Measuring Earned Value on a project is a good way of objectively tracking project performance. As it integrates cost, schedule and scope and these are all interdependent, we can say that without EV we are missing information and cannot track the project effectively.
However what problems can tracking EV create?
SPI tracks schedule performance but it can be an unreliable indicator in certain circumstances. If Planned Value was set based on the Early Curve for example, SPI could show a value of less than one, indicating the project is behind schedule, however some activities may still have float. In this instance SPI is misleading as the project is not late. SPI also always converges towards 1 at the end of the project, therefore SPI is not a reliable indicator as the project comes to a close.
It is often in the contractor’s best interest to submit progress reports that look like the project is progressing well and to schedule. Earned Value reports progress by showing how much work has been completed. It does not show whether these completed tasks are critical or not. Smart contractors know that in order to “beef up” their EV, they can expend effort on tasks that are easily accomplished. These may not be critical activities that need to be completed, and it may also mean that difficult tasks are left until the end of the project, which means as the project nears completion it is suddenly hit with a multitude of delays.
How to Keep on Top of EV Problems
SPI problems can be solved either by ensuring PV on a project is not based on early dates, or if it is to ensure that any SPI reporting is also shown in conjunction with information on remaining float. The problem of SPI converging towards 1 at project completion can be solved through the use of Earned Schedule. Earned Schedule tracks project performance in terms of time not dollars, therefore it is accurate throughout the life of the project.
Issues with EV can also be solved by ensuring the project is managed both using EVM and by creating a robust schedule and keeping on top of the progress of critical activities. EV on it’s own cannot be relied on to produce accurate project information. This information must be used in conjunction with an accurate schedule, so project managers are fully aware of what is going on with their project.