Project Controls vs. Project Management: What is the Difference?

Xergy Group
Project Controls project management
Project Controls vs Project Management

People often use the terms “project management” and “project controls” interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. Project controls are a subset of project management. In this blog, we will define both project management and project controls and explore how they are distinct from one another. 

It is important to understand project controls vs project management. Not every project manager needs to have an in-depth knowledge of project controls fundamentals. But every project manager does need to know how to avoid costly, long-overdue deliverables. Much of the time it comes down to project team members including project controls in their project management processes.

What is Project Management?

The Project Management Institute (PMI) defines project management as ‘the use of specific knowledge, tools, and techniques to deliver something of value to people’. In simple terms, project management is a framework. It involves completing a project with the right skills, resources, and quality. It also requires staying within a specific timeline and budget. 

Project management is more comprehensive than project controls and adopts a more holistic approach. Project management is commonly split up into 5 stages; initiation, planning, execution, monitoring and controlling, and project closure. These stages together are known as the project management life cycle. These stages involve project controls: project schedules and cost estimates impact the baseline and forecast data monitored during execution.

This framework makes project management more manageable and controlled for project professionals. Project managers work their way through these phases to meet project objectives and they manage everything from equipment and costs to people and quality. 

What are Project Controls?

On the other hand, project controls involve the specific data techniques and tools that ensure projects adhere to their plans. Project controls track project progress, identify risks, and help project managers make informed decisions. 

Ultimately, project control processes aim to minimise the deviation of the actual costs and schedule against what was originally planned. Cost overruns and late deliveries are rife issues in the world of complex engineering projects. When combined these two issues can have detrimental effects on project success.

For example, an extreme example is the construction of the International Space Station which had a budget of $36.75 billion but ended up going 186% over budget and costing $105 billion and was also completed six years later than expected. Strong project control and proactive approach can reduce negative impacts on a project. This is achieved by providing clear visibility and preventing any deviations. 

It is often assumed that project controls are only part of the monitoring and control phase of the project management life cycle. However, this is not the case, it is important to incorporate project controls processes and consider elements such as cost and schedule from project planning, through project execution until final project delivery.

Some project controls processes include:

  • Cost Management: After formulating a realistic project budget in the planning phase of the project life cycle, consistently monitoring the actual cost vs the planned cost across the project and making any necessary changes is important for successful projects.
  • Risk Management: Project controls are integral to managing risk effectively. By having a risk management plan and closely tracking data, issues can be flagged and amended before they escalate and threaten project performance. 
  • Performance Management: Project controls use key performance indicators (KPIs) to assess project performance and enable project teams to make data-driven decisions. With Proteus’ dashboards, you can get consistent insight into your project’s real-time Earned Value. 

Why are Project Controls Important in Project Management?

Ultimately, project controls keep project managers on the right track. The data-focused approach and intricate level of detail required makes project controls imperative within project management.

If your project goes over budget, the project manager needs to know why and how to fix it. They need accurate information from project controls to solve the problem. Cost overruns and delays are almost inevitable, however, project controls procedures prevent these issues from spiraling into massive problems.

Furthermore, by gathering the data generated by your project, you can analyse and interpret the information to prepare for potential problems or make adjustments to optimise project performance. 

Project controls are crucial to:

  • Deliver projects on time
  • Remain within budget
  • Increase visibility into project health 
  • Provide substantial data to make informed decisions
  • Prevent scope creep and avoid improper resource allocation
  • Improve forecasting
  • Give companies a competitive advantage. 

The Role of Project Management Software 

Project Management Software is invaluable when it comes to streamlining project management and implementing successful project controls. Many organisations still use manual processes and keep information on lots of different spreadsheets which tends to create data silos compromising project visibility. 

Some examples of the benefits of using project management software include:

  • Bringing everything into one place: Proteus centralises all your information ensuring that data is accessible to project teams so they can easily monitor and analyse project progress providing better project control.
  • Access to Real-time Data: This enables project teams to have constant, up-to-date insight on project progress which enables improved risk management, cost management and performance management. 
  • Automated Reporting: A project control system can generate automated reports based on project data. Projects and portfolios that spent the majority of their time analysing as opposed to collecting data were 1.4x more confident in achieving project outcomes, reflecting how automated reporting can significantly increase productivity. 


Whilst project management provides the overarching framework for projects, project controls are concerned with the intricacies of project data ensuring elements such as costs and timelines are under control. 

Project management and project controls work together to keep projects on track. They help teams navigate project complexities with confidence. This ultimately leads to successful outcomes. Proteus simplifies project management and controls by providing accurate real-time data to help achieve project goals.

About Proteus Project Software

Xergy Group’s Proteus project management software works with your existing systems and scales as your business grows. Created by project management leaders, for the diversified engineering consultancy sector, Proteus delivers an end-to-end work management software platform with detailed workflows from the early opportunity stage through to project delivery.

Proteus’ end-to-end project management software is a cloud-based system designed for businesses of all sizes to handle projects of unlimited complexity. Proteus is compliant with common project management frameworks and ISO standards. Each feature aims to make bottom-line improvements by improving utilisation, streamlining workflows, providing quick and efficient access to resources, and reducing overheads. Check out some of our client case studies to learn more about how Proteus makes a tangible difference.

How to get Proteus

We recommend getting setup on a free trial. Proteus operates under a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model. We offer Enterprise packages and flexible pricing solutions: contact our team to learn more.

We designed Proteus to be simple, and that means you can get up and running on Proteus without an IT team or support from a programmer. You will want to spend a bit of time configuring the admin console so that you have everything set up to suit your company structure, but it’s very intuitive and you don’t need a PhD in IT. However, we want you to get the best out of what is a brilliantly powerful tool, so don’t hesitate to ask for our support. We have a team of product experts who are ready to help you with the configuration process, so get in touch today by filling out the form below:

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