The Complete Guide to Cost Control in Project Management

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May 20, 2022

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15 mins

A project's success is a goal for organisations, their clients' satisfaction, and the fulfilment of internal objectives. Keeping track of costs is likely one of the challenging parts of performing any task. After creating the budget plan, getting the upgrades, and analysing the cost control performances, we may need to take some action and modify the budget proposal effectively. 

As project managers, we are well-versed in the acquisition of resources, the assignment of tasks, the tracking of progress, and the completion of projects. However, since practically everything has a monetary value, our work also becomes more complicated and challenging.

What Is Cost Control?

Cost control in project management comprises a sequence of actions performed in a series of steps. Coconsists of the following practices: 

  • Keeping track of cost and schedule
  • Submitting all modifications appropriately
  • Notifying project stakeholders of any alterations and their potential implications on costs

Cost management for projects can be accomplished in three ways. First, to avoid unanticipated costs fluctuations, control expenditures and track costs in real-time.


  • The mechanism for controlling costs can't be used if the costs being reported aren't done on time.
  • Effective control is dependent on the appropriate delegation of authority.
  • Determining responsibility allocation
  • It is extremely vital to the success of a reliable control system.
  • The relevancy of controllable expenses is also a crucial feature of a successful cost control system.


Depending on the organisation, project cost control objectives may be carried out by a project leader, a controller, a project planning board member, or even the chief financial officer. Using technology such as Project Business Automation ensures that cost controls are built into the systems and that key stakeholders are immediately notified of any deviations.

The management implements these technologies to develop a product at the lowest possible cost by detecting and removing any unnecessary expenditure, generating huge returns. This is to avoid costly waste from appearing and ensure that corporate activities are carried out within the predetermined cost criteria.

How do you Control Costs in Project Management?

Cost control in project management involves monitoring and controlling project expenditures while also identifying and preparing for future financial risks. Normally, the project manager is in charge of this aspect of the project. Budgeting, planning, and risk mitigation are all part of cost control. However, risks can cause project delays and, in some cases, necessitate the incurring of additional expenses. You and your organisation can save time and money by preparing for these setbacks.

When practising effective cost management, a project manager must keep an eye on the key areas

  • The initial budget
  • Approved cost
  • Comparison of Estimated and Actual Cost
  • Fixed expenditures

Once a project leader becomes familiar with the basic areas to monitor, many tools are available to help them remain focused.

Preparation of the Project Budget Plan

To begin, you must first build a collection of reference baselines. Work is then monitored and analysed along the process, and final results are forecasted and compared to the reference baselines. If the final results are unsuitable, changes are made to the continued work, and the process continues at regular intervals. If the outcomes deviate significantly from the baseline plan, it may be necessary to modify the plan.

However, in practice, controlling project costs is much more challenging, as proven by the many projects that manage to do so. It also requires a substantial amount of effort as there are many components involved in cost control.

Cost Management During Project Initiation

Creating a successful setting for the project from the beginning is vital to its success. This requires selecting and approving initiatives based on a valid business case. In addition, during the beginning and planning phases, it is essential to identify potential costs and risks in depth.

Cost Management in Project Planning

The project budget and the appropriate cost breakdown structures are determined during the planning process. Project constraints that have an impact on the schedule and budget will also be included in this section. A set of agreed-upon KPIs and milestones for controlling project costs has been identified.

Cost Management During Project Execution

During project execution, expenses must be monitored and managed in a timely and reliable manner. As expenses increase, a project insight system is expected to monitor and report any anomalies. In addition, project management key performance indicators (KPIs) would be tracked and recorded in real-time in an ideal world.

Cost Control Strategies

Here are some useful and vital strategies for effective cost control in project management

1 - Establishing a Budget for the Project

Ideally, you should create a budget for the project at the start of the planning session. During the project's life cycle, you'll need this budget to cover your expenses and payments. Making this budget requires much research and careful thinking. However, maintaining the project budget is critical to its success.

2 - Keeping Track of Expenses

Maintaining a track of all expenditures is equally vital as any other method. Preparing a time-based budget is preferable here. This will assist you in keeping tabs on a project's budget as it progresses through its various stages. This is considerably easier to deal with than having a single budget for the complete project duration, which is much more complicated.

3 - Proper Time Management

Although this strategy is useful in many management areas, it is especially significant in project cost control. To complete the project on schedule, the project manager must regularly remind the workforce of its essential deadlines.

4 - Change Control in a Project

Another important strategy is project change control. A change control system is needed to account for any potential modifications in the project. Each modification to the project scope impacts deliverable timelines, which means that alterations may increase project costs by increasing the amount of effort required.

5 - Usage of Earned Value

An appropriate accounting strategy called "Earned Value" can be quite helpful in determining the value of previous work. This is especially useful for large projects, as it will allow you to quickly implement any necessary modifications that are vital to the project's success.

Managing and Minimising the Costs of a Project

All of the project's costs are calculated at the beginning, and we also have the means to keep track of them throughout the project's lifecycle.

The PMP-practitioners group has created the following guidelines to assist you in managing your project's expenses

  1. Identify and prioritise your needs straightforwardly.
  2. Recognise and analyse the costs that are both direct and indirect and the factors that influence and are influenced by those costs.
  3. Verify and validate forecasts and estimations, particularly in the area of demand.
  4. Optimise cost-benefit ratios and ensure that accountability is appropriate with the obligation.
  5. Limit scope where no new value is apparent
  6. Maintain constant attention on the essential path and activities.
  7. Don't run your business by due dates.
  8. Schedule timeframes of activities so that they be completed in order of preference.
  9. Provide timely information on the completion of tasks.
  10. Systematically obtain data and secure resources to complete tasks.
  11. Provide updates on completing tasks and alerts to take action on concerns as soon as they arise.
  12. Use Agile methods in system projects. In workshops and cross-functional groups, users and developers should work together to deliver solutions in different phases.
  13. When dealing with problems, organise cross-functional squads.
  14. Exception reporting on activities that aren't started, aren't advancing, or have been escalated should be part of your project portfolio management software.
  15. Determine alternative methods of fulfilling project deadlines and regularly review earned value.
  16. Make regular estimates of how much it will cost to complete and compare them to the original business plan.
  17. Adopt strong discipline and adherence to the specified modification and risk management strategy
  18. Establish a transparent culture with regular updates on performance and reinforcing of objectives.

Tips for Effective Cost Controlling Strategies

Budget inconsistencies might develop no matter how much experience or skill you have. Although they cannot often be eliminated, identifying them early can minimise their impact and likelihood in future initiatives. Managing a project's budget and keeping costs under control can be done in many ways, including

  • Keep your Statement comprehensive.
  • Ensure that external stakeholders are involved in the planning process.
  • Identify the organisation's expense categories
  • Build trust in your project management team.
  • Take immediate action


A lack of proper cost control in project management is one of the most common causes of a project's failure. Therefore, effective project management necessitates a solid understanding of project planning and cost control principles and methodologies. Cost control is imperative, and a business cannot manage to estimate the budget for a major project. Technology is the most effective tool of current budget control. 

The software can assist project managers in keeping on schedule and automating basic computations. With these tools, project managers must focus on what they are doing best to ensure the project's success.

PMP is commonly accepted by project managers and has been related to many positive effects. Many PMP certification online courses can help you prepare for the PMP exam. In addition, PMP classes will help you prepare for the PMP certification and complete your training requirements.

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