The first process detailed by the Earned Value standard is ‘Organise Project’. Basically, you can’t run earned value management on your project if your project is a disorganised mess. But it also means more than that: you have to have an understanding of scope so you can split the project into work packages that make sense and can be tracked.
How do you work out the scope?
The easiest way to work out the scope of the project is from the charter: this outlines what you were tasked with doing. The requirements documentation will also have useful information.
However, that’s all likely to be quite high level. To get to work package level, you have to use decomposition. All this means is breaking down big chunks of work into smaller sections until you get to a level where it’s possible for someone to take responsibility for managing the thing.
This is how you create the work breakdown structure: take the high level requirements and decompose them, structure them, into something that gives you a logical overview of what is happening on the project.
You might think it’s not worth starting at the top and breaking it down. Why not start at the bottom and build it up? I suppose either works fine. For me the default would be to start with the big picture because then we make sure that what we build meets that need. There’s a chance that if you start at the bottom and build up, what you actually end up with isn’t quite what was asked for. However, do what works for you: as long as you end up with decomposed work packages (as in, broken down, not mouldy), then you’re good.
The WBS is linear, in that the branches don’t twine together. Once you’re on a branch, you stay on that branch, and all you are doing is breaking the work down further and further. How do you know when to stop? I say that’s a judgement call. The work package size needs to be controlled enough for someone to feel like they can get their arms around it and lead it, but not so detailed that you are creating a ton of WBS paperwork for something that ends up taking a couple of hours.
How to represent your WBS: diagram or list?
When you see WBS info in textbooks, and indeed, in the EV standard, you’ll see it as a picture; a kind of tree diagram or hierarchy chart. Personally, I don’t think in pictures so I prefer to create a numbered list. I love the fact that my scheduling tool of choice will add in the WBS numbering automatically as I create the list. Creating your WBS directly into your scheduling tool is not (in my view) a great practice, but it works for the kind of projects I do as they are generally pretty small at the moment.
Your project is organised
The end result of the first EV process is that you end up with a WBS and some other scope documentation that fleshes out what you have agreed to do, like the scope statement and a plan for managing scope should things change. If you’re going down the route of preparing a ‘proper’ WBS instead of a simple numbered list of tasks – which is necessary if you are handing work packages over to teams to run with – then you’ll also have a WBS dictionary which is the text part that adds detail and colour to the titles on the WBS diagram.
All this forms your scope baseline: the official statement of what it is you intend to deliver. The important thing to remember is that you do not create this alone – just don’t! Scope needs to be created with input from technical experts because you don’t know what you don’t know. Even if you think you are an expert in the subject – or you were at some point in your career – the people doing the work need a say in what they are doing so they can start thinking about how best to do it. Collaboration is your friend: yes, it takes longer but the end result is a project that everyone can buy into, and that will save you a lot more time in the long run.
Setting up your project for success with a solid scope is important all the time, but if you are going to follow the EV standard, it’s essential. You can’t measure project performance unless you know what you should be performing!
Pin for later reading
We need to measure project performance to see if the project is on track.
The graphic below shares some ideas on the different ways you can measure work performance. None of these suggestions is better than any other – they are all appropriate for different projects, environments and levels of project management maturity.
Do you use any of these approaches to measure progress on your projects? Why (or why not)? Let us know in the comments section below!
For more on this idea, and a bit more background on the performance measures, check out this article:
In this video I share 3 tips with you to help you feel more organised for the coming week. These are quick(ish) things to do on a Friday afternoon, or the last day of your working week. I use these tips myself and they help me waste less time overall. I hope they help you too!
Read more here: http://www.projectmanagement.com/blog/The-Money-Files/7537/