Having EVM Implementation Challenges? Here’s Why EVM Implementations Fail
Earned Value Management is a powerful, objective project performance tracking tool. When you use EVM, you gain access to numerical measures of progress that enable you to spot trends and predict future performance.
Project teams that use EVM come to value the data and insights it offers, and in our experience, are empowered to make better, data-driven decisions about how to lead the project more effectively. However, if you talk to people who don’t use EVM on their projects, there’s often a sense of it being too hard to get started.
Project and program managers who are trying to implement EVM on their projects, or across the PMO, often struggle to gain buy in for many reasons. There are concerns raised that it is too expensive, or that it’s too hard to work out baselines in advance when the project is evolving. Trust us, we’ve heard all the excuses!
Those are the things that stall an EVM implementation – at least, those are the reasons that are openly discussed in meetings. There are other reasons why the move to an earned value management system is blocked by colleagues or management. And those intentions are harder to uncover because they speak more to attitudes than any practical concerns in getting an EVMS up and running.
In all our experience of supporting organizations to successfully use EVM tools across their project portfolios, we’ve come across the hidden reasons why your earned value initiation isn’t gaining the traction you would like. Here are three secrets about implementing EVM that your colleagues don’t want you to know and may explain why EVM implementations fail.
1. There’s nowhere to hide
An earned value management system is objective – there’s no getting away from that. As a result, there is nowhere to hide. Your project performance measures are out there for everyone to see. And some people won’t like that.
One of the benefits of earned value is the transparent reporting. If your data is in real-time, you can calculate EV metrics regularly and track performance over time. This is rich, detailed information that can help spot trends early before they become an issue for the project. Surely that’s not something you’d want to hide?
Ensuring there is no blame culture in the organization can go some way to preventing this worry from becoming a blocker for your EV implementation.
2. It’s too much effort
Successful earned value analysis requires detailed planning. You need to have baselines for project scope, schedule and budget. You need to know what work is being done and have resources and costs allocated to that work. It’s not enough to have a big bucket of funding: you need to be able to assign costs to activities and then track spending at that level.
That takes work.
A lot of that work is upfront as part of the planning, scheduling and forecasting effort that falls within project initiation. Many managers would prefer that the team dives straight into the doing part of the project without spending the required effort on planning. That’s often due to a lack of understanding about the value of planning rather than any desire to see the project fail: project sponsors tend to like quick wins and early results to justify the investment in the project and to show that progress is being made.
However, you can’t evidence your progress using earned value if the baseline data isn’t there to compare to. Teams have to put more effort into planning before the execution phase begins. And they might not be willing to do that. Talking about the value of planning and the time it saves later in the project can go some way to convincing the team that it’s worth investing up front for a smoother delivery later on.
3. It’s too revealing
Finally, the risk of using EVM is that it reveals more about the actual costs than the management team are prepared to share with the customer – whether that’s an internal customer or an external client.
This worry is often fear of costs not being managed appropriately, or the knowledge that overspend can be hidden due to current internal processes. Data can expose where things are going wrong, and where poor decisions have been made. However, data can also expose where things can be improved and provide robust input for making better decisions.
Transparent reporting highlights good practice and also areas that can be improved. Managers have to be willing to share and talk about progress openly in a supportive culture. Then the whole organization benefits from shorter delivery times and tighter budget management – as well as the improved customer and staff satisfaction from being part of a project that runs smoothly and successfully.
Those three problems are signs that your EVM implementation is going to struggle. It’s why EVM implementations fail. But it is possible to bring them out into the open and talk honestly about fears and concerns with the whole stakeholder community. The more you address the hidden, secret worries that people have about moving to an earned value management system on their projects, the more you can design and tailor the implementation to best address issues before they arise.
When EVM is implemented correctly, the system provides huge benefits to the organization and the teams using it. Are you ready to address the tricky challenges and reap the rewards?