Robbins-Gioia tweaks earned-value method of assessment

Program management specialist Robbins-Gioia Inc. is giving a new twist to the so-called earned-value method of assessing contract management, which is already used on various government projects.

EVM, which has its roots in the Defense Department, basically integrates three components of project management— scoping, costing and scheduling— in a way that allows responsibility to be assigned and performance to be measured.But Robbins-Gioia's approach stresses EVM within the context of an organization's basic business processes and overall program management objectives rather than as an add-on or an end in itself, as it is often treated, said Gene Bounds, vice president of the company's Solutions Group, Alexandria, Va.

Although competitors offer EVM services as well, Robbins-Gioia brings expertise "from the position of a program management firm," Bounds said. The company offers earned-value techniques, along with other services, such as configuration management and scheduling, said Paul Palatt, a senior cost analyst with the company.

Robbins-Gioia also views EVM as requiring an interface between software applications so that data can flow seamlessly between them.

The current emphasis on EVM reflects a growing interest, governmentwide, "in performance-based management systems in addition to older, budget-based performance systems," Bounds said.

The Government Performance and Results Act of 1993 and the Reinventing Government Initiative, for example, both stress the importance of this orientation. The approach is most evident in new acquisition programs, in which managers are directed by GPRA to "establish a baseline plan...and then measure your performance against that plan," Bounds said. DOD is using EVM, and the Federal Aviation Administration and NASA are said to be doing the same.

The Anniston Army Depot in Alabama and Marine Corps logistics bases on the East and West coasts are adding EVM to help them in their job of repairing and overhauling combat vehicles, Bounds said. Government installations "recognize [EVM] as a management best practice," he said. "They're concerned with competition, downsizing and outsourcing" and want "to sharpen their management practices."

Anniston is implementing EVM as an outgrowth of work on the Program Depot Maintenance Scheduling System, an information technology system developed by Robbins-Gioia for maintenance management.

Anniston did not adopt EVM to fix a problem, said Troy Gaddy, chief of the depot's Mission Systems Division. The facility has successfully handled high-volume throughput requirements in the past. But times have changed. As the Army downsizes and budgets shrink, the depot is managing a variety of smaller programs and "has got to respond to issues and do it quickly, efficiently and correctly," he said.

The cultural shift requires a change in the approach to management. Instead of repairing and overhauling more than 2,000 Sherman tanks, as it did in the past, Anniston may handle mixes of 30 Abrams tanks, three or four recovery vehicles and 40 personnel carriers, Gaddy said.

Obviously the logistics, planning, scheduling and assembly-line setup "require a great deal of flexibility," so Anniston has taken a "proactive approach," Gaddy said.

The EVM effort started recently and is part of larger process improvements involving areas such as inventory, the cost of repair parts and labor requirements.

The depot plans to use EVM to track and evaluate these changes and expects to see initial results in the fall, Gaddy said.

"We want to measure that and prove it works," he added.

-- Adams is a free-lance writer based in Alexandria, Va.

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