Earned Value: Monitoring Projects More Effectively

PMI Honolulu, Hawaii Chapter

Dr. Smith is a member of PMI and IPMA-USA, with many years of experience as a practitioner, researcher-evaluator, advisor, consultant and instructor/facilitator in project management. He was formerly a management systems specialist with the U.S. Department of Defense; later a manager, advisor and evaluator on various sector projects world-wide as a representative of the U.S. government and the international development donor community [i.e., the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the World Bank Group, African Development Bank, the UN, and the Asian Development Bank]. Dr. Smith now conducts workshop-seminars in various aspects of project management, monitoring and evaluation for PMI as well as other government, academic and private sector organizations. He is an Air Force Reserve Colonel (Ret'd).

This article highlights why project financial assessment is so prone to errors during project monitoring, and illustrates a better practice for applying earned value to analyze and report project schedule and cost data quickly and accurately.

As a project manager, during implementation you are expected to monitor and report three essential items of information on the project’s status:

  1. Overall Status: Percentage of project completed
  2. Current Schedule & Budget Status: Whether “on,” “ahead” or “behind” the planned schedule, and “on,” “under” or “over” the budget. (If ahead or behind, under or over—also by how much.)
  3. Forecast when the project will most likely be completed, and its estimated cost at completion.

But did you know that during implementation, 13 different scenarios of the current status are possible? If so, you are amongst the very few “in the know,” as most project managers do not!

Project status information is frequently analyzed and depicted against the project’s planned schedule with two separate “S-Curves” as follows:

Figure 1 (Work vs. Schedule) and Figure 2 (Cost vs. Schedule)

By comparing the percentage of milestones “completed” versus the project’s total milestones—as well as those scheduled …

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