The synchronised use of project cost management and scheduling tools can significantly enhance the capacity for project success, says project control specialist Planning & Cost Engineering Services (PaCE) MD and CEO Nic Bennett.
He explains that, owing to their conflicting control and reporting requirements, the work scheduling is usually done quite independently from the cost structuring with little or no link between the two, resulting in inaccurate cash flow projections and perfunctory cost forecasts. “The secret lies in defining the work in a breakdown structure that readily presents the work with its attendant costs in a timeframe at the desired level of control,” he adds.
He explains that one of the key areas of successfully managing projects is having the capacity to manage the rate of forecast expenditure or cash flow by using the schedule. “Therefore, there is a requirement to create statements of work that are derived, directly from the data at the lowest level to estimate or define the statements of work and then generate the estimated costs for each. The work statements can be rendered as activities in the schedule, while still retaining their links back to the estimate,” he adds.
Bennett says that this is obviously a fairly intricate technique that may not apply to smaller, less complicated projects. “However, where it is used, it would require a central repository for all project data, such as budgets, forecast costs, risk assessment, earned value, procurement, expenditure and the associated timeframes for each.
“All data can be accessed at will, ensuring there is an audit trail of transactions, and can be used for benchmarking and learning.” He adds that there is a fundamental need for project cost management applications, which provide a sound foundation for any project.
“PaCE uses primary products from project management software company Eigasoft’s stable, in Switzerland, to ensure data consistency. It is also a regional agent for their products in Southern Africa,” says Ben-nett. The company offers several software products, includ- ing project cost management tool Costrac and the enterprise project information management and monitoring system (ePimms). Costrac mainly tackles project cost management, and ePimms contains additional project management functionality, such as the project risk register, dash board- ing and document management.
Bennett explains that one of the key benefits of using cost management tools like Costrac is that it enables a project man- ager to determine the future course of a project. “If you know where your project is going, you can identify the problems and take action. The project manager has the advantage of immediate access to accurate information to make informed and timely decisions,” he adds.
Cost management software also enables the project manager to easily extrapolate data with forecast changes in varying scenarios linked to the schedule that identifies savings or cost overruns as the project develops.
He says that one of the challenges that professionals in the project cost management indus- try often face is trying to get those in the financial environment to acknowledge that project cost management is a separate but related discipline. “Financial accounting does not and cannot meet all the project cost management needs because, like schedule work structuring, financial structuring has a different focus and it tells you where you have been rather than where you are going.”
PaCE has developed from its initial cost engineering platform to covering the full range of project control and project support office services, while adding a further expansion into project analysis and diagnostics, risk management and strategy management, as well as project management framework development.