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6 Steps to Setting Up a Program Control System for Your Small Business

By Jen Emswiler | Harkcon's Program Control Analyst

In any business, implementing a program control system is beneficial, but determining how it should be implemented is key. I guarantee you already have processes in place for tracking, analyzing and reporting project data, but you may not have a formal program control system in place. A main benefit to having a program control system is being able to streamline processes across departments and reduce the duplication of work. Here are 6 steps that will help your business set up a program control system and implement it in no time!

1. Determine the project data you want to track and report.

In setting up a program control system, you will want to consider what project data needs to be tracked that will assist project managers and executives with understanding project status from a financial, schedule, and performance perspective that will reveal the overall health of a project.

Examples of the type of data to track on a basic level are projected and actual revenue, direct expenses, indirect expenses, gross profit, schedule, performance and net income. This data can be viewed and analyzed weekly, monthly or year-to-date for a snapshot of the health of the overall project. In determining the data to track, make sure the data and inputs are minimal and easy for the employees to follow and understand.

2. Select the correct project management software.

In choosing the right project management software for your business you will want to consider the following:

  • How large are the projects that your business will be working on?

  • How many people will be working on the project?

  • How much do you want to spend?

  • How many features do you want to have in the system?

Choosing the right software important because you want to select a system that is specific to your business. The article "Choosing Project Management Software," provides education on project management systems, as well as a list of features and systems to choose from. In addition, if you are looking for free project management software options, take a look at the article, "The Top 6 Free and Open Source Project Management Software for Your Small Business," by Rachel Burger.

3. Meet with internal departments.

It could be valuable to meet with other departments such as the Human Resources Department, the Finance Department or the Marketing Department to get their input and point of view on stakeholders to involve, determine the amount for a project management software budget, review financial reports, and marketing materials. The Finance Department will be key to meet with in determining the financial reports that will be used in program control and ensuring that they are accurate and reliable for reporting.

4. Develop a process for analyzing, tracking, and briefing project data.

Mapping out a process that departments and system users to follow, will be critical. Some things to consider are:

  • Who is pulling the financial reports?

  • Who is responsible for entering project data into the project management software?

  • How will data be briefed? Through a report, dashboard, presentation or graphic?

  • Who is the audience that will be briefed?

5. Create a schedule.

After meeting with key departments, stakeholders, and developing a process, creating a schedule for employees to follow for program control processes is key. In addition, allowing enough time to troubleshoot, address errors and interpret data is necessary, so that all stakeholders come to briefings prepared.

6. Create a job aid and train employees.

It is very important to create a guide that users can reference on how to follow the program control process and schedule. The job aid should include:

  • The program control schedule.

  • Associates involved.

  • Defined responsibilities.

  • Financial reports and other reports being used.

  • The program control dictionary and key terminology.

  • The program control templates, project examples, visual examples, or tutorials.

  • Staff to contact if there are questions.

Training employees on the program control process as well as having a trial period where employees can use the project management system and follow the schedule, is recommended. This will allow for employees to test out the process, troubleshoot, make edits to the job aid, and overall it will allow for staff to evaluate the system before fully implementing it.

Now that you’ve completed all 6 steps, you’re ready to implement the system! If you would like to contact the author of this blog, send an email to and reference the title, "6 Steps to Setting Up a Program Control System for Your Small Business."

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