Earned Schedule Explained
Are you using earned value management? Perhaps the metrics don’t feel aligned to the way you’d like to work? A bit more emphasis on duration-based metrics might make it easier to have conversations with stakeholders about how long the work is taking – and is forecasted still to take.
Earned schedule might be the missing link you are looking for. It’s an additional metric, calculated from the EV metrics you already capture, that supports evidence-based decision-making about project timelines.
What is earned schedule?
Earned schedule is a measure of time that represents how long you forecasted to do the work that has been completed. The time period is measured from the date the project begins and ends at the point the Planned Value should equal the Earned Value.
It is an extra calculation you can use in an earned value environment if it adds value to the way you want to monitor and control project performance.
Earned schedule is used to work out when the Earned Value should have been earned by.
It’s useful because it offers another way to look at project schedule data. It offers a number of benefits to project teams, as long as they are equipped to understand and interpret the results. For example, it is a way of forecasting dates across the entire project and providing early warning indicators.
It is another way of carrying out schedule management analyzing progress data and project reporting, so project teams can view the same data in a variety of ways for better understanding and decision-making.
It supports risks management by providing supporting information that can highlight the need for contingency to manage cost variances, as well as time-based contingency reserves.
Combined with other data sources like schedule variance, it can show trends in project schedule performance around actual time and likely project duration.
Basically, it’s another data point that drops out of your existing project management system and can be used to provide additional insights that show if the team is getting closer to achieving the project objectives. Experienced schedulers can make light of the data analysis required and give you the information you need for decision-making in an easy-to-understand format.
Earned schedule vs earned value
You might be wondering: what is the difference between earned value and earned schedule? So, let’s address that now.
Earned value is a measure of how much completed work and budget have been consumed. It’s a standard, industry-understood way of aligning time to cost. The resulting calculations let the project team know if the project is over or under budget so they can take corrective action as necessary. Earned value relates to work and money.
Earned schedule relates to time. It’s a measure of the time it takes to achieve the earned value.
In practice, an integrated baseline will be time-phased as that is the best way to establish rounded, robust project management performance measurement targets and tracking.
What is agile earned schedule?
Agile projects tend to work differently from predictive projects. As work is timeboxed, you might not think that earned schedule has a place. After all, if the work is taking place over fixed sprints or timeboxes, how much flexibility can there be?
There is a method called Earned Schedule for Agile projects that empowers agile teams to use earned schedule, so if this is something your team would be interested in, there are resources available to help make that shift so you can benefit from the control of earned value with the delivery approach of agile ways of working.
The earned schedule formula
Calculating the earned schedule value requires you to project forward and predict project progress. You project the cumulative EV curve until that forecast meets the Planned Value (PV) curve – you want the cumulative PV which should be what is plotted on your earned value graphs.
When EV=PV, this is when the EV amount should have been earned.
You need to have the following data available to make use of earned schedule:
- Earned value (EV) which you may know as Budgeted Cost of Work Performed (BCWP)
- Planned value (PV) which you may know as Budgeted Cost of Work Scheduled (BCWS)
- Actual cost (AC).
If you already collect the data required in a structured way because of your earned value management system set up, then you won’t have any problems with being able to plug in the values.
There are several steps involved in calculating earned schedule, and the resulting graphs and data tables can look quite confusing. Our recommendation is that you set up your earned value tools like Deltek to do the heavy lifting for you so you are not reliant on manual data entry and the errors that might introduce. Make sure project managers have adequate training on how to use the tools so they can enter the base data reliably.
Earned schedule is another option for teams working in an earned value environment. It’s something to use to view the data in a different way, and it can provide another level of understanding to statistical forecasting, likelihood of achieving delivery milestones, confidence levels and schedule risk.
For example, it can identify how far behind the team is in terms of time periods – because, let’s face it, if you are pouring over EV metrics, you are probably worried about delays instead of wanting to congratulate yourself on how far ahead of plan you are.
More data and different ways to look at that data are generally good things, but don’t get so caught up in schedule analysis that you don’t spend any time on actually doing the work. Project controls should be the processes that support delivery. As with all data points, it’s often helpful to have narrative description about the management methodology, project duration, and explanations of the ‘why’ behind actual time and cost performance.