EVM replaces spreadsheets
Lawrence Livermore Laboratory manages 20 projects under earned value management
- By Richard W. Walker
- Oct 04, 2007
Overcoming a reluctance to apply earned value management to projects at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory requires patience. Once managers understand it, they usually recognize its value, said Anita Zenger, project controls manager at the laboratorys Plant Engineering Project Controls Group.
After theyve actually managed a project using our earned value system, they came back and asked, Can I use it on my next one, even though its not required? They start seeing the benefit, Zenger said. Thats when we know we have a convert. Thats way cool.
Lawrence Livermore is part of the Energy Departments National Nuclear Security Administration. Its mission is to ensure that the countrys nuclear weapons remain safe, secure and reliable. Its workforce of more than 8,000 employees includes about 3,500 scientists, engineers and technicians.
Given the labs critical mission, officials must employ vigorous and disciplined project management best practices, including EVM, to achieve their safety and security goals. EVM gives managers greater project control and visibility by bringing together technical, schedule and cost performance data and providing an objective calibration of a projects status, officials said.
EVM is about as close to a management crystal ball as you can get, Zenger said. It allows you to trend the past in order to try to forecast the future. EVM allows you to learn from the past to mitigate risk and increase the potential for program success moving forward.
Zengers group provides EVM services, including training and tools, to managers in the labs various organizations. The lab is using EVM to manage about 20 projects with a total value of about $500 million, Zenger said. DOE now requires any capital project valued at more than $5 million to implement an EVM system.
Until about two years ago, the lab was using a homegrown approach to project management that involved complex Excel spreadsheets taped to walls.
To simplify and automate its project management, officials began reviewing commercial software. They decided on Primavera Systems suite of EVM software in August 2005. Managers were relieved to move away from spreadsheets and cellophane tape, Zenger said.
EVM enhances the ability of lab managers to keep projects on schedule and on budget, and EVM data contributes to DOEs planning and investment control efforts, Zenger said. They put it into their system for doing their portfolio management.
Management reviews of EVM data are critical to an agencys capital planning and investment control processes, said Government Accountability Office senior cost analysts Karen Richey and Jennifer Echard in their newly released Cost Assessment Guide: Best Practices for Estimating and Managing Program Costs.
Looking to the future, Zenger said, management wants to expand the use of EVM at Lawrence Livermore. We really want to make it available to the masses. Eventually, I think, it will be just how everyone does business.