FAA sees EVM dividends

Officials at the Federal Aviation Administration can empathize with their counterparts at other agencies who are under pressure from Congress and the Bush administration to improve management of information technology programs.For years, FAA, like many agencies, has had a tough time determining accurate cost and schedule estimates for complex air traffic modernization projects. However, its situation is changing, particularly at FAA’s Air Traffic Organization.Much of the improvement stems from using an earned value management system.  EVM provides managers information for understanding the health of a program by relating data about project resource planning to costs and schedules.  The Government Accountability Office has praised FAA for promoting EVM throughout the Air Traffic Organization to help improve management of IT investments and estimate baselines for IT projects’ costs and schedules. Agencies need help to implement project management disciplines, refine their processes for identifying problems and make their earned value process mature to spot problems and involve agency leadership, said Dave Powner, GAO’s director of IT management issues.FAA and the Internal Revenue Service are examples of agencies that, despite some poorly performing IT projects, have had some recent successes delivering projects on time and on budget, Powner said. In both cases, the agencies emphasized on program governance, and they established cross-agency centers of excellence to help program management offices.“They aren’t perfect, but there are pockets of success in those agencies,” he said at a July 31 hearing of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee’s Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services and International Security Subcommittee.Unfortunately, replicating FAA’s success might prove challenging for many agencies. In fiscal 2005, the agency began implementing EVM as a keystone element of project and acquisition management and more sharply assessing its IT business cases. Its goal was to have all projects under development in 2007 earn a “green” ranking for management from the Office of Management and Budget, said Robert Rovinsky, director of IT Enterprise Services in FAA’s Office of the Chief Information Officer.  FAA’s Air Traffic Organization accomplished that goal last December, he said. However, GAO warns that an EVM system is only as good as its quality of information feeding it and the expertise of the managers using it. The baselines that agencies use to track the progress of their IT projects’ cost and schedule plans often are inaccurate, Powner said. Agencies have to re-establish the baseline in 48 percent of their IT projects, sometimes more than once, he said. GAO has found that agencies use EVM in about 25 percent of projects, but the process is immature at most agencies and managers need better training in it, he said.“Without knowing the planned cost of completed work and work in progress, or the earned value, it is difficult to determine a program’s true status,” Powner said.  As part of its initiative, FAA identified employees who understood project management and who could build relationships with other managers. The net result was an EVM Council that could monitor the Air Traffic Organization’s modernization projects, Rovinsky said. All the FAA components that dealt with acquisition contributed to the assessment, including financial, safety and air traffic, system engineering, risk management and the CIO’s office. The EVM Council, which includes representatives of operations and policy areas, proposes changes in policy and guidance for IT project improvement .When a project is launched, managers typically track cost, schedule and performance and whether the project meets the requirements. They outline the timeline, budget and list of deliverables. “There is a mistaken belief that watching cost, schedule and performance is the way you manage a project,” Rovinsky said, adding, “We call those the three evils because they’re easy to do but give a false sense that things are on track.”The problem is that problems with cost, schedule and performance typically do not begin to show until a project is perhaps halfway or three-quarters done, he said. On the other hand, with EVM, an agency breaks down a project into specific work units and tracks their units’ progress against select measures. That makes it possible to identify problems perhaps a third of the way into projects he said.“EVM is an early warning system for management to take constructive actions and not just rely on the project managers, who tend to be a little bit optimistic,” Rovinsky said. Implementing EVM improved program management across FAA’s organizations because it forced managers to evaluate how to set up programs, what kind of data to use, how to identify and address risk, how to put contracts together, how to track against schedule and costs, he said. “We used EVM as a way to turn over rocks,” Rovinsky said. “We exposed a lot of weaknesses in program management operations that we fixed or addressed.” FAA set up teams that evaluated the work breakdown structure, costs, tools, data and financial systems. The team made recommendations for improvements that FAA has been adopting.In fiscal 2009 and 2010, the agency plans to establish a surveillance process to verify that IT projects continue to use EVM and follow best practices to retain their green rating, he said. Based on its efforts to improve program management, Rovinsky said he is cautiously optimistic that GAO will remove the Air Traffic Modernization programs from its next high-risk list — after 14 years — when GAO publishes it in January.The challenge of program management is to deliver programs effectively while managing appropriate risk, said Alfred Grasso, chief executive officer of Mitre. He said the oversight procedure needs to change and focus as much on programs that have overcome challenges and gone from bad to good as programs that have slid into trouble so agencies can broadly apply the best practices.“We recommend a more enabling oversight role in the future — modeled by Congress, executed by OMB and supported by the Government Accountability Office,” he said.Federal managers will respond more effectively to a structured, thoughtful discussion of why some troubled programs fail and some improve through a variety of programs, both public and privately held, he said. Grasso recommended a cross-government Program Management Officers Council, similar to the existing CIO Council and Chief Financial Officers Council, where program leaders could work together to establish government standards and share best practices. OMB could sponsor workshops on program and project management, highlighting program cases as examples and meeting in private venues that would encourage discussion of issues, he said. 

EVM effectiveness

Agencies are beginning to use earned value management to improve estimates of their information technology investments, but they don’t always implement it effectively. The Government Accountability Office has said it recommends seven steps for effective EVM:

1. Establish clear criteria for which programs are to use EVM.

2. Require programs to comply with national EVM standards.

3. Require programs to use a standard structure for defining the work products that lets managers track cost and schedules by hardware or software deliverables.

4. Require programs to conduct detailed integrated baseline reviews of expected costs, schedules and deliverables.

5. Require and enforce EVM training.

6. Define when programs may revise cost and schedule baselines.

7. Require system surveillance or routine validation to check that major acquisitions continue to comply with the agency’s EVM standards.

— Mary Mosquera















No easy fix











Focus on governance




























X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.