Response to Article: “Earned Value Management is not a mathematical game” by s1335336

This is a response article to “Earned Value Management is not a mathematical game” by s1335336 (https://blog.inf.ed.ac.uk/sapm/2014/02/11/earned-value-management-is-not-a-mathematical-game/)

Paper Summary

In the article, firstly, the basic concept of Earned Value Management (EVM) is introduced. Secondly, a practical project case is presented in an interesting way, to give a more comprehensive explanation of the use of EVM in real-life situation, and how EVM benefit the whole project management process. Thirdly, factors that give negative impressions on using EVM are mentioned. Fourthly, considerations of how to improve EVM performance in terms of its three basic elements- Planned Value (PV), Actual Cost (AC), and Earned Value (EV), are discussed.

Merits and Drawbacks of the Article

I agree with the author that EVM does benefit a lot in the process of project management. As we know, EVM provides an estimation of whether the cost and performance of project is acceptable or not, by comparing and calculating PV, AC, and EV. Of course, many other methods can also be used in measuring project performance and progress, such as Function Point Analysis, Cost Estimation Methods. However, many subjective human judgment errors can be made when using those “other methods”, causing inaccuracy of the estimation of the progress and cost. EVM can measure project performance and progress in an objective manner, providing a more reliable result of the estimation. Using PV, AC, and EV, the project progress can be expressed in a mathematical way; numbers are the evidences of every conclusion.

I agree with the author that, EVM provide a mathematical way to estimate the cost and performance of projects, but it is not a mathematical game. Numbers do present a great many facts of the project that can rely on to make proper changes to the project plan; however, numbers are not everything, they are only valuable under the support of facts. For example, if an important step of the project is carelessly treated, or the feasibility of the project is too low, the project will still be a disaster although the mathematical result seems to be graceful.

I also agree with the author that the performance of EVM is not one hundred percent successful, many factors can lead non-ideal results, such as bad project planning and tracking, and lacking of reliable data from the project.

Besides, I think this article can be improved in the following aspects.

On one hand, the article present how EVM is made of good use in the example. I think a summary should be added to conclude how EVM benefit the whole project. As far as I can see, from the article, it can be summarized that EVM can give a project better investigation about its status. By using EVM, the project tracking and control process, as well as the decision making process can be better implemented. Whenever the project progress or the actual cost is unacceptably biased, EVM can gracefully help to analyse the situation and come up with the relative solutions to mitigate the situation and reduce the overall project risk.

On the other hand, I think methods to measure earned value is also worthy of mentioning. Although the relevant calculation of EVM is not complicated, accurate measurement task of EV is not that easy, and is the key point of EVM. There are some common measurement methods of EV [1]. (a) Linear growth measurement: The overall cost will be allocated proportionally to different part of the project, but in each sub-part, the cost will be equally allocated. EV is recorded according to the completion percentage. (b) 50-50 rule: 50% of the cost is recorded at the beginning of the task; the other 50% will then be recorded at the end of the task. This method is more suitable when the task has multiple sub-tasks. (c) Quantity measurement: The cost is allocated equally to each small part of the task. EV is recorded according to the number of the completed parts. (d) Node measurement: Divide the whole project into multiple nodes and assign each of them an EV. When a node finishes its task, the EV of the task is recorded and added to the overall EV.

More about EVM

Based on the research I did about EVM, I’d like to mention more about it, to stress some ambiguous points.

First, if a project has a valuation of planned work, progress and budget, then EVM is a good choice for this project. [1]

Second, EVM can always decide what is going to be done in the future work of the project; this is the reason why EVM is not only a tool for control and tracking, but also a tool for planning. [3]

Third, huge amount of data of the project needs to be recorded in EVM process. When the data comes from different teams, different departments, or even different companies, the situation is harder. As a result, in order to make good use of EVM, teamwork and communication is of great significance. [1]

Fourth, EVM needs to be used together with other project management methods. Relevant methods can make great improvement for the performance of EVM, such as Gantt chart and milestone chart. [2]

Fifth, trying to re-define the process of EVM is not a good idea. Changes in EVM can affect a great deal of the project progress, or even bring the project into a disaster. [3]

Conclusion

In conclusion, I appreciate the usefulness of EVM in project tracking and control, as well as the accuracy of the mathematical results. Project risk can be reduced in a good manner by using EVM. What’s more, I added some extra comments on the measurement methods of EV, which is not as easy as other related calculations of EVM. Furthermore, I mentioned some considerable points in the process of EVM.

References

[1] Fleming, Quentin W., and Joel M. Koppelman. Earned value project management. Project Management Institute, 2000.

[2] Ferguson, J., and Karl Heinz Kissler. Earned value management. No. CERN-AS-2002-010. 2002.

[3] http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_665509880100ixia.html