This post was modified from one I developed several years ago for the Mercure AACE 2013 program I took, called W17_PM_EVM-KPI-Reporting. It is a follow on to a recent post “EVM and Agile – Can they work together?“. Once again, 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.
The original inspiration for this post came from an AACE paper from 1994 and the following two graphics 1.
The first graphic demonstrates findings from the mid 90s of a questionnaire distributed to 35 professionals within a large engineering firm demonstrating their understanding of key cost engineering skills. If the results were this poor for a Professional Engineering organization, one can easily imagine what it would be for non-engineering or executives untrained in cost engineering skills.
Graphic 1: Survey Data: Staff Knowledge of Key Cost Engineering Concepts (Modified slightly by Author)
The second graphic is a recommendation for what and how to present project information to the project sponsor and/or executive. The benefit is that it provides a clear snapshot on the issues that matter most to the executive, and it shows trends. All of this information can be derived directly from the EVMS reports.
Graphic 2: Project Summary Status (Modified slightly by Author)
These sources highlight a need to ensure the Earned Value analysis and reporting is communicated in an appropriate manner for the Project Sponsor and executive.
There are several assumptions being put forward:
- The focus will be on IT Enabled Solutions engagements
- The change initiative is not of a sustaining or transformational nature (please see Table 1 below)
- The Project Sponsor is not familiar with project management (i.e. Agile or Earned Value)
- There is a sound business case with quantifiable costs and benefits documented
- The organization has the resource capacity and competency; along with organizational maturity (i.e. Level 2 or higher) to employ Agile and Earned Value methods, tools and techniques (please see Graphic 3 below)
- The governance structure is of an owner organization, focusing on the means to an end where the primary benefit of a project is achieving or realizing the benefit from the product of the project (i.e. what the project was undertaken to create or change). In most owner organizations the Project Manager does NOT have the formal authority commensurate with their responsibility. This impacts the dynamic between the project manager and the organization and the project manager and the project sponsor.
Table 1: Project Complexity and Risk Level Definitions (Modified by Author) 2
Graphic 3: Key Business Management Practices Operational 3
Is it possible to improve project management reporting, management analysis and decision support by employing EVM, Excel and Agile in a cost effective and efficient manner?
Graphic 4: Dilbert 10/03/2010 4
Development of Feasible Alternatives
There are three possible alternatives:
- Demonstrating that employing EVM, Excel and Agile can improve PM reporting, management analysis and decision support in a cost effective and efficient manner.
- Proving why employing EVM, Excel and Agile cannot improve PM reporting, management analysis and decision support or it would be to expensive and inefficient to provide value.
- Something else.
Development of the Outcomes of Each Alternative
Table 2: Outcome Alternatives (Table supplemented from Sullivan et al for the Author’s purposes) 5
Selection of the Acceptable Criteria
For the purposes of this paper, the acceptable criteria will be defined as:
Table 3: Acceptance Criteria (Author’s design) 6
Analysis and Comparison of the Alternatives
The following was also taken from the introduction of the 1994 Arthur Hadnett presentation setting the stage for why improved reporting is key 7:
The following was also taken from the summary of the 1994 Arthur Hadnett presentation recommending some changes in how we should conduct our business 8:
It is curious how for well over a decade things have not progressed that much.
Project Controls Environment
During the following process, conversations and reporting with the project sponsor and executive will be taking place using the “management by exception” approach. For the purposes of this paper we will focus on the status report for the project sponsor and executive highlighted by the red box:
As demonstrated by the following, much of the EVM analysis and reporting can take place in MS Excel:
The following section is not for the project sponsor or executive. However, it provides the analysis, traceability and confidence to properly present clear and concise recommendations for the project.
The traditional Contract Performance Report (CPR) for EVM is outlined below:
The beauty of EVM is that it allows a deep and methodical analysis of the current state of the project:
A recommended process is outlined below 14:
For example, the current status indicators are important:
The issue is that once a project initiates it seldom goes according to plan:
Using the plan and actuals to identify variances:
And resolving the following questions:
A process similar to the following can help with variance analysis:
The following performance forecasting is useful:
The following future performance forecasting is also useful:
The standard EVM reporting chart looks like the following:
Which for the project sponsors and executives outlined in the assumptions, would not be understandable:
Every project has different stakeholders, organizational maturity, support systems and nature of the engagement. KPIs and reporting will have to be agreed at the beginning of each project and will evolve throughout. One recommendation is a project status report called a “project quad” divided into four intuitive sections that provide an executive summary level of information.
I. Project Overview: This section provides project charter level information on the quantifiable business objectives, work authorization date, approved capital budget, and the standard project health indicator (now less subjective).
II. Current State: This section provides a quick reference for project progress according to plan. The variances are immediately obvious and frequently initiate the discussion necessary to remove barriers to progress. There are advantages to the simpler wording and demonstration of project status on the EVM/Agile type graph below.
III. Risks and Issues: The project manager uses this section to provide bulletized statements about barriers to either progress or meeting the approved business objectives.
IV. Next Steps: This section is used to either identify the next milestones or for recommendations to bring performance back in line with the plan.
Based on this and the previous several posts this grid was filled out.
Selection of the Preferred Alternative
Based on this analysis, Option 1 “Demonstrating that employing EVM, Excel and Agile can improve PM reporting, management analysis and decision support in a cost effective and efficient manner” appears to be the proven and the preferred alternative, based on the assumptions. Though project is different EVM, Agile and Excel should all be aggressively considered as useful tools and approaches.
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 this support structure and reporting technique to be extremely beneficial for sustainable projects. Once again just a few more tools and techniques for the tool kit.
- Hadnett, Arthur (1994). Cost Engineering: Making it Work. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.aacei.org/avectramembers/pdfs/18010.pdf. [Last Accessed 15 April 2013].
- TBS (2013). Project Complexity and Risk Assessment Tool v1.4. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/pm-gp/doc/pcra-ecrp/pcra-ecrp-eng.asp. [Last Accessed 5 May 2013].
- 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].
- Adams, Scott (2010). 10/03/2010. [ONLINE] Available at: http://dilbert.com/strips/comic/2010-10-03/. [Last Accessed 12 May 2013].
- Sullivan, W.G., Wicks, E. M., & Koelling, C. P. (2011). Engineering Economy, pp. 7 – 15, 15th edition, Prentice Hall
- Humphreys, Gary (2010). EVMS The Principles, Best Practices and Benefits. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.slideshare.net/NASAPMC/humphreysgary. [Last Accessed 20 February 2013].
- Ibid Hadnett
- Griffiths, Mike (2008). A Better S Curve and Simplified EVM. [ONLINE] Available at: http://leadinganswers.typepad.com/leading_answers/2008/06/a-better-s-curve-and-simplified-evm.html. [Last Accessed 5 March 2013].
- Ibid Humphreys
- Ibid Hadnett
- Kerzner, Harold (2011-07-15). Project Management Metrics, KPIs, and Dashboards: A Guide to Measuring and Monitoring Project Performance. Wiley Publishing. Kindle Edition.