Thursday, May 1, 2008
EARNED VALUE MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS
Recently a question regarding project management on "Linked -In" prompted me to recommend a simple application of an Earned Value Management System (EVMS) to deal with a project management problem.
The question and my answer are as follows:
How do you keep yourself on task and on budget during a start up?
What are some techniques that you use to keep you (and your team?) on task, and on budget, during a business start up?
Plan to measure your "Bang for the Buck". Establish tangible tasks in the form of a plan. Set milestones for them in time at a budget value for each milestone tied out to the total budget. The milestones should be things you can look at and say, "That's done".
Status your plan regularly. When milestones are completed, credit the budget value as earned. Tasks may cost more than their budgets to complete. That is cost variance for completed tasks.
If milestones are not completed by their scheduled date do not credit their budget value as earned. Behind schedule tasks are thus contributing to a cumulative budgeted schedule variance in time.
If you are running an unfavorable schedule variance for incomplete tasks and an unfavorable cost variance for completed tasks you are in trouble.
Corrective action, additional resources or a work around plan will be necessary to recover from negative variances. You will investigate the tasks behind schedule and over cost to determine the problem, the cause, the resolution, the corrective action and the likelihood of overrunning your total budget or being late due to events at time now. You will have time to do something about it.
The above technique can be used for starting a company or running a project. This technique is commonly referred to as Earned Value Management. It should not be driven to a level of detail that is unmanageable.
Prudently used this approach gives insight into the dynamics of physical accomplishment driving status as opposed to plan versus actual cost tracking which tells you only that you are spending money.
There were many responses to the question at the "Linked-In" site. Various approaches were recommended for keeping a new start-up company on track with regard to becoming established within budget and time constraints. EVMS is the most effective project management technique to achieve that sort of objective.
Please visit the below Wikipedia article from which the graphic leading this post was downloaded for an excellent explanation of EVMS and its application on projects:
In short, the technique:
1. Ties budget to schedule
2. Establishes measurable means to track project status
3. Accounts not only for the money being spent but also for what is being accomplished with the expenditure.
4. Allows in-process cost and schedule corrective action in time to favorably influence the project outcome.
I have utilized the EVMS technique from the smallest of projects to large-scale systems programs. It is well worth learning and practicing. If you become involved in large enough government projects EVMS will be required under your contract by government and prime contractor customers.
Many companies recognize the benefits of EVMS project management and apply it without being required to do so by contract. It produces excellent results.