Categories: earned value
Control account plans (CAPs) are detailed plan for each control account. If the term control account isn’t familiar to you, you probably aren’t using earned value management. The CAP is part of EV and it describes the work that goes into each formally defined chunk of the project. The project is broken up into control accounts for the purpose of controlling the work and monitoring earned value.
So if that’s the way you are managing project performance, what goes into a control account plan?
Honestly, if you are working in a formal earned value environment on a project where EV is the prescribed way of managing performance, you probably have templates within the PMO that you can use to create a control account plan.
However, if you are someone who has just started working in a formal EV environment – let’s say, you’re a functional manager who is now contributing to a project using EV – then it might help to know what you are looking at when your project manager hands you a CAP and either asks you to fill it in or expects you to be able to understand it.
The PMI Practice Standard for Earned Value has a small section in about what goes into a control account plan, and if you are new to EV, I recommend reading the standard. It’s surprisingly easy to read and contains worked examples along with plenty of graphs and charts, so with a bit of perseverance you’ll have a decent theoretical knowledge in no time.
Six things for your CAP
So let’s say you’re looking at a control account plan for the first time. What would you expect to see in there?
1. The name of the control account manager
Someone is responsible for the control account. It is normally one person who takes ownership of a control account and ‘runs’ it. They should be named in the document.
2. What work is required
There should also be a section that describe the work to be done. How you do this is up to you, but it needs to be detailed enough to help people understand what’s required. You probably have some other kinds of requirements documentation as well, and I don’t think it’s necessary to reinvent the wheel in the CAP. If it was me, I’d link out to any existing documentation and just include a summary, but best be guided by whatever templates exist in your organization.
Pop your statement of work in the documentation.
3. The dates
Drop your key milestones into the CAP.
4. Work packages
Work packages are derived from the WBS. They should include the scope of the work, the schedule, and the budget for the tasks covered by the control account.
Again, if you’ve got full WBS and work package documentation elsewhere, it seems silly to copy/paste it all in your CAP and you don’t need to.
The CAP often looks like a spreadsheet, with work packages down the side, the key EV measures like PV and AC) in columns next to them, and dates across the top. Drop the numbers into the relevant cells and update the CAP as the work progresses. It’s a way of keeping track of performance over time.
5. Planning packages
Planning packages are covered by the CAP as well. The same approach for the work package applies: include the scope, dates and costs for the tasks within the planning packages covered by the control account.
The CAP should also include the estimate to complete. Time-phase it. This can be included as another row in the spreadsheet, per work package.
As I understand it, the CAP needs to be a living document, updated regularly with the EV metrics like planned value, earned value, actual cost and estimate to complete, so that you can track performance at control account level.
The Practice Standard includes a snapshot of what one might look like, filled in with some of the data to represent a project in-flight. I’ve made my own template in Excel, drawing from that.
However, it strikes me as something that an EV management system could do perfectly well. As long as the structure was set up correctly and the tasks within the control account were adequately identified, there’s no reason why software tools couldn’t pull out the figures and crunch the data on behalf of the control account manager.
If you do need to set it up manually, hopefully you now have an idea of what it should include, but talk to your EVM experts or your PMO and see whether you can create the plan as a standard report from within your EV tools to save yourself a fair bit of time each month.
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