Top Ten Secrets of Earned Value Management

What every public CIO should know about Earned Value Management.

by / August 21, 2008

This article is an excerpt from an upcoming feature, the full version of which will appear this fall in Public CIO magazine and Web site.

Effective project management is a concern for many public CIOs. With a number of IT projects either underperforming or facing complete failure, IT executives are constantly on the lookout for the latest project management tools and best practices. One such tool gaining ground in both the public and private sectors is Earned Value Management (EVM). This principles-oriented methodology covers the entire life-cycle of project management, helping executives to plan and execute projects successfully. Below are 10 facts CIOs should know about EVM in order to maximize the benefits of the methodology.

1. "Triple Constraint" is Necessary for EVM's Success
Scope, schedule, and budget -- the "triple constraint" of any IT project -- must be present and measurable in order for EVM to work. The methodology relies on the relationship between these constraints that help to represent a project's past, present and future.

2. EVM Principles are Reliable Predictors of Project Success
The handful of principles behind EVM provides a reliable prediction of project success. By increasing the applied intensity of these EVM rules, CIOs will see a correlating increase in a project's success rate.

3. Expert Planning is Required to Use EVM
While some people claim that EVM is hard to apply, this is only because EVM requires planning in order to be successful. Organizations using EVM must be able to define, schedule and budget the body of work from the ground up. For this reason, executives don't often choose EVM for more detailed projects.

4. EVM Works Best in Collaborative Organizations
Using EVM methodology requires organization members to frequently gather and analyze information from the bottom up. This involves a level of teamwork and coordination that can be challenging in larger organizations. Team members must be willing to stay in close contact during the life of the project in order to ensure success.

5. EVM Compliments Other Project Management Techniques
EVM does not have to be used in isolation. Techniques such as Critical Path Method (CPM), GANTT charts, work authorization methods, and quality control techniques can all be used in conjunction with EVM. Combining common techniques with EVM methodology can in fact increase a project's chance of success.

6. EVM's Metrics are Reliable
EVM has unique metrics for evaluating and calculating project performance. The methodology combines three aspects of a project's performance (scope, schedule and cost) into unified performance measures. These metrics are both realistic and accurate, and can be relied on by IT executives.

7. Contract Type Does Not Influence the Benefits of EVM
Despite past assertions, EVM doesn't just work for cost-plus type contracted projects. The benefit of EVM is actually greater on contracted projects where scope, schedule and costs are fixed, making EVM effective with any project regardless of contract type.

8. Retrofitting EVM After a Project Has Begun Isn't a Good Plan
Using EVM will affect how a project's scope of work is defined, budgeted and even scheduled. By implementing EVM after a project has begun, CIOs will disrupt the work, budget, schedule, communications and the project's ultimate success. Instead, implement EVM in the project's planning stages to ensure no disruptions throw the project off course.

9. Emphasizing EVM's Mechanics Individually Can Lead to Maximum Benefit
The methodology's three fundamental techniques -- WBS, S-Curve and its integrated metrics -- can be emphasized individually in varying degrees depending on the project in order to improve project performance. For example, in cost-plus contracted projects, one way to control costs is to focus on the WBS, which significantly

helps in developing a project schedule which in turn allows better control of time, and ultimately, better control of money.

10. For Widespread Acceptance, EVM Requires Top-Down Supports
EVM must be supported by top management in order to be widely used. This is partly because EVM requires resources. The methodology can be easily implemented on small projects using tools such as MS Excel and MS Project, but will require greater organizational support for bigger projects. No matter what the size of the project, all staff will require training on the methodology to enhance collaboration and communication.

The Bottom Line
Earned Value Management is not the only project management tool out there, and it is only successful when implemented at the right time and for the right project. However, if all necessary factors are present, EVM can be an extremely useful tool for CIOs looking to improve their project management success.