EVM in the Real World – Part III

In my last blog I discussed challenges to using earned value management tools to track progress on projects. In particular, I suggested that some of the challenges are posed by things like the complexity and/or type of work required.
The complexity and/or type of work will have a direct impact on the level of difficulty tracking progress. If you only have two or three tasks that you are expected to progress on a linear schedule, then you’ll have a relatively easy job tracking. When you have hundreds of tasks with people spread across the organization, and/or including outside vendors that do not progress in a linear fashion, you can expect to have your work cut out for you.
Some of the typical variables that you’ll have to consider:
o Ramp up time to start work
o Required training prior to work
o Learning curve expected for the type of work
o Special design challenges of the work
o Integration with other projects often increases complexity
o Integration with green fields projects or any new and untested technology
o Work that is under a regulatory micro-scope
o Work that is highly visible to senior executives and/or the community
o Particular quality design challenges
o Loss of life challenges with the use of equipment
o Any required safety training and regulatory compliance demands
o Logistics for receipts of materials
o Delays caused by long lead items ordered for project
o Quality assurance activities that may cause delays
o Decision making architecture that results in natural time delays
o Vendor delays
o Union demands that may delay work, like contract negotiations
o Weather complications
As I said in my last blog, all of these things will require time on the schedule. When we’re planning work, we review all of these variables and consider any others that may be particular to this project, and then we try to translate these challenges into calendar time, and in some cases, risk and costs. As a result, typically none of these things will progress in a linear fashion and must be tracked in unique ways that translate into reality. When your tracking tools do not align well with the type of work being performed, then the reports tend to look like mere shadows of reality.
Each of these variables must be dealt with individually. In some cases you may simply add a little extra time to a task, in other cases you may need to break a task into sub-parts, and perform qualitative analysis on each component. In addition, I suggest performing three point estimates on each component, and incorporating risk analysis. In addition to your risk analysis, you may need to add risk response plans.
In some cases your risk analysis and risk response planning will result in added time and contingency, in other cases it will add tasks to your project plan. All in all, these added steps will give you a much more realistic picture of where you need to be and how track progress across your subsequent plans.
Larry T Barnard
You can follow Larry at http://larrytbarnard.com

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