Programmes (as we spell program here in the UK), are made up of various different projects and often BAU elements or non-project components too. The programme budget needs to reflect two things.
First, it should include all the costs relating to the components. These could come from detailed project budgets, contracts and the work involved in costing out the deliverables, outcomes and outputs that make up the programme overall. This aspect is going to make up most of the budget.
Second, it should include the costs involved in running the programme. These are most likely to be resource costs and any other operational support costs such as the fees involved with hiring a location to work from during the programme and things like that. This aspect is a not insignificant amount but in my experience it’s normally less than the costs of the projects.
The exact split of component costs and programme management overheads is going to depend on your exact project and how you account for people’s time.
The two schedules that come out of the cost budgeting for a programme are:
These two terms sound very similar so let’s briefly look at what they mean.
The programme payment schedule is about money in. It relates to the dates and milestones where funding will be made available. These could be payments from the client, or your internal decision points or gates where funding will be released for the next phase of work.
The component payment schedule is about money out. It relates to when contractors, sub-contractors and suppliers are going to be paid. I see it as a summary of the contractual payment dates as most of my supplier contracts for large projects in the past have a milestone-driven payment schedule. When the milestone is reached and signed off, the payment can be made to the vendor.
The milestones tend to be linked to delivery e.g. completion of design, delivery of functionality etc. When a component is completed, the component-related budget can be closed off.
Both of these schedules provide info to the programme budget baseline. The baseline will need to be revisited regularly if my experience is anything to go by. Prepare a forecast, review the estimates and actuals, and update as and when you need to, with the approval of whatever governance processes you have in place.
Then make sure any changes are trickled through to the relevant budget lines, and any other documentation is updated.
The programme and component schedules might be called schedules, but they aren’t the same as your main programme (or project) schedule. That represents the timeline of work; what we often call the project plan (even though technically speaking it is not the project plan – that’s a separate document made up of lots of plans…).
The budget-related schedules are timelines in their own right, and you could put the milestones or key dates into your main schedule. Personally, I think that’s confusing, but it’s up to you. I prefer to put payment dates in my normal calendar, with a note the week or so before to make sure I have the paperwork in place to get the milestone approved.
I also use that early warning action to let Finance know that a big payment will be due, and the supplier’s sizeable invoice will be coming through for payment. Having once been caught out by trying to get a large invoice paid at short notice, I’ve learned the lesson of giving my colleagues in Finance plenty of time for their approvals and related Treasury tasks.
Do you have any other tips for managing the different aspects of a programme budget?
Your sponsor has asked you to get the work done faster… who hasn’t been in that situation?! That’s one reason why you may want to crash your project schedule, but there are others. In the past, I’ve written about 7 reasons to crash the schedule, and in this video, I pick out my top 5 to discuss in more detail. I talk about schedule compression (obviously), when part of the project has the potential to put the overall project at risk, when you’ve got a fixed deadline, when the team is needed for other work and when there’s a general delay which affects your ability to hit your expected deadlines. Crashing can help in all of those situations, used sensibly. Engage professional judgement before you go for it!
What are your thoughts on crashing? Personally, I try not to do it too often because it’s a lot of effort and it doesn’t always give you the results you were expecting, but it is a useful skill in the toolbox for predictive project managers, so it’s worth knowing when you would consider to use the technique.
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 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:
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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Someone emailed me the other day asking about how to use percent complete to track progress on their project schedule. It’s not the worst way to measure performance, but as I’ve got more experienced at putting schedules together, and the work I do is more uncertain, I’ve got less interested in using percent complete.
It means very little (at least, the way we were using it – which was basically a guess to feed into a schedule that was also mainly guessing given the level of complexity and uncertainty, and changes every week).
So I started thinking about schedule performance tracking – and there are plenty more ways to measure your progress than sticking to percent complete.
The infographic below shares some of the ways I know to measure your performance. You wouldn’t want to use them all on the same project necessarily, but it’s good to have options. Which ones do you use?
On this blog I’ve looked at different Knowledge Areas and how they apply to us as project managers, and also taken a budgeting and cost focus on a lot of articles. But what if you are managing an agile project? How do some of the financially-leaning Knowledge Areas work when you are working in agile ways?
Here’s how. Today, I’m looking at how the schedule management Knowledge Area applies to the agile work process.
Project Schedule Management
When you work in an adaptive environment, your project schedules aren’t going to look like big old Gantt charts. You’ve got short cycles to do the work in. With a lot of the people I mentor, we’re talking two week sprints.
The short cycles allow you to do work, review the work and then tweak the results as necessary, including any testing that needs to be done. Ideally, you don’t want all your features dropping on the testing team on the last day of the sprint because that’s not kind!
One team I worked with had this problem a lot so actually set up testing sprints running ‘behind’ the development sprints, just so there was enough time to test everything. Whatever works.
Scheduling is a cost-driven activity because people cost money, and you need people resources to do the work. That’s why it’s important to understand what scheduling options are available to you and how best to get the most out of the time and people that you have.
This could look like pull-based scheduling – which is what I am doing on one Agile team at the moment. There are a lot of tasks. I have the luxury of being able to decide on my next task. They all have to get done, and I can choose. Within reason!
Or it could look like on-demand scheduling. I have used a scheduling approach on a predictive project where we only planned the next three months in detail and let the rest of it unfold as we got closer to the date. It was the only way to stay on top of the work, on that monster project. It wasn’t a project being run with agile principles, but our just-in-time approach to scheduling made our lives easier. As I said, whatever works.
If you work in a big company, there are probably predictive and adaptive methods in use. All of the projects need to fit into some kind of PMO roadmap that allows the business to strategically plan the change effort.
The Agile Practice Guide talks about using predictive, adaptive and hybrid approaches to combine practices to get the best approach for the project or programme being delivered. Consider what scaling you would need to do to your current methods based on:
However, good schedule management skills are universal, and being able to break down the work, estimate, ensure work is given to the right task owners, track progress against tasks being completed – all those are fundamental skills. The tools and techniques you use to do them might be different depending on whether you are taking predictive or adaptive approaches.
Your PMO should be able to support all kinds of ways of working, and if they can’t yet, they are probably thinking about how to make sure they can in the future, because more and more PMOs are needing to adapt the way they work to be able to better support agile project teams.
From a financial perspective, you should be able to track the resource cost (and any other costs directly related to scheduling, if there are any) via timesheets or the equivalent way of reporting actual hours worked. This is especially useful if your team is not 100% dedicated to your project. If they are only doing your project, and you’re running on a timeboxed approach, you should easily be able to work out how many hours it took you to get the output from this timebox.
Schedule Management as a Knowledge Area is applicable to project managers working in agile environments. As with all tailoring, you take what you need and adapt to the project, team and processes you are using.
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