When reviewing earned value data it is not always easy to see if there have been changes to the plan that make the numbers look better than they really are month to month. You can see baseline changes in the CPR 3 at the total program level, but that still relies on the report showing accurate information. But how are you supposed to check to see if the reports are accurate? A quick check with the CPR Format 1 report can tell you quickly if you have issues.
The CPR Format 1 report includes the current period stats for the current period and cum to date values. In the example below you can see that in the current reporting month for the Propulsion Design was planned to complete $48,000 of budget, it spent $1,800 and for that earned $91,000 of value. Looking further to the right, this month contributed to the cumulative numbers of planned to date of $203,864, actuals of $46,990 and earned to date of $127,232.
All seems straight forward, but are those numbers all they seem to be? One of the pillars to Earned Value is that you put a plan in place and you execute the plan. You’re not supposed to be making changes to the plan in the past or current reporting period because that can hide performance.
In other words, if your earned value numbers for a month aren’t what they need to be, you can’t go back and take more credit for work already reported. But how could you tell if that’s happened given the report above?
A quick check is to look at the previous months report and do a little math to see if everything adds up. If you compare one month of CPR 1 data to the previous months, you can do a quick calculation to see if something is off.
If all things are on the up and up, the Cumulative to Date values in the current reporting period, minus the Current Period values should equal the Cumulative to Date Values from the previous month. In a formula it might look like this:
ACcum – ACcur = Previous Month’s ACcum
$46,990 – $1,800 = $45,190
If you look at the previous months CPR and the Cumulative value for Actuals for this control account does not equal $45,190 there is an issue.
So if we add in the same data from the previous month we can see what we’re looking at:
We added columns to the right to do the math for us. You can see by looking at Actuals Delta field there are some actuals missing if the cumulative number is to be believed. In the example above it becomes apparent that the previous Cumulative to Date actuals has been altered.
Why were they altered? Not sure at this point, you would need to dig into that to figure it out. You could also argue that given the small amount you should not worry about it, but this disconnect points to potential bigger problems in an organization’s processes and shouldn’t be ignored.
You can also see in our example that the budget and earned value were also altered. There is something going on with this control account that needs to be investigated. You can apply the same logic to previous periods and see if this is a one-time event or a systematic problem. Bottom line is, in Earned Value, the past tells us a lot about the present and shouldn’t be ignored even if it is “backward looking”.