Understanding the World of Project Management – The Earned Value Management Specialist

Earned value reports

What do they do?

In essence an Earned Value Management Specialist is responsible for tracking the progress of a project, compared to what was predicted. Earned value is a project management technique that enables the team to monitor the progress of a project in a structured way. Rather than simply comparing estimated cost, time or progress against actuals in insolation from one another, an Earned Value Management Specialist will use all of these parameters in conjunction to assess the progress of a project. Using this approach they will be able to better assess whether a project is ahead, on track or behind schedule, and this information can then be used to help forecast the future trajectory of a project. The bulk of an EVM Specialist’s role is therefore analysis of project data, writing reports and presenting the findings to relevant stakeholders including the Project Manager, senior leadership and even suppliers where necessary.

Where do they work?

An EVM Specialist can work in any industry, although the role is currently more commonly applied to large scale projects, such as those in the construction, defence and engineering sectors. However there is a gradual shift taking place whereby EVM is becoming more widely used across all industries, and even relatively small projects are implementing an earned value approach to help track progress.

What do they need to know?

As with the majority of roles in the Project Management field there are no formal qualifications required to become an Earned Value Management Specialist, however it is a very specialist role and attending a specific professional development course would be of benefit in many cases. In addition to an appreciation of the fundamental principles of EVM, individuals also need to have good analytical skills, the ability to work well with people, and report writing skills.

How do they fit into the PMO?

An EVM Specialist will work very closely with other members of the project team, in particular project managers, planners and schedulers as those using EV will require access to project data from these teams. However it’s not a common component in all PMOs and although it is growing in popularity, the application of earned value and the role of an EVM Specialist remains something that is widely underutilised.

Profile

Michael Higgins photoName

Mick Higgins

Job Title

Director

Company

Xacom Limited

How long have you worked there?

5 years

Describe a typical day

There really is no typical day for me as I work in a consultancy capacity with a number of clients, meaning my day can vary significantly. My skillset not only covers Earned Value Management but also Planning, Scheduling and Risk Management. Currently I’m working in Lithuania on a Nuclear Decommissioning project where I’m responsible for helping the client improve EVM, planning and scheduling and also the role out of an Enterprise Risk Management System. Again there isn’t a typical day but I’ll describe the typical activities I’m involved with respect to EVM. I work closely with the Planning & Project Controls department helping them to address any issues or questions they may have, typically we meet at least once a week where we discuss current areas of concern and develop a solution to address these areas. One of my other key activities is ensuring that the schedule data we receive from the Contractor is acceptable; this would consist of a technical schedule check and confirmation that the progress being claimed is realistic. I also support the Senior Management Team during meetings with representatives from the European Union in all matters of EVM. Beyond the client support I also spend a significant amount of my time developing the business; at the moment this involves writing blogs, documents and training materials to support people in learning about Earned Value and other Project Control techniques.

How did you get into it?

I was part of a Young Engineers morning club when I was at High School at 15 years old; this sparked my initial interest in Engineering. The next logical step for me was to apply for an Engineering Apprenticeship and on the 26th August 1996 I started an apprenticeship with BAE Systems. My final placement on the apprenticeship was on the Eurofighter Typhoon project in the Logistics department as an EVM Planner. At the time I was 19 and had never heard of EVM, I’d come across some planning during my placements and Statistical Process Control, but EVM was completely new to me. I spent the next five years in BAE Systems moving between departments learning more about EVM and Project Control until I was offered a position in a consultancy, BMT HI-Q Sigma. This is where my learning and experience really took off; the majority of my time was working on MoD Projects across the UK with some visits to the USA to assess supplier EVM systems. I also had the opportunity to present at multiple international conferences and had my first article published on Earned Schedule. My next move was to Thales as a Divisional Project Control manager for Thales Land and Joint. Here I spent my time across multiple projects in the UK advising on, implementing, reviewing EVM systems (I even spent some time helping the Thales Training and Consultancy develop EVM training). I then worked for Airbus Helicopters (Eurocopter at the time) where I was responsible for implementing EVM on the Puma HC Mk II Helicopter across Romania, UK and France before deciding to set up my own business Xacom Limited.

What’s your favourite thing about your job?

I really love the development of people; I always have since I was an apprentice. I like imparting knowledge to others, and I’d say my ultimate aim is to make myself redundant, by teaching individuals and teams everything they need to know to do a task themselves. I also really enjoy getting my hands dirty finding solutions to problems. But then I also like the strategy and conceptualisation side of things; so I actually love it all.

Most important skills

You need to be good with people; that’s the most important skill for me. There are other important skills such as logical thinking, analytics, time management and so on but being able to work in a team, collaborate, and listen to other people is essential. Most blockers on a project happen due to personal frustrations, so you need to be able to understand what the frustrations are, why they’ve come about and how to resolve them, and that only comes by listening. You also need to be able to communicate with a wide range of people, from planners to directors and end clients, and help them to use information from any EVM to aid in decision making.

Mick’s top skills:

  • Good with people
  • Teamwork
  • Collaboration
  • Listening skills
  • Communication skills
  • Logical thinking and analytical skills