The Practice Standard for Earned Value sets out the Develop Schedule process, which is simply a way of turning all the stuff in your WBS into a workable plan with timescales. Basically, it’s time to turn the WBS into a Gantt chart.
I guess you could use earned value for non-Gantt chart scheduling, but I can’t get my head around how that would work (tell me in the comments if this is something you do!).
The Practice Standard doesn’t go into loads of detail about how to make a project schedule, as there are other places you can go for that information – like the Practice Standard for Scheduling and also the PMBOK® Guide. However, the particular earned value bits of scheduling are covered in the EV standard, and especially this process.
There are two inputs to this process:
- The scope baseline
- The resource breakdown structure.
The scope baseline is more than just the WBS. It also includes the scope statement and the WBS dictionary, so it’s the full set of documents about project scope and the full understanding of what the scope is. It’s the exact spec to a level of detail that allows someone in the team to get the work done.
The resource breakdown structure is the comprehensive guide to who is working on the project as well as the other, non-people, resources required to get the job done.
What to do
The Practice Standard is light on the ‘how to schedule’ element, as I mentioned above, but from a specifically EV perspective, here’s what to take into account:
- Create the schedule in a scheduling tool.
- Make sure dependencies are noted and accounted for, using the scheduling features of your tool
- Manage the relationship with the budget by setting up whatever you need to in the system that will manage that relationship. This might mean setting up control accounts in your accounting software or however you are tracking the budget figures for the project.
This last part is particularly important because it’s the way the schedule and budget relate that drives the EV calculations. You need the same dates, milestones, assumptions and resources set up in each so the measurement is consistent between both systems. In other words, you need to be sure that the work being done is accurately accounted for so that you are working out the right planned value.
Finally, get your project schedule approved the normal way and it then becomes the schedule baseline, against which you can track progress and monitor performance.
The output for the Develop Schedule process is only the integrated master schedule, as you would expect.
The ‘master’ part of the IMS, as I understand it, is a way of referring to the fact this is the top level project schedule. The control account managers may have detailed sub-plans for their parts, and you might have intermediate level plans, depending on how complicated the project is. But the IMS – the master schedule – is the full picture of everything required to get the project done.
Dealing with changes
As with any aspect of project management, we have to allow and account for what happens when things change. It’s great to have the IMS as your overarching master schedule and performance measurement baseline, but it’s unrealistic to think that we’ll deliver everything perfectly to plan because that isn’t what happens in real life.
So, we need to use the change control process as and when needed, to make sure the whole thing stays aligned to actual performance. That’s not to say you’ll be re-baselining the project every day, but you will keep the schedule up to date with real progress to compare back to the original baseline, and then re-baseline if and when that becomes appropriate.
If you make schedule changes, you also need to consider what that means for the project budget. When using EVM, you can’t get away from the fact that the two need to align – that’s the point of this way of project tracking, after all.
The IMS exists as a way to outline what the team is planning to do and it gives you the logic for measuring performance. It’s important to get it as good as it can possibly be because it’s what future progress will be measured against and it’s used for calculating future outcomes – and you should want those to be as accurate as possible.
Next time, I’ll be looking at the next process in the earned value landscape, which is establishing the budget.
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