Controlling system for mega multi-regions construction programs


Sr. Project Management Consultant

I. Introduction

Monitoring mega construction programs is indeed a tough task. The challenges facing the establishment of the controlling system for mega construction programs tend to be ruinous, especially when talking about a program of 182 projects in 15 different regions and several supporting subprograms, the major challenges are various and complicated. The first challenge to face is how to align these interdependent components with the strategic vision of the sponsor and the enterprise.

With the burden of the program criticality and the numerous tough stakeholders, the performing organization was requested to face the biggest of all challenges: the structure of the program's controlling system; defining the techniques of applying the system; building and developing the appropriate teams who can utilize the proposed system and finally the means to create the key outputs in order to measure the performance to the chief stakeholders and thus apply the corresponding corrective actions.

With a lot of resistance and dealing with very strange situations related to the stakeholder's engagement (examples in the presentation), the effort of the performing organization has led to a great leap in the performance of the enterprise, and the controlling level of the program components of the program started the benefit delivery after a year of struggling:

  • The sponsor could get a complete picture at any time using the project management information system (PMIS) on the program level.
  • The sponsor could get a complete key performance indicator (KPI) measurement report at any time using the unified database (PMIS) detecting the area of concern at any level of the program or the components.
  • The sponsor could slice and dice between many reporting layouts grouped and sorted as per the stakeholder requirements based on his position and his concerns.
  • All the main stakeholders could get a clear picture of the financial status of the program at any level or even for each component to detect any payment problem using the cost structure and the schedule performance index (SPI), as well as the cost performance index (CPI).
  • The enterprise could achieve the strategic goal of in-house resource assignment within the first year with a very remarkable % by implementing the training program, the in-house resource engagement, and the practical application through the components activities.
  • The enterprise could minimize the components delay through the level of control established by holding a steering committee to accelerate solving detected problems in any of the components or program level.

II. Difference between Program and Construction Program

The classic definition of a program is a group of projects, subprograms and program activities managed in a coordinated way in order to gain benefits and control which will not be feasible if they are managed individually. The subprograms are those programs managed as part of another program, while the program activities are tasks and work performed within a program.

The cornerstone to perform accurately in construction-illustrated by the case study-is to align the construction projects (182, in our case) along with the supporting subprograms and the administration (governance) programs to serve the strategic vision of the enterprise. That helps in creating outcomes which will support the required paybacks (benefits) of the program(s), applying these benefits to the culture of the enterprise and finally turn the paybacks (benefits) into values intensely incorporated in the performance vision of the enterprise.

III. The MOI Program (The case study)

A major sponsor with a critical strategic importance in one of the big countries has been suffering for a long time because of the major managerial problems in the performance of a component of his programs, also controlling his projects and the numerous changes in the individual projects and the entire programs.

A large number of services, systems and resources are being provided by the sponsor throughout his facilities to millions of people across the country on an hourly basis.

In the last five years the outcome analysis and the customer satisfaction measurements showed too many complaints and nonconformance comments from customers, and the level of customer satisfaction is paramount in the field of the service provided by the sponsor for governmental and internal administration of the country.

The sponsor's program governance decided to launch a strategic program that includes five phases of constructing large subprograms (00, 01, 02, 03, and 04), gigantic controlling system implementation, resource administration system, resource development system and a vast renovation program for the existing facilities. So the sponsor hired a performing organization to be the program manager for the proposed job, side by side with his team.

IV. The Program with Respect to Program Management Standards (The performing organization analysis)

1- The As-IS status. The initial analysis revealed that the key management methodology that the sponsor was adapting within his domain of numerous projects was managing multiple projects with large levels of independency. The main principles of this methodology can be summarized as follows:

  • Leak of alignment with the program strategic objective, sometime contradiction
  • Poor resource optimization
  • Cost overrun, and poor earned value performance
  • The visions, missions and objectives tend to be standalone and oriented to the projects rather than being integrated
  • Poor communication with a lot of communication blockers in data gathering and reporting
  • Diverse reporting standards, templates, reporting figures and work performance reports

2- The program's vision and mission (strategic objectives is a point of discussion). The program vision is to increase the customer's satisfaction and promote the organization to the level of global standard service provided, setting the program/project management procedures in the culture of the organization and creating a pool of highly qualified resources with a strategic vision and high moral.

Speaking of the program's mission is to enhance the level and raise the number of the facilities, human resources, systems and the management skills and methodologies through a multinational specialized consultant to effectively manage the program components, with the best cost, time, quality and end-used service.

The strategic objective served by the mission and vision was to decrease the cost overrun by 25% in the upcoming five years and having 12 program management office (PgMO) qualified engineers for each region and functional PgMO with high efficiency in-house resource within the same time period and this was a real challenge.

3- Program components. The MOI program consists of:

  • Construction of 182 administration and service buildings in 15 regions with corresponding 15 regional managers in addition to 182 project managers. The job was to develop the data collection, data analysis, reporting systems, communication approaches, information and recommendation reporting, a responsibility assignment matrix and the ground rules for such an extensive program.
  • Training project for the enterprise employees to upgrade their managerial qualification (tended to become a sub-program).

4- The delivery benefit and benefit analysis of the case study program. The program's benefits are reflected in endings of actions, behaviors, products, or services purpose to provide utility to the sponsoring organization and program beneficiaries. In the presented case the target benefits of the program can be summarized as follows:

  • Increase the resource optimization level in the organization
  • Increase the project management skills, and program management skills for the main enterprise resources
  • Increase the service level the number of the beneficiaries inside and outside the organization
  • Increase the morale inside the organization
  • Minimize the cost overrun and the changes through any program components by applying well-established procedures for program components scope management
  • Increase the enterprise communication efficiency and data reporting

V. The Conceptual Tactics (Exhibit 1)

On dealing with these complicated programs and upon using interconnected and interdependent components, the main objective should be to set a concrete program infrastructure comprising the PgMO, a proper PMIS and a highly qualified resource for the special tasks like training delivery, benefit sustainability or stakeholder management. The fundamental key point to accomplish the required level of control, applying what will be later illustrated in the role of the PgMO, is to find out an integrated point between the strategic level and the organization structure from one side and the program components from the other side. This integrated point will facilitate:

  • Structuring a virtuous direction of the main database in the PMIS used
  • Unifying the methods of data collection and the KPIs used
  • Data entry and saving time
  • Permitting flexible layouts for reporting and analysis to define the critical areas
  • Minimizing the changes
  • Handing over the main sponsor resource once the program is delivering the benefits

The ideal integrated point defined in our program was the schedules of the components. Based upon that, the main job of the controlling team in the regions and in the core team became clear. This job is to guarantee a well-established structure and system in order to have a respectable schedule that will be used for achieving the mentioned targets.

With the aim of ensuring accuracy and relativeness of the proper data on this level to the program components (projects) collected and assigned data, a proper structure system for the schedules of each project should be guaranteed. Consequently, an appropriate reporting layout with a firm database connected to all the program/project stakeholders should be established; a clear communication plan and communication channels ensuring that the right information is reaching the right person in the right time using the right format should be strictly applied; qualified teams for applying the system should be built.


Exhibit 1 – The main controlling concept

VI. Why the Schedule…? (point of discussion)

The schedule is the most integrated document of any project. It includes the scope, the cost, the time planning, and the risks. In addition, it can be used to measure the performance and develop forecasts. Aiming the program level, the schedule will represent the point of data collection where the subsequent points could be developed:

1- The main work breakdown structure (WBS), the cost structure of the components for cash-in/out

2- The data collection layouts

3- The data entry layouts

4- The roles and responsibilities and the security levels

5- The main reporting layouts for the components using the PMIS capabilities

6- The components’ link to the program level reporting and data integration using the PMIS

7- The main reporting layouts for the program level using the coding systems in the PMIS

8- The forecasts and the main KPIs to measure the program performance and detect the critical areas, by means of the concept of PMIS integration to the program level

In the MOI program, the main KPIs settled upon were:

  • The earned value indicators (SPI (schedule performance index)), CPI (cost performance index), TCPI (to complete performance index), and time measurements) in both components level and program level
  • The trend performance on the component level and the program level
  • Progress payment indicators
  • Resource utilization indicators for the major contractors
  • Staff outputs and monthly task evolution for the training programs
  • Stakeholders engagement indicators (via stakeholder engagement matrix)

- Default schedules’ structure:

In enterprise scheduling there are three levels of data entry and analysis:

  • Key-Level 1: The enterprise (program and portfolio) level that includes:
    • The enterprise project structure: representing the global structure of the enterprise categorizing the projects by the permanent categorization system, with ability through the enterprise coding system (project codes) to group and sort the projects by any desired sorting for the sake of analysis
    • The enterprise resources and roles
    • The program levels with their categorization system and resource assignment
    • The projects as the last level of the enterprise structure which is the key to level 2
  • Key-Level 2: The project WBS level that includes:
    • The project WBS based on the construction logic as the best practice, or any other structuring system: the WBS must represent the full project scope as well as being linked to the project scope statement
    • The project codes, WBS data and methods of calculating the earned value for each WBS level
    • The work packages level and control accounts
  • Key-Level 3: The project activity level that includes:
    • The activities listing, sequencing, resource and codes assignments
    • Construction logic
    • Construction methodology

VII. The Program Execution and Controlling Phase Using The Schedule

a. The PgMO general role

The primary objective of a PgMO was to achieve benefits from standardizing and following respectable project and program management policies, processes and methods. These methods should reflect best international practice within the industry.

Over time the PgMO will become one of the primary sources for guidance, implementation of control systems and monitoring of all practices related to the management and implementation of projects within the organization. It is not, however a substitute for the normal project management functions of the employer's departments and their consultants.

The PgMO will espouse and coordinate the establishment of worthy project/program management practices across the departments and regions. It will facilitate good communication, shared knowledge and robust management of data and reporting in order that senior management will be better informed of problems and issues both internally and externally that would be detrimental to efficient delivery of projects. It will then advise on remedial actions that may be necessary.

b. The PgMO Deliverables in the case study (establishment of program control systems)

  • The PgMO established protocols for program controls including but not limited to the unification of processes and procedures to ensure consistency across all departments.
  • It has established work breakdown structures unified coding systems and work flow charts. It will recommend in respect of policies and procedures after review of existing practices.
  • It has established electronic and other reporting systems and methods through the use of suitable PMIS and electronic data management systems, specifically at the case study, as it will operate and maintain the central databases currently established
  • It has established an interim Excel based reporting system
  • It has recommended introducing more up to date systems going headlong to replace these systems and manage the change process

VIII. The Integrated Point Development In The Case Study (the schedule)

- Initial steps to create the program integrated controlling point (schedule):

1- Develop the database interface and structure the enterprise

2- Create a master planning (master charter schedule) for the general initiation activities for launching the program

3- Create an initial master plan for the program components (projects) with the initial data

4- Collect the required reports for the initial stage finished by the feasibility study for the program and for each project, and answer the question whether all the projects are aligned with the program's strategic objectives

5- Establish communication channels and the main program reporting templates and procedures as per the general work plan

6- Collect the work performance data and analyze the data to develop the work performance information for the initiation stage

7- Setting the KPIs for collecting and analyzing the data collected and report the performance according to the established procedures

8- Setting the KPIs for collecting and analyzing the data collected

9- Consolidate the data collected after applying data validation to a temporary integrated report, proposing the areas of concern and the required corrective actions and preventive actions

10- Shift the program permanent report


- Methodology applied for creating the schedule for each program component

1- A global schedule standard with minimum requirements for any schedule to be accepted has been validated, including:

a. The general accepted schedule principles with respect to the correct and completed schedule, reflecting the full project scope

b. To accept the schedule on stages starting with the WBS, activity listing, durations, sequencing, type of resource required to be assigned and cost structure

c. To give a higher attention to the logic acceptance, floats, constrains and level of details

d. To validate the schedule using the major schedule parameters, floats, open ends, out of sequence

2- A methodology of weighing the cost loading and the manpower to the schedule to represent a proper cash-in flow for the contractors (cash-out for the clients) and man-hours diagram has been established.

3- A validation to the integrated program cash flow with the program funding requirements has been applied.

4- The performing organization fixed the principles of the schedule update (% complete type, actual recording factors, earned value (EV) credit recording and financial and physical progress).

5- The PgMO has directed establishing the grouping, sorting and coding system for projects and activities, setting a project plan for reporting some fixed layouts, with flexibility to the planner to add as per the project requirements.

6- A schedule communication plan has been established, defining with full coordination with all program stakeholders the required reports, the data required to be collected to develop such kind of reports and the methodologies and format for data collection—and commit everyone to such system.

7- The performing organization has implemented developing the interface schedule (procurement/engineering/construction), defining the long lead items for the project in order to highlight the project critical interface points.

8- The performing organization has implemented linking the schedule with the monthly progress payments to validate earned value studies and analysis for the project.

9- The performing organization has implemented validating schedule risk management plans and schedule risk monitoring and controlling.

10- A strict total quality management (TQM) system for every schedule has been implemented guaranteeing that the generally accepting scheduling principles (GASP) are implemented for each schedule:

  • 5 GASP for a valid schedule: CTTSP

1- Complete: covering the entire contract

2- Traceable: realistic and meaningful network logic-horizontally and vertically integrates the likely sequence of project execution

3- Transparent: provide full disclosure of the project status and forecast, include documented group rules, assumptions and methods for building and maintaining the schedule

4- Statused: Schedules reflect consistent and regular updates of the completed work, interim progress, achievable remaining durations and accurately maintained logic relationships

5- Predictive: accurately forecast the likely completion dates and impacts to the project baseline

  • 3 GASP for an effective schedule: URC

1- Usable: produce meaningful metrics for timely and effective communication, tracking and improving performance

2- Resourced: to enable the stakeholder to assess the time phased labor and other cost requirement to achieve project

3- Controlled: base-lined and maintained using rigorous, stable and repeatable process

IX. Reporting and Monitoring Methodology Implemented (Exhibit 2)

  • The PgMO will monitor and report on performance at all levels. Specifically, it will collect and collate data from all regions and departments via the program monitoring systems (PMS) to provide detailed reporting on a regular time interval that will be both high level dashboard summaries for senior management and also a detailed tool of analysis for each department, project region and sector.
  • It will provide QA and QC monitoring, auditing and advice.
  • It will review contracts and contract procedures.
  • It will review procurement policy and strategy and recommend in respect of achievement of best value.
  • It will monitor cost management procedures and reporting.
  • It will track progress against time, cost and quality and provide a weather station to identify potential risks as they arise


Exhibit 2 – Data collection and data flow structure

X. The Resource Assignment Methodology

- Staffing and resources

The performing organization will mobilize teams of four into every department and region of the program which will include the following disciplines:

  1. Project Control Manager
  2. Contract Specialist
  3. Planning Engineer
  4. Document Controller

The job descriptions of these staff are included in the Appendices. However, it should be noted that these staff are not a substitute for staff shortfalls within the departments and do not report directly into the departmental hierarchy. They sit alongside the implementation process to facilitate communication, reporting and provide advice when necessary and appropriate.

In the central PgMO office the performing organization will establish a core team in each discipline headed up by very experienced practitioners in their field. In addition to the four main disciplines above there will be specialist modules in respect of:

  1. Project Control Management Systems: This module will consist of a senior systems specialist supported by two experienced Programmers who will manage the establishment and operation of the management information system (MIS), Primavera and other systems employed.
  2. Quality Assurance and Quality Control: Headed by a senior specialist, this module will manage a team of specialists in Riyadh and other regions.

XI. Implementation

The performing organization has proceeded with the process of phased mobilization starting with the core team. A few weeks later staff resources will be allocated to the various departments, and in order to achieve this in an orderly fashion we need to establish the following:

  • Clear lines of communication with the departments, by undertaking a series of introductory sessions with department heads to establish appropriate points of contact with departmental staff and understand the structure of each department and the parameters of their project workload, key consultants and contractors.
  • Thereafter staff can be deployed to interface at the appropriate level to obtain reporting data and so forth in accordance with an agreed protocol.
  • A trigger for this has become the introduction of the new interim reporting structure which will require data collection from consultants and departmental and regional staff to enable dashboard and high level reporting to recommence.
  • Other processes and procedures (schedule and integration points) have been introduced gradually when the current procedures are better understood in order not to disrupt current operations.
  • A series of stakeholder evaluation sessions (direct and indirect) have been held to evaluate the change resistance, the behavior of the stakeholders and the engagement level with the new effort.
  • Later the performing organization presented proposals for the introduction of a new integrated management information system (MIS) system incorporating the existing databases.
  • QA/QC and contracts specialists has been conducting a series of reviews to evaluate the existing status quo and make recommendations that will inform the establishment of Enterprise Project Structure (EPS), Work Breakdown Structures (WBS) , Projects Codes, Organization Breakdown Structures (OBS) for all the enterprise departments as per the previously illustrated procedures.

XII. Conclusion

Managing a number of related projects, like the multiple-project case—the majority of which is of the construction type—is the most common practice when being initiated within an enterprise. This in turn could cause a lack of alignment with the enterprise strategic objectives and may perhaps lead to numerous changes and poor resource optimization.

The challenge in managing the MOI program and the other similar programs is to seek out an integrated point to harmonize between the top-down breakdown of the program, the roadmap, the benefit structure, the program master plan, the program architect and the enterprise strategic structure on one side, and the components project/operation management procedures on the other side. This will consequently guarantee the proper control that will give a true image of the program performance and accurate performance reporting.

For the controlling process in the proposed program and similar programs, the other core challenge is to consolidate the large amount of work performance data in integrated documents in order to generate summary reports and status for the main stakeholders involved.

The documents chosen were the component schedules within the program enterprise structure using the program.

In order to secure this process, the program infrastructure was set and the PgMO has been established to focus on many mandatories. One of the most important mandatories of all was how to guarantee that the proper schedule structure, the bottom-up reporting will be accurate, and this is the main methodology introduced in the case study.

This effort has been mingled with a complicated stakeholder engagement management according to a careful stakeholder analysis for such a critical enterprise; such management has led to different strategies in working with aggressive, unsatisfied and change resistance key stakeholders.

The PgMO applied the top-down structuring and bottom-up reporting and calculating concept by guaranteeing:

  • Unified enterprise structure and programs/portfolios and projects structure
  • Unified PMIS for scheduling, cost control and documents control
  • Unified data collection, data coding and data ensuring processes and templates
  • Establishing multiple and flexible reporting system and format
  • Manage the stakeholder requirements regarding the progress and progress indications
  • Consolidate all the minimum reporting page (summary report)

Delivery of the program benefit through good controlling was paramount, especially with the long history of troubled multi-projects within the organization, the reporting system and the sustainability of the benefit delivery through the training sub-program qualified the enterprise to achieve its pre-defined strategic objective.

Humphreys & Associates. (2001, 2002). Project management using earned value system. Orange, CA: Author.

Project Management Institute. (2013). A guide to the project management body of knowledge (PMBOK® guide) – Fifth edition. Newtown Square, PA: Author.

Project Management Institute. (2008). A guide to program management. Newtown Square, PA: Author.

© 2014, Hossam Eid Mohammed (Kandeel)
Originally published as a part of the 2014 PMI Global Congress Proceedings – Dubai, UAE

1MOI is the abbreviation used for the Ministry of Interior affairs program



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