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EVM and Agile – Can they work together?

Context

This post was modified from one I developed several years ago for the Mercure AACE 2013 program I took, called W15_PM_EVM-Agile-Considerations.

My primary focus is split between sustainable organizational project, programme, portfolio and risk management improvement and organizational sustainable change delivery assessments. My project experience has been 30+ years in combining a series of tailored methods employed to manage change delivery engagements. I have experience over the past few  years in incorporating EVM tools, techniques and processes into the project management landscape to improve control and change initiative success. The key is to improve and supplement the support structure and techniques to provide improved reporting for better analysis and informed decision making. There is a concern thought that EVM and Agile are contradictory methods that cannot work together.

This post is not specifically about sustainable change delivery. It does provide useful considerations, tools and techniques for consideration though for project controls in sustainable projects.

When I originally wrote this post in 2013, my methods experience was the following:

W15-Methods-B

Graphic 1: Authors design

EVM has been used for IT Enabled engagements for well over a decade (Lett, 1998 1; Fleming & Koppelman, 1998 2; Henderson, 2002 3).  Employing a combination of both EVM and Agile have been employed as well for over a decade (Alleman & Henderson, 2003 4, 5).

A few qualifiers are helpful to explain the EVM components as demonstrated below 6:

  • Earned Value Analysis (EVA) – a quantitative project management technique for evaluating project performance and predicting final project results, based on comparing the progress and budget of work packages to planned work and actual costs.
  • Earned Value Management (EVM) – a project management methodology for controlling a project which relies on measuring the performance of work using a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) and includes an integrated schedule and budget based on the project WBS.
  • Earned Value Management System (EVMS) – the process, procedures, tools and templates used by an organization to do earned value management.

For this paper we will focus on Earned Value Analysis (EVA), with the presumption that the following EVM support structures are in place 7, 8:

  • Organizing – Define WBS
  • Organizing – Identify Organizations
  • Organizing – Integrate WBS & OBS
  • Planning & Budgeting – Schedule Work
  • Planning & Budgeting – Identify Products / Milestones
  • Planning & Budgeting – Set Time-Phased Budget
  • Accounting – Record Direct Costs
  • Analysis – Determine Variances
  • Analysis – Sum Data and Variances
  • Analysis – Manager Action Plans
  • Revisions – Incorporate Change

A few qualifiers for Agile will also be provided. Similar to EVM though there are several components and flavours of “Agile” (Scrum, XP, Test Driven Development, or Feature Driven Development, DSDM, Crystal Clear, etc.) that all “conform” to the Agile Manifesto and Principles 9:

Manifesto for Agile Software Development

We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it. Through this work we have come to value:

  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools
  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation
  • Responding to change over following a plan

That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.

The last sentence is key “while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.” They do not focus on the right as much, but also they do NOT discount it.

The Agile Manifesto 12 Principles are:

W15-Agile-Principles

Problem Statement

Is it possible to “connect the dots” and integrate the Agile and EVM techniques to work together for IT enabled change initiatives to increase the probability of success 10 ?

W15-DilbertGraphic 2: Dilbert 11/26/2007

Development of Feasible Alternatives

There are three possible alternatives:

  1. EVM in its entirety and Agile in its entirety can be combined
  2. Components of EVM and Agile can be combined
  3. EVM and Agile cannot be employed together

Development of Prospective Outcomes

W15-AlternativeOutcomes

Table 1: Author’s design

Selection of the Decision Criteria

For the purposes of this paper, the acceptable criteria will be defined as:

1. EVM not contradicting the Agile Principles:

W15-Agile-Principles

2. The Agile Principles not contradicting the EVM 32 Guidelines (specifically the bolded key Eleven Guidelines)

W15-EVM-32-Guidelines

Analysis and Comparison of the Alternatives

Assumptions

1. Flaws to Overcome

Flawed assumptions with EVM 11

W15-EVM-Flawed-AssumptionsTable 2: Modified Slightly by Author

Flawed assumptions with Agile 12:

W15-Agile-Flawed-Assumptions

Flawed assumptions with Software Development Projects 13:

W15-SoftwareDevelopment-FlawedAssumptions

Table 3: Modified Slightly by Author

2. Is it Possible to Connect the Dots?

Glen Alleman has suggested the following “Core Principles” for “Connecting the Dots” between EVM and Agile 13, 14 :

W15-CorePrinciples

Table 3: “Core Principles” for “Connecting the Dots”

3. Positioning Agile and EVM

The author positions Agile as a Team Management or Work Package methodology, with a higher project management container.  EVM provides an overall support structure to ensure control, reporting and analysis that can be supported by Agile.

Analysis

The following demonstrates that the key EVM Guidelines have an associated non-conflicting Agile Approach 15:

W15-EVM_Guidelines-AgileApproach

The following demonstrates that Agile points of View do not contradict EVM Points of View 16:

W15-Agile_Guidelines-EVMApproach

The following shows that it is possible to “align” the Agile Manifesto Principles and the EVM Guidelines without conflict:

W15-EvaluationAnalysis

“In summary, agile processes give you the option of producing a reasonably complete definition of scope at the start of the project. That’s exactly what we need for EVM – we need overall targets for scope, time and cost so that we can track our progress towards them. You don’t have to set these targets if you just want to do agile; but you do have to set them if you want to do agile with EVM.”

As with all methods, none of them provide a silver bullet or colour by numbers approach that guarantees success.  However, with common sense, experience and hard work these methods will reduce uncertainty and improve the odds of successful delivery.

Based on this analysis, it is possible to use a combination of both EVM and Agile components without contradiction, and in fact providing superior project control in certain circumstances.  This may not be possible in all situations, but with IT Enabled Solutions of a reasonable size nothing has been identified to not use both methods.

Selection of the Preferred Alternative

Based on this analysis, Option 2 “Components of EVM and Agile can be combined” is the preferred alternative. The follow on paper will explain how specifically in reporting.

 

What has this to do with sustainable project management?

It obviously depends on the type of project, industry, culture and maturity / competency of the project team, but I have found the EVM / Agile support structures to be extremely beneficial for sustainable projects. Once again just a few more tools and techniques for the tool kit.

References

  1. Lett, Steven H. (1998). An Earned Value Tracking System for Self-Directed Software Teams. [ONLINE] Available at: http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/summary?doi=10.1.1.196.2216. [Last Accessed 12 March 2013].
  2. Fleming, Quentin W. & Koppelman, Joel M. (1998). Earned Value Project Management A Powerful Tool for Software Projects. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.crosstalkonline.org/storage/issue-archives/1998/199807/199807-Fleming.pdf . [Last Accessed 14 April 2013].
  3. Henderson, Kym (2002). Implementing Earned Value Concepts on Commercial IT Projects A Practical Approach. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.microplanning.com.au/wp-content/plugins/download-monitor/download.php?id=20. [Last Accessed 10 April 2013].
  4. Alleman, Glen B. & Henderson, Michael (2003). Making Agile Development Work in a Government Contracting Environment. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.niwotridge.com/. [Last Accessed 5 April 2013].
  5.  Alleman, Glen B. & Henderson, Michael (2003). Agile Project Management Methods Meet Earned Value Management. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.slideshare.net/galleman/agile-evms. [Last Accessed 2 March 2013].
  6. Lukas, Joseph (2008). AACE International Transactions EVM.01 Earned Value Analysis – Why it Doesn’t Work. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.icoste.org/LukasPaper.pdf‎. [Last Accessed 10 March 2013].
  7. Humphrey’s Gary C and Associates (2011), Project Management Using Earned value, Chapter 30. Establishing the Performance Measurement Baseline, Second Edition, Humpreys & Associates, Inc.
  8. Alleman, Glen (2011). NDIA Information Systems Summit II – Earned Value + Agile = Success. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.slideshare.net/galleman/evagilesuccess-final-v2. [Last Accessed 2 April 2013].
  9. The Manifesto Authors (2001). Manifesto for Agile Software Development. [ONLINE] Available at: http://agilemanifesto.org/. [Last Accessed 5 March 2013].
  10. Adams, Scott (2007). 11/26/2007. [ONLINE] Available at: http://dilbert.com/strips/comic/2007-11-26/. [Last Accessed 5 May 2013].
  11. Alleman, Glen (2011). NDIA Information Systems Summit II – Earned Value + Agile = Success. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.slideshare.net/galleman/evagilesuccess-final-v2. [Last Accessed 2 April 2013].
  12. Rusk, John (2009). Earned Value for Agile Development. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.agilekiwi.com/EarnedValueForAgileProjects.pdf‎. [Last Accessed 16 February 2013].
  13. Alleman, Glen (2011). NDIA Information Systems Summit II – Earned Value + Agile = Success. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.slideshare.net/galleman/evagilesuccess-final-v2. [Last Accessed 2 April 2013].
  14. Alleman, Glen (2011).
  15. Alleman, Glen (2011).
  16. Rusk, John (2009). Earned Value for Agile Development. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.agilekiwi.com/EarnedValueForAgileProjects.pdf‎. [Last Accessed 16 February 2013].
  17. Sullivan, W.G., Wicks, E. M., & Koelling, C. P. (2011). Engineering Economy, pp. 86 – 89.

IMAGE: The image was borrowed from a Slideshare presentation “Agile and Federal Governance – Contracts and EVM” located at: https://www.slideshare.net/RichardChengExcella/agile-and-federal-governance

 

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Peter Milsom

Peter Milsom is an entrepreneurial advocate for sensible, sustainable change delivery practice. Peter has come to realize that sustainability is the perfect catalyst for Project / Programme / Portfolio / Risk / Value / Business Case and Benefits Management improvement. As an entrepreneurial methodologist Peter's unique value proposition is the vast array of tools and techniques that he brings to every engagement using the most cost effective and efficient methods based on the situation and tailored to meet your needs. This is based on his unique combination of experience and extensive training / certifications in change delivery, value / risk / benefits management business case, and business architecture.

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