Creating a Scalable Earned Value Management System (EVMS)

by Humphreys & Associates on December 1, 2022

Creating a scalable Earned Value Management System (EVMS) is a topic H&A earned value consultants frequently encounter while assisting clients implementing an EVMS. These clients are often responding to a contractual EVMS requirement and are using it as the impetus to improve their project control system. A common theme is they would like to leverage the EVMS to win more contracts as well as increase project visibility and control to prevent cost growth surprises that impact their profit margins. They consider having an EVMS in place to be a competitive advantage.

Depending on the company size and their line of business, they typically have some project controls in place. They also realize they have gaps and processes are ad-hoc. They lack a standard repeatable process project personnel can follow. And that’s where H&A earned value consultants play a role – to help the client focus on the basics and simplify the process of implementing an EVMS that can be scaled for all types of projects.

What is a scalable EVMS?

A scalable EVMS is a flexible project control system that incorporates earned value management (EVM) practices for all projects. The level of data detail, range, and rigor reflect the type or scope of work, size, duration, complexity, risk, or contractual requirements. This is illustrated in Figure 1.

Scalable Earned Value Management System Infographic - the image shows how the size of a project relates to the level of detail, amount of EVM practices and rigor we are recommending.
Figure 1 – The type of project determines the level of data detail, range, and rigor of EVM practices.

Establishing a Common Base for All Projects

The foundation for a scalable EVMS is to establish a common project control system that incorporates EVM practices. Identify which practices apply to all projects and which practices apply based on the scope of work and risk as well as the level of data detail needed for management visibility and control. Identify and quantify project attributes so it is clear what is expected.

Use this information to create guidance for project personnel so they know what is required for their project. Include this guidance in the EVM System Description.

What are the steps to create a scalable EVMS?

Step 1 – Determine the project categories.

These will be specific to your business environment. The goal is to establish a small set of clearly defined project categories as illustrated in Figure 1. Identify measurable project attributes so a project manager can easily determine their project category. An example is illustrated below.

Project AttributeSmall, low risk projectsIn-between projectsLarge, high-risk projects
Scope of workRoutine, repeatable tasks. Well defined.Mix of known and unknowns. Some requirements are well defined, others likely to evolve.High percentage of unknowns. Near term requirements are defined. TBD requirements are progressively defined.
Size (contract value is a typical measure)< $20M= or > $20M and < $50M= or > $50M
Duration< 18 months> 18 months> 18 months
Overall risk assessment, threat of schedule slip, cost growth or lower profit marginLowModerateHigh
Resource availability, skill set requirementsIn-house resources are available, able to match demandIn-house resources are available, manageable number of specialized resources that may require out-sourcing.Some in-house resources available. Must hire additional resources with specialized skill sets or out-source.
Percentage (or value range) of subcontract work effort< 30%= or > 30% and < 50%= or > 50%
EVMS FAR or DFARS clause on contract, reporting DIDNonePotential for IPMR or IPMDAR DID deliverableIncluded in contract, IPMR or IPMDAR DID deliverable

Some contractors rank or apply a weight to the attributes useful for determining the level of data detail, range, and rigor of EVMS practices required. For example, the overall risk assessment and the scope of work may rank higher than other attributes. Step 2 builds on the project categories identified in Step 1.

Step 2 – Identify the level of data detail and EVM practices that apply.

This will be specific to your EVMS, EVM System Description, and how the content is organized. Include use notes to identify practices that may not apply or what can be scaled for the project category. A simple example is illustrated below. This example assumes core EVM practices are followed for all projects such as using a work breakdown structure (WBS) to decompose the scope of work.

EVMS ComponentsSmall, low risk projectsIn-between projectsLarge, high-risk projects
WBS, WBS Dictionary, project organization, control account levelHigh level. Control accounts are larger and longer duration.Scale to match scope of work and riskLower level of detail. Depth dependent on scope of work and risk.
Work authorizationSimple workflow form and process with one or two approval levels.Detailed element of cost workflow form, additional process steps, approval levels.
Summary level planning packagesUsually not applicable.Used when appropriate for scope of work.
Work packagesLarger and longer duration. Fewer milestones, more percent complete earned value techniques (EVTs).Shorter duration. Majority of discrete EVTs use milestones and quantifiable backup data (QBDs) to objectively measure work completed.
Planning packagesOptional use.Routinely used.
Rolling wave planningUsually not applicable.Routinely used.
Network schedulesHigh level.Detailed.
Schedule risk assessment (SRA)Usually not necessary.Required. Routinely performed.
Variance thresholdsHigh level or simple.Reflect contract or project manager requirements, scope of work, or risk level.
Baseline change requests (BCRs)High level, simple log.Formal workflow process, forms, and logs to document changes and rationale. Approval levels depend on scope of the change.
Change control board (CCB)Not used. Project manager approves all changes.Required.
Risk and opportunity (R&O) managementHigh level assessment. May use simple R&O log.Formal process to assess, R&O register maintained.
Annual EVMS self-surveillanceNot applicable.Required when EVMS on contract.

Step 3 – Establish scalable templates or artifacts.

To complement the EVM System Description, provide a set of scaled templates or artifacts for project personnel. For example, a project manager for a small low risk project would select a simple work authorization or BCR form and workflow process, report templates, and logs to implement on their project. Provide a separate set of templates and artifacts for large high-risk projects that require additional procedures, data detail, workflow approval levels, forms, reports, and change tracking that can support an EVMS compliance or surveillance review.

Provide training on how to use the templates and artifacts. This helps to establish a standard repeatable process with a base set of artifacts. It also promotes a more disciplined process regardless of the type of project as personnel have a better understanding of what is required.

Another best practice is to use project directives to document the level of data detail, range, and rigor of the EVM practices implemented on a project. These provide clear direction for all project personnel on how to implement the EVMS. Project managers are often responsible for producing these. Create a template for each project category so they can easily document and communicate their management approach.

What are the benefits of establishing a scalable EVMS?

Establishing a common repeatable process along with a standard framework for organizing project scope of work, schedule, budget, and performance data enables project portfolio analysis to assess profitability. It also provides the basis to capture historical data a proposal team can use to substantiate their cost estimates. A common process eliminates the need to maintain different project control systems. It also makes it easier to move personnel between projects and increase the project control maturity level as everyone is following the same core processes – just the level of data detail or rigor of EVM practices may be different.

H&A earned value consultants have worked with numerous clients to design, implement, and maintain an EVMS. Scalability is a feature that can be designed into an EVMS and EVM System Description whether new or existing. Call us today at (714) 685-1730 to get started.

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How Integrated Baseline Reviews (IBRs) Contribute to Project Success

by Humphreys & Associates on November 2, 2022

What is an Integrated Baseline Review or IBR?

An IBR is a formal review of a contractor’s performance measurement baseline (PMB) a customer conducts shortly after contract award or other project events to gain confidence in the contractor’s ability to deliver and meet contract objectives. Conducting an IBR helps to assure there is mutual agreement on the scope of work, schedule, resource requirements, and budget to meet the customer’s needs. It also assures there is a mutual understanding of the project’s risks and opportunities as well as how they will be managed.

Conducting an IBR is often a contractual requirement along with the requirement to implement an earned value management system (EVMS). Contractual documents specify the time frame for when the IBR must occur after contract award. This is typically within 90 to 180 calendar days. A customer may also conduct an IBR at critical milestones, funding gates, when transitioning to another project phase, or when significant changes are incorporated into a PMB.

What an IBR is Not

An IBR is not an EVMS compliance review. The intent of an IBR is not to devolve into a review of the contractor’s EVMS and whether it complies with the EIA-748 Standard for EVMS guidelines. That said, the contractor must be able to demonstrate they have a disciplined project control system in place. The contractor should be able to demonstrate to the customer that the project’s scope of work is properly planned, scheduled, resourced, budgeted, authorized, and managed using their project control system.

What are the benefits of conducting an IBR?

Conducting an IBR contributes to successful project execution because it helps to ensure a realistic PMB has been established.

IBRs provide the opportunity for the contractor and customer to verify:

  • There is shared understanding of the scope of work, technical requirements, and accomplishment criteria. As the work breakdown structure (WBS) is decomposed into manageable product-orientated work elements, it provides a common frame of reference for communication between the contractor and customer. The WBS dictionary should capture the technical requirements that must be met as well as expected deliverables and outcomes. The contractor must have a clear understanding of customer’s needs, assumptions, and expectations to be able to create a realistic schedule and budget plan. The IBR provides the opportunity for the contractor to verify the scope of work details with the customer before the project execution phase begins. In instances where the technical requirements evolve over time as work progresses, rolling wave planning is often used to detail plan the current work effort with more macro planning for future work effort to ensure the entire scope of work is included.
  • An executable PMB has been established for the entire contractual scope of work. The PMB should accurately reflect how the contractor plans to accomplish the work within the contractual period of performance and negotiated contract cost. The customer’s funding profile may also determine the timing of activities and when resources are required. The schedule and budget should be in alignment. The budget time phasing should reflect the schedule activities and resource requirements. It is also useful to verify appropriate earned value methods and techniques have been selected for the work packages to assure objective and meaningful project performance can be measured and reported as work progresses.
  • The required resources have been identified and assigned to the project. This contributes to producing an executable schedule and budget plan. The staffing plan should accurately reflect the sequence of work and skill mix as well as resource availability and demand to accomplish the project’s objectives. Flat loading labor hours may not accurately reflect common challenges of ramping up resources after contract award or the availability of critical resources for specific tasks. Other resource factors include the timing or availability of critical or high value materials as well as subcontractors responsible for performing work or providing services.
  • Project technical, schedule, and cost risks/opportunities have been identified and assessed. This also contributes to producing an executable schedule and budget plan. Where possible, risk mitigation actions have been incorporated into the PMB to reduce known risks to an acceptable level. For example, the timing or duration of activities as well as resource requirements may need to be adjusted. Schedule margin activities may be incorporated into the integrated master schedule (IMS). It also provides fact-based information to determine the amount of management reserve set aside to handle realized risks. This is often the most valuable component of the IBR. It is essential all parties have an understanding of the identified risks or opportunities, potential impact if they are realized, and risk mitigation or opportunity capture plans.

Why it is important to verify these details during an IBR?

A realistic schedule and budget plan helps to prevent cost growth surprises because of technical, schedule, or budget challenges. The better the up-front planning, the less the likelihood of cost growth during project execution. It also increases credibility with the customer. The contractor can demonstrate their ability to deliver to the customer needs and manage the work effectively.

Benefits of Preparing for an IBR

Establishing a project’s PMB is a significant and often formal event as it signals the transition from the planning to execution phase. It represents the culmination of the integrated planning, scheduling, budgeting, work authorization, and risk/opportunity management processes.

A common best practice is to conduct an internal baseline review regardless of whether a formal IBR with the customer is required prior to setting the PMB. Implementing a standard process to conduct an internal review of the complete set of project data and artifacts with the project personnel assures an executable schedule and budget plan has been established to accomplish the contractual scope of work within the contractual period of performance and negotiated contract cost in alignment with the contract’s funding profile.

These internal reviews help to ensure there is a common understanding of the scope of work, major project events, planned sequence of work, schedule of deliverables, resource requirements, time phased budget, funding profile, and project risks/opportunities. It also provides an opportunity to verify the quality of the integrated schedule and cost data as well as top down and bottom up traceability. 

Need help preparing for an IBR?

A common earned value consulting service H&A provides is conducting a mock IBR with project personnel to prepare for the formal customer IBR. The objective is to conduct a thorough assessment of the project’s PMB to verify it reflects the entire contractual scope of work and technical requirements as well as identified technical, schedule, cost, or resource risks that may impact the ability to execute the work as planned. This provides an opportunity to correct any issues with the PMB prior to the IBR event.

Another standard earned value consulting service we offer is conducting IBR training for project team members. H&A earned value consultants can help you to establish a standard internal process to verify an executable PMB is in place for a given project. Once again, the objective is to prevent cost growth surprises and management is aware of the project’s risks and opportunities that may impact profit margins. 

Call us today at (714) 685-1730 to get started. 

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