MANAGING RISK OF DELAY – Earned Value and Schedule Performance Indicators (Part 7)

This post is the seventh in a series of discussions regarding various aspects of time management as it relates to the risk of delay.  More specifically, we have titled the series MANAGING RISK OF DELAY [Subject Series], since we focus heavily on the managerial aspects of program / project management.  This post addresses some managerial tools relative to the integrated nature of time management using critical path and earned value management.

The challenge associated with managing all (critical and non-critical path) work is common to virtually all projects.  This challenge is true for most project management situations.  It is intensified in the case of larger and more complex projects.  Examples include Lump Sum Turn Key (LSTK), Engineer Procure Construct (EPC) and other similarly executed projects.  In addition to the normal issues associated with bulk progress, actions or inactions by the owner can add considerable complexity to this challenge.  Over the past seven years, M&M has program/project managed five projects exceeding $100 million (USD) in investment value (total installed cost).  Thus, practical/practioner experience is engendered in this discussion/post.

As noted in Part 6 of this Subject Series, time and progress management has proven to be a three part managerial challenge, with the three parts closely linked.  These three performance indicators are:

  • Critical Path management
  • Earned Value (e.g. bulk progress, progress S curves) Management
  • Productivity management.

Performance Indicators for critical path scheduling and earned value schedule management tend to be structured differently.  This is complementary, not conflicting.  These general Performance Indicators [sometimes used with Key Performance Indicators or KPI’s] include:

  • Schedule (or critical path)

–    Total Float or Slack

–    Lookahead

–    Key Milestone Performance

  • Earned Value

–    Schedule Variance (SV)

–    Schedule Performance Indicators (SPI)

–    Earned Schedule

–    Baseline Execution Index (BEI)


Critical path management is generally an outgrowth of the typical planning and scheduling (programming) work.  Reports and graphics are easily extracted from popular software tools and programs.  Two very compelling managerial tools are:

  • Total Float or Slack
  • Lookahead

The project management team can be very well guided by total float performance indicators.  McLaughlin and McLaughlin (M&M) has found that reports that contain total float, arranged with least total float first, is very effective.  Further, this presentation is effective when arranged by Early Start, earliest date(s) first.  So, something like sort by total float arranged by Early Start is a good example report.  The management team then focuses on the most current/immediate and higher priority activities.

Use of “lookahead” format reports is highly important to the management of all key stakeholders.  The window for the lookahead can vary (e.g. 3 weeks, 4 weeks, 60 days).  This lookahead window can be adjusted to the application or managerial challenge.  This will be discussed at length in a future post.

Turning to earned value approaches, at least four managerial tools that can be helpful are:

  • Schedule Variance (SV)
  • Schedule Performance Index (SPI)
  • Earned Schedule
  • Baseline Execution Index (BEI)

Schedule Variance (SV) is defined (PMI PMBOK) as:

“Schedule Variance (SV).  A measure of schedule performance on a project.  It is the difference between the earned value (EV) and the planned value (PV).  SV = EV minus PV.”

Schedule Variance (SV) is further discussed in PMI Practice Standard for EARNED VALUE MANAGEMENT.  This source states:

“Schedule Variance (Are we ahead of behind schedule?)

The Schedule Variance (SV) determines whether a project is ahead of behind schedule.  [snip]  A positive value indicates a favorable condition and a negative value indicates an unfavorable condition.”

Schedule Performance Index (SPI) is defined (PMI PMBOK) as:

“Schedule Performance Index (SPI). A measure of schedule efficiency on a project.  It is the ratio of earned value (EV) to planned value (PV).  The SPI = EV divided by PV.”

Schedule Performance Index (SPI) is further discussed in PMI Practice Standard for EARNED VALUE MANAGEMENT.  This source states:

“Schedule Performance Index (How efficiently are we using time?)

The Schedule Performance Index (SPI) indicates how efficiently the project team is using its time.”

Earned Schedule provides a measure of schedule performance based on time rather than on cost.  This is a variance to Performance Measurement Baseline (PMB).  Additional information on Earned Schedule can be found at and is discussed in detail at this site.

Baseline Execution Index (BEI) is a broad metric used to indicate the rate at which actual work is being accomplished (or completed) relative to the Performance Measurement Baseline (PMB).  Clearly, this is a bulk progress assessment tool.

It is essential to understand that each major stakeholder has a critical path and a PMB.  Both critical path and earned value management may be helpful when managing the overall program or project.  This consideration is an input to the Project Execution Plan managerial controls approach.

The discussion above is intended to emphasize that one tool (e.g. critical path analysis and reporting, earned value analysis and reporting, or productivity analysis and reporting) is not the optimum, complete or exclusive answer to professional project time management.  Contemporaneous reporting on these and other managerial indicators (Key Performance Indicators, KPI’s) is evaluated and considered together to create  the complete understanding.  A key focus is consistency of message.

Time-Management Strategy is the higher level challenge.  The Time-Management Strategy must be integrated with progress and claims management strategy.  More specifically, the time-related issues must be harmonized and synchronized with the progress and claims strategy.  The specific strategy, process and procedures are driven by the project specifics.

When M&M undertakes an assignment involving program/project development, planning and/or management, we integrate both critical path time management and earned value management practices and procedures into project execution.

Good luck and let us all attempt to approach the issue of Time-Management strategy with all the factors in an integrated manner (critical path progress, bulk progress or EVM, and productivity) relative to other related aspects of program and project execution planning.

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