Itchy for Earned Value

Filed under Tools | Posted by PMStudent

When I originally started this blog, it was because I wanted to explore ways of making Earned Value Management (EVM) work with Critical Chain project management. I still believe that is a worthwhile goal. I have been doing a lot of brushing up on EVM lately, and am ready to dig in again. Since I am already very familiar with the theory behind Critical Chain and buffer management, I am going to focus on EVM for awhile and then try to meld Simple EVM in the terms described by Joel Koppleman and Quentin Flemming to Critical Chain.

Why EVM?

EVM at it’s core is a way to measure performance in terms of cost, schedule, and technical performance. One of the key benefits I have heard cited regularly is that with EVM, you can tell early on whether or not a project is at risk. Quentin Flemming said in an interview on The PM Podcast that there is strong evidence that poor EVM performance at the 20% done mark in a project is very unlikely to be made up unless more resources are added, more funds are appropriated, or the scope gets trimmed.

Another benefit of EVM is objectivity. It measures performance compared with an original baseline schedule and budget. The performance indexes in EVM allow comparisons between projects even when their actual budgets and schedules are very different. You can compare a 6 month project to a 6 year project in the same terms. Because of the objective and universal measure, it also can help make project performance visible to all levels of stakeholders.

Why Not EVM?

There are a few criticisms of EVM I have heard that I would like to discuss. First, full-blown EVM is simply too much overhead for small projects. Simple EVM was introduced for this very reason, and I believe it could be a suitable replacement for smaller projects.

Another thing to keep in mind is that EVM does not take the critical path into consideration. It treats all work equally, which works really well for cost performance but not so well for schedule performance. At first blush, it seems to me that in addition to the SPI (schedule performance index) which I will detail in later posts, there should be an index that tracks progress along the critical path. This could be done by simply tracking schedule performance on the critical path against the original baseline. In this way, the SPI relates more to the amount of work done than the timeliness of the project. They are different but related ways of looking at project schedule performance.