The Practice Standard for Earned Value Management from PMI is now in its second edition and has quickly become a much-referred to (and searched for) guide to how to use earned value in a project context.
It’s a standard, so it doesn’t mandate how you have to do anything. Instead, it describes common practice, established norms, popular methods and processes that have been proven to work. It evolved from practitioners sharing their knowledge about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to earned value management techniques. Consider it a repository of all the good practices out there, streamlined into a single document.
When you look at it that way, there are probably hundreds of years of experience packed into the pages!
What the Standard is for
The Practice Standard for Earned Value Management helps teams adopt and use a common vocabulary. There is a detailed lexicon which explains common terminology.
The handbook is designed to be used in conjunction with the PMBOK® Guide, so there’s nothing in it about the mechanics of managing projects – you’re expected to know all that already, or to be able to find it out through other means. If you don’t use a PMBOK® Guide approach to managing your project lifecycle, some of the terminology may be slightly different from what you are used to, but you’ll be able to work it out just fine!
How it is structured
There are ten chapters in the standard, most of which cover an aspect of the process of using earned value on a project. The bulk of the book steps you through exactly how the processes work in a similar way to how the PMBOK® Guide is laid out.
Watch out for the ‘considerations’ sections as those give you useful insights into how to make the process work in your environment.
The PMI standard is good, and gives you a comprehensive view of all things earned value, starting from the very beginning and building on the foundational concepts to provide advanced guidance. You may also benefit from providing some earned value management training to the team so they get a better idea of how to make the concepts work in real life, along with some practical examples and case studies.
Limitations of the Practice Standard
The main limitation of the practice standard for large organizations bidding for government work is that it is not EIA 748, the earned value management guidelines required for government contracting. If you are entering the government procurement process, we strongly recommend you get some expert support in setting up your systems so they adequately meet the right standards.
Like all documents, the PMI standard has its limits. In particular, the book does not cover the use of earned value in programs or at portfolio level. It’s all about managing large, individual projects. Most organizations will find that adequate, but if you want guidance on how to integrate earned value across a number of projects, you’ll have to go somewhere else for guidance.
Some of the terminology used is not explained in the lexicon, which means you may have to look up vocabulary elsewhere if the jargon is new to you.
The book assumes that you have corporate policies and procedures in place, along with a culture that supports the use of EVM. We’ve found that to be a significant sticking point for many organizations trying to make the move to earned value management techniques. If you don’t feel like the support for this way of performance tracking is there, spend some time building up a business case for the approach. Try to create a community of engaged stakeholders who understand why you should use earned value before you try to dive in.
There’s nothing in the book about methodologies and tools either to support implementing the processes described. That might seem like a fundamental missing piece but it’s actually a good thing as it allows you to use the systems and software you already have in place and choose the tools most appropriate for your PMO.
Where can you get the Practice Standard for Earned Value Management (PDF version?)
If you are a PMI member, you can get a PDF copy of the Standard for EVM from the PMI website. It’s available to all members as a benefit: check the practice standards and frameworks section for all the available documents.
If you are not a member, you can buy an electronic copy from a variety of online booksellers.
It is available in print to purchase too (for PMI members and non-members) so if you’d like a desk reference or an edition for the PMO bookshelves, it may well be worth investing in a paperback copy.
As we’ve said, the PMI standard is not the same as the earned value management guidelines required for government contracting. It’s also separate and different to the 2018 ISO standard for earned value in project and program management. The second edition of the PMI standard came out in 2011, so it has been available to use for longer.
If you aren’t bidding through the government procurement process, it doesn’t matter which standard you choose to base your internal earned value management practices on, as long as you pick one and stick to it for consistency. All the guidelines, standards and documents are aimed at people working in a project management environment and will give you a good understanding of the core concepts and how they can be put into use.