily. An auditor can serve as a controls consultant as part of the development team or as an independent auditor as part of an audit.
Businesses sometimes use formal systems development processes. These help assure that systems are developed successfully. A formal process is more effective in creating strong controls, and auditors should review this process to confirm that it is well designed and is followed in practice. A good formal systems development plan outlines:
- A strategy to align development with the organization’s broader objectives
- Standards for new systems
- Project management policies for timing and budgeting
- Procedures describing the process
Project development stages
Regardless of the methodology used, the project development process will have the same major stages: initiation, development, production or execution, and closing/maintenance.
The initiation stage determines the nature and scope of the development. If this stage is not performed well, it is unlikely that the project will be successful in meeting the business’s needs. The key project controls needed here is an understanding of the business environment and making sure that all necessary controls are incorporated into the project. Any deficiencies should be reported and a recommendation should be made to fix them.
The initiation stage should include a cohesive plan that encompasses the following areas:
- Study analyzing the business needs in measurable goals.
- Review of the current operations.
- Conceptual design of the operation of the final product.
- Equipment requirement.
- Financial analysis of the costs and benefits including a budget.
- Select stake holders, including users, and support personnel for the project.
- Project charter including costs, tasks, deliverables, and schedule.