Applying Lessons from the Classroom: Earned Value Management

BY: Jason Linger, Ohio State University EcoCAR 3 Project Manager

Planning and executing a project like EcoCAR 3 is a huge undertaking, requiring the skills and experience of students, faculty, company sponsors, and competition organizers. The quality of the project management team is critical to the success of the overall team. 

Earned Value Managment - Ohio State University

Project manager Jason Linger works with the project management team.

Led by the project manager, the project management team is responsible for initiating, planning, executing, monitoring and closing the project. A project manager can use software programs to estimate the schedule and cost variance of a project comprised of hundreds of tasks. If a project manager can see that a project will finish a week behind schedule and the deadline is non-negotiable, he or she can take corrective action very early in the process, increasing the project’s chances of success.

One of the key tools that The Ohio State University (OSU) EcoCAR 3 Team has been using to keep this complex project on track is earned value management (EVM).  Earned value management is a technique used by project managers to gain information on the status and progress of their projects.  This technique determines how a project’s performance compares to planned scope, schedule, and cost baselines.   

This complex technique includes planned value, earned value, cost variance and schedule variance. For example, The OSU EcoCAR 3 team recruited a higher number of team members than expected. Using this extra manpower, the team completed objectives ahead of schedule. Another example is when the team finished their trade show display two weeks before the deadline at the Year One Competition. In this situation, the earned value for the project will be greater than the planned value because the team planned on spending more time on the display. On the other hand, suppose a major component delivery is delayed due to a record-breaking snowstorm. This delay disrupts the team’s installation of the part, setting back the project by two weeks. Because of this delay, the planned value of the project would exceed the earned value and the schedule variance would increase by two weeks. 

The OSU EcoCAR 3 Team recognizes the status of project performance is often not as obvious as the examples above. With EVM in place, the team is better equipped to succeed in the competition.