Who Owns EVM? Programs or Finance?

by Humphreys & Associates on March 14, 2016 last modified February 26, 2019

earned value management: finance department or programsI have read several Earned Value Management (EVM) reports, papers, and articles that debate what company organization should “own” EVM and the company’s Earned Value Management System (EVMS). These debates most often mention the programs’ organization and the finance department as common EVM “owners.” The majority opinion seems to be that because EVM is a program management best practice it belongs in programs. A minority opinion is that because EVM is denominated in dollars, schedule included, and because EVM reports are financial in nature, EVM belongs in the finance department. Before we dive into this debate, a summary of the responsibilities of a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and of the head of programs is useful. In our company A and company B examples to follow, both the CFO and the head of programs report to the company president.


A CFO has three duties, each measured in the time domain. The first duty of the CFO is as the company’s controller and is responsible to accurately and honestly report past company financial performance. The CFO is also responsible for the current financial health of the company – to insure that today’s decisions create rather than destroy value. And lastly, the CFO must protect the company’s future financial health and that all expenditures of capital maximize future financial health. Every business decision, especially those of the CFO, are either good decisions (are accretive – increase shareowner value) or are bad decisions (are dilutive – destroys shareowner value).


The head of programs is typically a Vice President or higher and all program and project managers report to him or her. The head of all programs has profit and loss responsibility for his or her portfolio of programs and projects. In addition, each program is responsible for achieving the technical, cost and schedule requirements of the contracts it is executing on behalf of its customers.


I will now describe first-hand experiences with two companies and how each company decided who should “own” EVM.

Company “A” had EVM assigned to the finance department. All EVM employees were overhead, even those assigned to a program. A new CFO arrived and quickly decided to reduce indirect costs, declaring that he was “coin-operated.” The new CFO terminated the employment of all EVM employees. Each program attempted to create an EVM branch office but failed. A level 3 CAR enumerating EVM deficiencies was issued and the CFO was fired. A second “new” CFO arrived and agreed to transfer EVM to the head of programs. The head of programs was instrumental in changing the disclosure statement making EVM personnel assigned to a program a direct charge to that program / contract. The head of programs created a Program Planning and Control (PP&C) organization and demanded all PMs and their program members to quickly learn, use and master EVM. A program control room was built with five screens. Daily 2:00 pm EVM data-driven reviews were held on short notice. These daily reviews became known as “CAM Bakes.” The EVM and program management culture changed quickly and dramatically at Company “A.”

Company “B” had EVM assigned to the CFO who was as “coin-operated” and unaware of EVM as the first “new” CFO of Company “A.” The culture of company “B” was very hostile to EVM, so it probably did not matter who “owned” EVM. The company failed 16 of 32 guidelines and was decertified. Significant withholdings were imposed and the company’s reputation was damaged. Several top managers hostile to EVM “sought employment elsewhere.” A new CFO arrived who was also “coin-operated” but expert in EVM. The new CFO formed a partnership with the head of programs. The new CFO was as much a PM as he was a CFO. The new CFO told his direct reports assigned to each program to “make the program managers successful.” And they did exactly that.

The new CFO understood that the company was the sum of all its contracts and that every dollar flowed from its customers. The EVM and program management culture at Company “B” changed rapidly.

Who Should “Own” EVM? Programs or Finance?

Returning to our original question of who should “own” EVM, the majority theory is that the Programs’ organization should “own” EVM. All else equal, I tend to agree with this theory.

However, while theory is suggestive, experience is conclusive. My experience at Company “A” proved that a strong programs’ leader could change the EVM and program management culture of a company rapidly. My experience at Company “B” proved that a CFO could “own” EVM and be successful at changing the company’s EVM and program management culture. The CFO and the head of programs must form an EVM partnership no matter who “owns” EVM.

Who “owns” EVM at your company?

Robert “Too Tall” Kenney
H&A Associate

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Michael Pauly September 14, 2016 at 10:11 am

I have also heard the argument that because the EVM function has compliance aspects (particularly in programs supporting U.S. government customers), the PP&C Organization, Program Controls, whatever it’s called, should be part of the firm’s compliance organization. This reporting structure would remove any direct influence from program or finance on the EV Reporting organization.


Bill Altman September 14, 2016 at 11:16 am

My opinion is that it should be the Program leadership that owns the EVMS but, even so, a partnership with the CFO, as suggested, is required. At the end of the day, it is immaterial as to who owns the system as long as the owner truly owns it and takes responsibility for its success. I have seen that people want to claim ownership as another sign of their position – and not much more. The questions is then “how do you measure whether an EVMS is successful?”


Craig Cover April 11, 2017 at 2:09 pm

My experience has been that EVM is a joint venture between programs AND finance. Working as a scheduler on the program side, I dealt constantly with my finance counterparts ensuring that we consistently tracked with monthly EVM reports, contract modifications and business change requests. Tying out the EV dollars to ensure correct practices were followed required focus from PMs and Finance. Who “owns” EVM in my experience is not nearly as important as who understands and participates in solid EV practices. Bottom Line: the COMPANY owns EVM; or not.


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