Earned Value Management (EVM) has been around for a while and for as long as it has, there have been Earned Value engines. The evolution of the tools has followed the evolution of the industry as a whole; from mainframe-based tools to stand-alone PCs to networked systems and now the Cloud. DecisionEdge’s CloudEVM embraces the cloud and makes implementing an EVMS considerably easier.
The first thing that hits you with CloudEVM is how easy it is to get up and running. Because the tool runs in the cloud there is no setup, install, no worries about drivers, database compatibility, service packs, etc. You just login and go. In today’s environment where everything is in the cloud, Cloud EVM has a very natural feeling.
For this review we were using Build 2075 and DecisionEdge provided the test data. We did not run through a complete test of our own data, but walked through their training materials and training data.
The next thing you notice in the tool is that the screen is very clean. There is not a lot showing on the screen other than the data you are looking at, which is nice. It takes a bit to get used to the web interface and drop down menus to select the data you want to look at, but once you get the hang of it, it is nice to be able to quickly see and understand the information.
One of the things that really helps, is the tree presentation of the project data on the left part of the screen with a synchronized grid to the right. This makes it really easy to click through your project data. This logic flows through the product, so if you’re looking at resource assignments, performance or variance reports, the same basic interface is there. You select the element you want to look at and the data associated with that element is viewable on the right.
The focus on delivering the data in a format most likely used by the recipient of the data versus the project controls staff is also a nice change from legacy earned value engines. The tool has built in dashboards that are interactive and built to get the viewer focused on the important aspects of the project quickly. In the version we reviewed, the components for the dashboard were not editable, but that is something DecisionEdge said they were planning to add.
The graphic drill through the data makes it easy for the owner/reviewer of the data to see where they have issues and what data is driving that issue. It is nice to see an Earned Value tool focused on how the end user of Earned Value uses the data.
The ability to model multiple rate structures was nice to see as well. In some earned value reporting that is produced natively in a scheduling tool like Microsoft Project, this is hard if not impossible to do but vital for someone looking to do more than the very basic reporting. CloudEVM’s model allows for complex rate structures based on either the resource structure or the work being done, defined by the Work Breakdown Structure.
All of the standard government reporting formats are included with the tool as well. If you need to produce the IPMR 1 – 5, you are set. Another nice thing is if are responsible for producing these reports, they are available with the same split screen logic mentioned before. So you select a project and simply click on the different format tabs in the report screen to see the different reports. You don’t have to “run” multiple reports. You just select the project and click on the tab. Small point, but can see it saving a lot of time at end of month…it’s all the same project information. Why shouldn’t it be that easy?
But the coolest feature from a reporting standpoint is their concept of Data Cubes. A cube in CloudEVM is essentially a predefined data cube, think pivot table, that can then be easily leveraged for analysis and reporting. In fact, you can export the data to MS Excel with a click of the button. These cubes can be defined by role, function, user, etc.
From an implementers standpoint this could make rolling out the use of earned value data a lot easier, simply define the attributes a particular role needs and deliver it to them. They can run reports against their cube in CloudEVM or download the data to Excel and do whatever they want with it. No worries about access, complexity with teaching them a tool interface, no additional licenses, just data they need in a format they can use.
This reduces the middleman of the “tool expert” for every variation of a non-standard report that someone wants. Ultimately our understanding is these Data Cubes will be the basis of all reporting in the tool, including the dash boarding capability.
Think how easy this makes upgrading versions? Ultimately earned value data is constant, so why should a report be the long pole for going from one version of a tool to another? Someone wants a variation of the dashboard? No problem, they can customize all they want without impacting others because the Data Cube can be specific to that user.
On the growing side of things, some of the screens do not seem to resize automatically when resolution changes and we found ourselves having to exit a particular screen and reenter every once in a while to complete an update. The lack of dates easily visible at the project structure levels was a bit frustrating, but all in all these type of things were small and could be worked around. In the cloud environment especially, the rapid cycling of the user interface to address these types of concerns is something that can be expected.
The biggest obstacle is the lack of any change management capability directly in the tool. From within CloudEVM you cannot perform a replan. The tool relies on the schedule environment to do all of the heavy lifting for managing how a change is implemented on a project. Since most scheduling engines do not have the same level of rigor around baseline management as an EAI-748 environment demands, you are left to rely on your manual processes to ensure compliance. That is not to say that any tool, by itself, makes you compliant, it just that the logging capability in the other earned value engines supports that process.
DecisionEdge indicated they were working on a holistic change management capability to be incorporated in a later release to go beyond the simple logging of changes to the earned value baseline. This would be a welcome addition to the tool and tools in general. Too often project managers are managing project change through a series of manual processes and excel spreadsheets. Given the importance of change to a projects performance, its worthy of more attention.
DecisionEdge’s CloudEVM has a lot of promise and addresses some of the biggest complaints about Earned Value engines to date. Its user interface is clean and easy, the setup is straightforward and the integration with scheduling engines is tight and fast.
While it has some growing to do to compete with in the mature EAI-748, DCMA compliant, environment, CloudEVM is headed in the right direction with their promised focus on change management. We can definitely see it being leveraged by organizations that need a simple to use, intuitive tool without the associated overhead of the traditional EVM Engine on the market today.