The IBR process (Integrated Baseline Review) is a robust process that enables program managers to set up the Performance Measurement Baseline (PMB) in a way that can be relied on.
The PMB is crucial for measuring performance through the life of the project and for gaining an understanding of program risk. The baseline review is a way of providing confidence in the baseline so that the program starts – and runs – with a focus on reliable project control.
What is the IBR process?
The purpose of the IBR is to:
- Show that you have a thorough understanding of the EVMS contract requirements in general and specifically in relation to this contract
- Demonstrate that all requirements have been incorporated into the cost, schedule and technical baselines
- Assess the integrity of the work management processes, especially with regards to how configuration management is handled
- Evaluate the Control Account Managers’ level of knowledge and understanding for the process and their role in it
- Establish the program’s performance management baseline in a way that supports delivery and sets the program up to come in on time and on budget.
The IBR process is integral to ensuring earned value management reporting (or integrated program management, as some agencies call it) is accurate. The process has a lot of benefits.
1. Risk identification
The IBR process gives the team the opportunity to uncover project risk. The collaborative nature of the review means that there can be open discussion and mutual agreement about what constitutes a risk for the program. You’ll be diving into the statement of work, integrated master plan, technical objectives, budget, resource forecasts and more. This is a good foundation for risk management activity.
Even if program team members don’t go out looking for risk, you’ll probably find that new risks drop out of the conversations and prep for the review. We recommend training Control Account Managers and technical leads with mock interviews, and this process often uncovers new risks, or new takes on existing risks due to the nature and depth of the discussion.
All of this information can be fed into the risk management process and the right resource allocated to manage the risk appropriately.
2. Expectation setting
The process of reviewing the IBR takes time – often time that teams don’t have as deadlines can be short. However, it also provides the opportunity to talk about expectations for delivery because you’ll be looking at a range of project documents and creating the presentation package. This provides clarity on exactly what the project will achieve. Any disagreements or mismanaged expectations can be worked out at this point before the contracted work gets any further.
In particular, the IBR process is an opportunity to assess whether all requirements have been included. Control accounts are evaluated as part of the performance management baseline review. This exercise can flush out where the client, contractor or another team member has differing expectations about the work.
Finally, the IBR process also provides the opportunity to talk about how the work will be managed and what processes will be used. Agile methods are widely thought of as incompatible with earned value management but that is not at all the case. If it makes sense to use agile methods, these can be incorporated into the program and work alongside earned value management tools and techniques. However, this is an example of where there might be mismatched expectations and it’s worth having the conversations early in the program to align all parties.
3. Governance framework
The IBR process is a major step on the EVMS implementation calendar but it is only one of many governance points throughout the contract delivery. The IBR typically happens within 90-180 days of contract award, and it begins a long process of governance and reporting, management oversight, data analysis and more.
The IBR process helps embed the expectation for governance and forms the foundation of future governance processes, including the role of management by exception. Senior leaders may not have had much experience in EVM governance before, and the IBR process exercise helps expose them to the kind of leadership and oversight required.
4. Early warning systems
Earned value management is a tool that provides early warning of project performance issues. It helps you identify trends in performance and spot issues. However, if your performance management baseline is inaccurate, the data following on from that will be too.
The program artifact review ensures that the underlying data in the baseline is correct and that reporting is consistent. The IBR itself provides reassurance that the early warning system will work as expected. It builds confidence in the schedule and the management processes around it.
We can’t overstate how important it is that the whole team has clarity around the plan. That includes the timeline, but also the approach to deliver the work, the risks, budget, resources and requirements.
The process involves talking to team members, reviewing the baseline, quantifying the data and training staff in how to participate in the review. The team will grow in confidence too because they’ll understand exactly how the schedule and budget have been put together, what they are each individually responsible for and what risks need managing.
The goal is to promote early intervention and proactivity, empowering the team to take the required action by giving them a reliable source of data. The IBR process might seem time-consuming but it’s a critical step for setting up the team for success.
The Post-IBR assessment and action items reinforce this. Nothing is hidden; everything is clear so that the appropriate action can be taken. When there is this level of transparency, the program team know exactly what to do to put things right before problems have arisen.
The IBR review is a hugely useful process and a big milestone for any team working through post-contract award actions. It’s also time-consuming and a source of stress for many teams. Having external experts facilitate that process so you can get on with leading your team and delivering the client can help keep your program moving and speed up the time it takes to get a quality outcome.