A previous H&A blog, “EVM (Earned Value Management) vs. Agile Project Management,” provided an introduction to the differences between an Earned Value Management System (EVMS) and Agile development methodologies.

At first glance, it may seem that EVM and Agile development methodologies are incompatible. Agile is all about rapid incremental product deliveries and responding quickly to an evolving understanding of the desired deliverable or outcome. Depending on how an EVMS is implemented, the EVMS can often seem rigid in comparison.

Can the two methodologies coexist and complement each other to create an effective integrated project management system? The answer is yes, provided you have thought through how you intend to use the two systems together and map how and where they integrate. The goal is to leverage the benefits of each system and without forcing either system to do something it wasn’t meant to do.

There is a natural top down and bottom-up process integration when defining the scope of work and acceptance criteria. This process integration continues for planning and scheduling the feature estimates of effort, establishing the budget baseline, and ultimately maintaining the estimate to complete (ETC) in the EVMS. It also supports an integrated process for measuring completed work. The Agile daily standup meetings provide current information about accomplishments and impediments at the lowest level of the project. The Agile system provides the quantifiable backup data for claiming earned value in the EVMS for performance reporting.

The following image illustrates the relationship between the two systems.

The source for this image is the NDIA IPMD Industry Practice Guide for Agile on EVM Programs, Revision May 2019, Figure 2-4.

The Foundation for Integrating EVM and Agile: Defining the Scope of Work

A work breakdown structure (WBS) is commonly used to organize and decompose a project’s scope of work into manageable, product-oriented elements. It is an essential communication tool for the customer and contractor so they have a common frame of reference to capture and manage requirements as well as expected deliverables or outcomes. It establishes a common basis for measuring progress and defining accomplishment criteria. It is the framework for developing a project’s schedule (timing of tasks), identifying resources to accomplish the scheduled tasks, creating cost estimates as well as the budget baseline, and identifying risks. In an EVMS, the WBS is often decomposed to the control account level which is further decomposed into work packages or planning packages. Once extended to the lower level, it provides a framework for tracking technical accomplishments, measuring completed work, and identifying variances from the original plan to complete the work.

There is a similar planning hierarchy to Agile projects – the Product Backlog is the foundation for defining the scope of work. The Product Backlog starts at the Epic or Capability level and is further defined through product planning. The process includes prioritizing the capabilities and defining the sequence of deliverables to create the Product Roadmap (timing). The capabilities are decomposed into features along with an estimate of the effort to deliver the feature. Features should include exit criteria (definition of done) and have minimal dependencies. At the lowest level, features are decomposed into Sprint Stories and related tasks forming the basis for the schedule and measuring completed work in the EVMS. As illustrated in the image above, in the Product Backlog hierarchy, an Epic/Capability relates to the control account level in the EVMS. Features relate to the work packages in the EVMS.

In an integrated environment, there can be a natural mapping between the WBS and the Product Backlog regardless of the starting point. When starting from the Agile system, the Product Backlog could be used to create the project’s WBS. The customer may also pre-define the top level WBS elements that could form the backlog structure. The DoD uses MIL-STD-881, Work Breakdown Structures for Defense Materiel Items, for this purpose so they have a set of common templates they can use across programs to capture historical actual cost data for cost estimating and should cost analysis. Even though the top level WBS elements may be pre-defined, the lower-level content can reflect an outcome based Agile structure that focuses on customer driven deliverables.
An example is illustrated here.

Possible Agile software development MIL-STD-881 WBS breakout. The source for this image is the DoD ADA Agile and Earned Value Management: A Program Manager’s Desk Guide, Revision November 2020, Figure 2.

What’s common between the two systems?  You have:

  • Decomposed a common understanding of the scope of work into manageable, product or outcome-oriented elements of work.
  • Defined the agreed upon accomplishment criteria or definition of done for a given deliverable or outcome.
  • Built a framework to determine the timing of tasks, identifying the resource requirements, creating a cost estimate to do the work, and means to objectively measure completed work.  Ideally, you have also identified the risks or uncertainties so you know where potential issues may surface.

Best Practices for Integrating the WBS and Product Backlog

Keeping in mind you have a similar decomposition of work between the two systems, you can set up the WBS and Product Backlog to align with each other.  The goal is to ensure traceability so you can easily support the EVMS requirements. 

Here are a few best practices for integrating the WBS and Product Backlog.

  1. Verify the WBS aligns with the prioritized Product Backlog to at least the Epic/Capability level (control account level in the WBS).  Determine how you intend to maintain traceability between the WBS elements and the work items in the Product Backlog so it doesn’t matter which system you use to review or confirm the agreed upon scope of work.  Identify and document how you intend to map the WBS elements to a work item in the Product Backlog so you always have the necessary cross references identified.  Keep it simple.  Where possible, minimize the need to enter something more than once. 
  2. Use the Product Backlog to tailor the WBS.  This is particularly true for projects where Agile development is central to the final deliverable.  Consider your two end objectives: you need to provide project performance reporting via the EVMS and organize the items in the Product Backlog so you can decompose them from the Epic/Capability level to the Feature level and then to the Sprint Story and task level.
  3. Watch the level of detail in the WBS.  Avoid driving the WBS to too low a level of detail.  Depending on the project, it may be appropriate to go no lower than the Epic/Capability level (control account level).  The reasoning: in the Agile system, the lower-level Stories and tasks are flexible and subject to change.  You are focused on completing current near-term work effort within a Sprint.  Better to let the Agile system manage and track what is happening at the rapidly changing detail level – it is designed to do that.  For EVMS purposes, project monitoring and control should be at a higher level where scope can be consistently defined, aligned to the schedule and budget, and claimed as done (technical accomplishment).  The WBS should reflect the level of detail that is aligned to the permissible variation in requirements or configuration.  Otherwise, you create too much change “noise” in the EVMS.
  4. Confirm the WBS and Product Backlog contains 100% of the contract scope of work.  Verify the statement of work has been mapped to the WBS elements or work items in the Product Backlog.  Why is this important?  You need to demonstrate you have captured the entire technical scope of work to at least the Epic/Capability level.  You need this for internal planning purposes so your development teams have an understanding of the technical requirements and expected outcomes as well as managing changes.  Your customer also needs confidence that you have an understanding of the entire scope of work and have planned accordingly for the duration of the project. 
  5. Verify you have defined the Feature accomplishment criteria or definition of done so it is easy to measure completed work.  This could be in the WBS dictionary or documented in the Agile system Product Backlog.  Determine where that information can be found and document the process to maintain it.  Ideally it is in one place so you only have to maintain it in one system and everyone on the project knows they are referencing current information.  Clearly defined accomplishment criteria mean you can objectively measure accomplishments – in both systems.  Enable that capability right from the start when you set up a new project in the two systems.

Are your EVM and Agile systems are sharing useful information?  Perhaps you have learned the hard way the WBS and Product Backlog aren’t sufficiently mapped for you to maintain traceability between the two systems.  We can help.  Call us today at (714) 685-1730

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Earned Value Training Help is Available

by Humphreys & Associates on May 1, 2021 last modified June 15, 2021

Earned Value Training Help is Available

Do any (or many) of these situations apply to you?

  • The Project has to comply with the EIA-748 EVMS Standard! What is that? How do we do that?
  • You have a new contract of over $20 Million, and you need to get yourself, your staff, and all the Project personnel up to speed on your new contractual Earned Value requirement.
  • The RFP says the company must have an Earned Value Management (EVM) certification. How can we respond to the RFP?
  • Your contract is over $100 Million and now you must have and demonstrate a Certified Earned Value Management System (EVMS).  How do you do that?
  • How do you get a compliant EVMS Description in the first place?
  • You have an Integrated Baseline Review (IBR) coming up and don’t have a clue about what that entails. 
  • You reviewed company training materials and everything dealing with Earned Value is out of date; and it is going to cost thousands to update the materials and keep them up to date! 
  • What are Control Account Managers (CAMs)? Must we have CAMs to do Earned Value? How do I get CAMs/Train them?
  • I used to have great CAMs, but none of my new CAMs can spell EV.  How do I train them? 

You Are Not Alone

If you answered “yes” to any of these, don’t feel like the Lone Ranger.  Even though the Earned Value concept has been around for over 50 years, the requirement can still be new to your company, new to your contract, and new to your employees.  Most will not have learned EVM in college.  Even companies that have been using EVM for years face a recurring need for training.  We’re pretty consistently seeing a turnover of 20-40% of our experienced CAMs each year across the industry. 

If you answered “yes” to several, I’m sure you’re a bit overwhelmed and asking yourself, how can we possibly meet all these requirements?

Over 40 Years of Experience

Well, don’t despair.  Humphreys & Associates, Inc. (H&A) has just what you need to get you through all those situations, and more.  For over 42 years, H&A has been the leader in providing EVM proposal support, EVMS Requirements/Gap Analysis support, EVMS Design, Implementation support, IBR Preparation, and EVMS Review/certification preparation, staff augmentation, and of course, EVMS and Project Management Training. 

H&A has trained over 950,000 people around the world in all aspects of the Earned Value requirements and has built the largest, most comprehensive library of training materials in the Earned Value Management consulting industry.  We have tailored training materials and have trained and supported contractors whose customers have been from DOD, DOE, NASA, FAA, HHS, as well as international customers such as the Australian DOD, the Canadian DND, Sweden Defense, and the UK.

EVMS Training Library

Our actively maintained library includes:

  • Basic and Advanced Courses in Earned Value Management and
  • Control Account Manager/Project Controls Staff Training and Certification;
  • EVMS Review training to prepare upper management and project teams for:
    • Earned Value Management System Review,
    • Integrated Baseline Review (IBR), and
    • Internal/Joint/External Surveillance;
  • Specialized training in:
    • Developing a WBS,
    • Planning Techniques,
    • Project Scheduling,
    • Baseline Establishment,
    • Materials Management,
    • Subcontract Management,
    • Basic and Advance Variance Analysis,
    • Estimating,
    • Change Management,
    • Government Reporting requirements,
    • OTB/ OTS incorporation, and
    • Agile Software Development

Real-World Application

Our curriculum makes extensive use of real-world examples and case studies to extend the process of learning into application.  We offer these hands-on courses in a variety of settings and formats to meet your needs. 

Public offerings are open to the industry at large and are particularly useful when you have a limited number of individuals needing the training or those individuals who are widely geographically separated. 

In-house offerings at your facilities allows us to meet the training need at one location or for one specific team and can include specifics of your system description.  

Earned Value Webinars

Webinar offerings of the two courses above and our Virtual Learning Lab (VLL) format are available, especially in these times of limited travel.  Webinars of the public and in-house training courses rely on the same content as the in-person courses with the addition of virtual interaction opportunities to increase student involvement and enhance learning.  Our Virtual Learning Lab (VLL) format provides an opportunity for busy individuals to learn at their own pace and time of their choice – even if they are working from home.  The VLL makes extensive use of video presentations and application case studies to enhance the learning environment and ensure the students continue to apply the knowledge they have gained. 

Training Materials

If you have an existing training staff, H&A can even be your source for training materials.  Most of our courses are available for purchase/licensing and our staff of EVMS experts can tailor them to any company environment.  The big benefit here is you leveraging H&A active involvement with EVM requirement changes to keep the material up to date and your training staff don’t have to do it.  In the end you get an up-to-date course without out committing the staff and costs to do the work.  This approach also aligns your material across all our offerings to provide you delivery flexibility with a consistent core content.       

In addition to providing course materials, H&A also can provide Train-The-Trainer sessions in those courses, so your company’s training department can understand and become comfortable with the training materials and updates.

EVMS Certification Programs

Our Certification programs go beyond the public or in-house training courses to create the Qualified CAMs and Project Controls (PC) personnel that are integral parts of a successful EVMS implementation.  These roles are where “the rubber meets the road” for EVMS.  CAMs and PCs will be expected to demonstrate how the company’s EVM System is actually operating on a day-to-day basis.  H&A offers comprehensive and rigorous Certification Courses for both of these important functions so you can be assured that your people not only understand Earned Value concepts but have demonstrated the ability to address the requirements or even problems that can arise on a Project. 

Mock Reviews

To enhance the review training listed above (EVMS, IBR, and Surveillance) and best prepare your organization for these events, H&A also provides teams of our consultants who can conduct Mock Reviews for all three of these events.  These mock reviews simulate each type of government review, including the conduct of CAM and other manager interviews, the running of metrics testing, and the preparation of in-briefs and exit briefs all of which are integral parts of a government EVMS Review.  These Mock reviews can also be used as on-the-job training for company personnel who may be required to conduct IBRs or Surveillance at a subcontractor’s facility. H&A can also augment your company teams in conducting these subcontractor reviews to extend the training while helping your team complete required tasks. 


H&A has a team of experienced Agile Coaches who are also experts in integrating Agile and Earned Value Management methodologies. H&A also has a vast library of Agile and EVM training materials that can be tailored to meet specific client needs.

Specialized and Experienced Training

Our specialized training courses have been developed over time to address the specific training needs of past clients and provide in-depth, focused training in a variety of topics to enhance your application EVM to effectively manage your projects.  These courses build on the general knowledge provided by the basic courses to make your team more effective and efficient in each topic area.  In cases where your team needs specific, focused training and you don’t find it listed here, we would be happy to discuss the situation and provide a recommended approach to make you successful.      

Each H&A Senior Team Lead typically has over 30 years of experience in Industry, in Government, and/or in consulting – so there is virtually no situation or problem that they have not encountered before. So, although your company may be overwhelmed by the EVMS requirements and the expectations of your customer, you can rely on our H&A team of experts to get you through it all successfully. 

So please, take a look at the H&A website and all that we have to offer, and then give us a call at (714) 685-1730, or email us so we can get you started on the road to EVMS success. We look forward to helping you be successful!

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Earned Value Management Pocket Guide

April 1, 2021 Uncategorized

A pocketful of information goes a long way in Earned Value Management Systems (EVMS). Welcome to the Humphreys & Associates Pocket Guide to Project Management Using Earned Value. The real value in this little booklet is that it contains information commonly used in the industry in an easy-to-read, digestible format. This booklet augments earned value […]

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Tips for Implementing Effective Earned Value Training

March 1, 2021 Earned Value Management (EVM)

How do you implement effective earned value training that makes a difference for project personnel? Tips to help you get started.

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Free Online Earned Value Training Resources

February 1, 2021 EVM Training

Free online Earned Value training resources to help you find the right EVM resources for your DOD, DOE or NASA project.

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Humphreys & Associates approved by PMI as an Authorized Training Partner

January 5, 2021 EVM Training

The Project Management Institute has approved Humphreys and Associates for their new Authorized Trainer Partner program for EVMS Training.

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