Control accounts, or CAPs as they are more commonly known in the earned value community, are placeholder work breakdown structure (WBS) components that function as points of control costing and accounting. They are inserted into the WBS during the “Create WBS” process of project management. Often, they are positioned at strategic points in the WBS hierarchy to create control points that can be used to eliminate potential risks and measure performance through a specific point in the project’s delivery chain.

The purpose of a control account plan (CAP) is to establish a point where technical scope, schedule and cost parameters are integrated. It is the point at which WBS and/or work package milestones are measured, where actual cost collection takes place, and where variance analysis and resultant corrective action occur. Often, it is also the point at which budget consumption is tracked and management visibility into the project performance exists.

The CAP should contain a statement of work, a planning package breakdown and a schedule. It should also be a living document that is updated regularly to reflect EV metrics like planned value, earned value and estimate to complete for each planning package in the control account. There should be a single person assigned to manage the control account, normally the CAM (Control Account Manager). The CAM must ensure that the correct measurement logic is followed and that the CAP includes a comprehensive list of management responsibilities. The CAM is responsible for the planning, coordination and achievement of work within the control account and must flow down scope, schedule and cost to appropriate contributors in accordance with the work package process.