Every month, Walters People puts a highly sought-after position in the spotlight. In recent weeks, a number of projects have been put on hold due to the Corona pandemic, but fortunately the labour market is picking up again.
Here's why the role of a Project Cost Controllers is so interesting for ambitious finance professionals.
What exactly does a Project Cost Controller do?
A Project Cost Controller oversees the financial course of one or more projects, and that involves a lot. When a new project is started, the Project Cost Controller will prepare the required budget for this. The costs of the number of workers, materials, machinery and IT infrastructure needed during the entire duration of the project are calculated and mapped out. Important here is that the Project Cost Controller also takes into account possible risks and related costs.
In addition, he ensures that the costs incurred are in line with what was budgeted. When changes occur, he must of course also be able to report this to the Project Manager and management, and draw up a new forecast. A project can be of short duration, but can sometimes take several years, depending on the size of the project. For long-term projects in particular, it is therefore important that the Project Cost Controller is able to paint a clear financial picture in both the short and long term.
What training and skills are needed to be successful as a Project Cost Controller?
A Master's degree in economics supplemented with a first experience within an audit or accounting function is an excellent base to start working as a Project Cost Controller. It is important that the Project Cost Controller has good communication skills. After all, he is in daily contact with people at different levels. For example, he is in close contact with the Project Manager, the management, but also with the people 'on the field' who realize the technical implementation of the project. A good knowledge of languages is therefore a bonus.
The Project Manager ensures that the set timing is respected. If a project takes longer than foreseen, this obviously has an impact on the costs and the Project Cost Controller has to look at the financial impact of this extended duration. Critical thinking and an analytical mindset are also essential skills. Budgets are sometimes exceeded or shifted, so the Project Cost Controller must be able to quickly come up with a cost-optimizing solution in a proactive and creative way. Flexibility can also be essential in this job, as you move from one project to another or sometimes even manage multiple projects at the same time. Many projects are situated in the construction sector, so a technical knowledge or interest is a major asset. That also makes the interaction with your stakeholders easier.
Are Project Cost Controllers fiercely questioned on the Belgian labour market?
Before the corona pandemic, we saw great demand for Project Cost Controllers. But in recent weeks, a number of ongoing recruitments have been put on hold. Fortunately, this is now changing again. Some projects have also been frozen for a while. They are now active again, so Project Cost Controllers are once again being deployed to make up for lost time and to make the necessary optimisations and risk calculations.
Jobfeed statistics show that the majority of Project Cost Controller vacancies are located in Flanders, especially in East Flanders (29%). Just like in Antwerp, a lot of large (construction) organisations are located around the port. We also see a greater demand for Project Cost Controllers at such companies on the Belgian coast than in Brussels or Wallonia. Unfortunately, we still have a shortage of candidates with project cost controlling experience.
Why would you recommend a finance professional a career as a Project Cost Controller?
As a Project Cost Controller you supervise the financial side of a project from A to Z, so someone who likes to be close to the business or see the impact of his work on the overall picture is the right candidate.
As an Accountant or Auditor you often don't have that, because your responsibility only covers a small part of the whole. Because as a Project Cost Controller you move from one project to another, there is a lot of variation and you learn continuously. Every project is different, with its own challenges. And, of course, there are great opportunities for growth. As a starting Project Cost Controller you will initially support an experienced controller, but as soon as this goes well, you will be given full financial responsibility for subsequent projects. Once these projects are successfully completed, you will be able to supervise multiple projects at the same time or you will be involved in larger scale projects linked to larger budgets. If you aspire to an international career, it is also a good idea to apply for a Project Cost Controller position. After all, many projects are cross-border and therefore require some mobility. When you choose for an international organisation, you obviously increase your chances to be part of large international projects and you can develop a good career path.
Finally: what salary can a Project Cost Controller expect?
You don't become a Project Cost Controller the moment you leave school. But once you have a first year of experience within an audit or accounting function and start working as an Assistant Project Cost Controller, you can count on a gross monthly salary of 3,000 EUR. In almost all cases, this salary is supplemented by a company car. As your experience increases, so does your salary. And when you travel for your job, these costs will of course also be reimbursed. As a Project Cost Controller, you can also count on a number of fringe benefits such as meal vouchers, fuel card, mobile phone, laptop and insurance package.