During an Integrated Baseline Review (IBR) you will be interviewing the Control Account Managers (CAM) for the different control accounts that are being reviewed. The CAM is a role of the person who is responsible for the planning, managing and reporting of the project controls data at the control account level. A CAM is likely to have more duties than listed above and may be called something other than CAM. The title of Technical Lead is something you see in some organizations, but the core role in the IBR is the same. A CAM can be responsible for one control account or many.
How you structure the interview, either an interview per control account or combining control accounts into one, will be determined between the reviewer and reviewed organizations when the scope of the IBR is hashed out. However the agenda is developed, CAMs need to be able to talk to the scope, schedule, budget, resources, risks and processes in the context of what they are responsible for managing.
When the interview starts the CAM should demonstrate a solid understanding of its scope. This includes not only the description of the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) elements but also what Statement of Work paragraphs are covered by a WBS element. With SOW paragraphs many times a WBS element will cover many and even parts of a paragraph. The CAM needs to understand what paragraph numbers are associated with a WBS element. In addition, if it only covers portions of a paragraph, the CAM needs to understand what portions are covered and which are not.
The CAM needs to also be able to talk to the assumptions used about the scope when planning. For example, if part of the scope is delivering a draft product, what level of completeness constitutes a finished draft? This can lead to major disconnects between contractor and customer and the ripple effects can negatively impact schedules and budgets down the line.
They need to be able to show and describe the budgets planned for the control account. This is more than just the dollars reported out in a Contract Performance Report. They will need to talk to the backup for the budget, the hours and again the assumptions around the budget. Backup for the budget can include the Basis of Estimate used, any negotiations around the management challenges to carve out Management Reserve (MR). In addition to the hours and dollars budgets, the CAM needs to explain how the budget will be earned, what Earned Value technique will be used for measuring progress and why.
With the scope and budgets covered, the CAM needs to walk through the schedule associated with their work. This includes not only a fully linked schedule within the context of the control account, but also links outside of a control account and how their schedule relates to key project milestones. Understanding of the durations used and how they relate to the scope and budget should be demonstrated as well. The CAM should be able to walk their schedule from start to finish and it is not unusual for there to be a requirement for them to do this live in the schedule.
The CAM will also need to be able to discuss the risks associated with their control accounts. This discussion can either be embedded with other sections, for example discussing the budget risks while discussing budgets, or as a stand-alone section. A solid understanding of all risks currently in the risk register, their status and mitigation steps as well as potential risks in the future should be demonstrated. If the risks are discussed along with the applicable topic, it is good for the CAM to still have a slide or two to talk to what consolidates the risks. This gives the CAM the opportunity to summarize this section of the interview.
In addition to all of the aspects covered above, CAMs needs to demonstrate their knowledge of Earned Value and the process in place at their organization to facilitate Earned Value. They need to understand and talk to not only the specific details of their control account, from a process perspective, at the time of the IBR but also potential hypotheticals. For example, they need to be able to discuss what the process would be if a new risk arose and what their role would be in making sure that risk is recorded and managed properly.
Finally, in all the areas above, the CAM needs to be the one talking to them and answering questions. It should not be the scheduler or business manager stepping in to help the CAM. CAMs are responsible for managing the Control Account and they should be able to answer the questions. They can look to their support team, for example a financial analyst if they have one, but they should be driving the conversation. They need to demonstrate the understanding, not the organization. Without that understanding and knowledge the account manager won’t be able to successfully execute the control aspect of their title.
The CAM interview is the heart of an IBR. It is the clearest demonstration of an organization’s ability to fulfill its responsibilities to plan, execute and manage a project to successful completion. The CAM interview gets past the slick power points and tests the plan at the level where it will be executed and should be managed. Successfully complete the CAM interviews and your IBR will be on solid ground for a successful outcome.