Eric Brown talks about Earned Value Management. I know that this is a respected practice recommended by the PMBOK amongst others. I have had more than my fair share of disagreements about the need to implement EVM.
I have one fundamental problem with EVM: it takes too long to track this information. I find that for the vast majority of projects that I or one of my PMs run, the team ends up tracking too much information for too little real benefit. I define benefit as the team delivering more working software features in production faster.
As Eric points out, one needs to track the following
1. Planned Work – What work is scheduled to be completed?
2. Cost Estimate for Planned Work – What is the cost estimate for the scheduled work?
3. Actual Work – What work has been completed?
4. Cost Estimate for Completed Work – What is the cost estimate for the work that has been completed?
5. Actual Costs – What costs have actually been incurred?
6. Variances – Cost difference, Schedule difference, Estimate Difference.
If you compare this to a Scrum burn-down chart, or a cumulative flow diagram, you’ll see there is a good deal of time that needs to be spent on overhead, instead of where management focus should be: identifying and removing constraints to the team delivering value. Also, I find this type of management information is too easily used (sometimes inadvertently) by the business to beat up IT on why variances between estimates and actuals are so large. What the business really cares about is seeing software features which they value working in production. Once you have a good idea of a team’s velocity, leave it at that. The velocity — or the number of features that you delivered last iteration — enables a good prediction of what will be delivered next iteration. Even if this does not work to plan, the business is generally very happy with getting a working set of features in production on time and within spec.
With the resources — be they money, manhours or a technical environment — you are using on implementing EVM, consider investing this in your team delivering software directly.
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