Earned Value Management with Agility

This feature is available in Enterprise and Ultimate editions


The idea of true Earned Value Management (EVM) at a project or product level is not congruent with the principles of Agile. Fundamentally, the application of Agile practices and processes are working to solve the same problems that the measurement of Earned Value is seeking to solve: Provide visibility into the performance and progress of projects by measuring scope, schedule and cost. However, the idea that the anticipated cost, value, and schedule can be completely defined and baseline at the beginning of the project, is in direct contradiction with the second principle behind the Agile Manifesto "Welcome changing requirements, even late in development."

Many Agile teams have chosen to measure Earned Value at the Release level, as opposed to the Project or Product level. This provides a time box large enough to deliver functionality that provides the product owner real value, while small enough to resist changing the baseline.

At the release level, the team can define the Planned Cost, Planned Schedule, and Features or Requirements to be delivered. Each feature is broken down into the specific user backlog items that must be delivered to meet the "definition of done" for that feature, and an estimate of Backlog Item Points is determined for each user backlog item based on the team's perception of complexity, difficulty, and size. The sum of the Backlog Item Points for all user backlog items in a planned release becomes the Total Estimate for the Release and becomes the Planned Value for the release and the primary measurement of value.

As user backlog items are completed throughout the release, Agility will provide the team with an accurate measurement of the Open Estimate, those backlog items not yet completed, Total Estimate, and the Percent Complete for the release. This Percent Complete provides the team with the current Earned Value percentage at that point in time and can be used to determine if the team is ahead or behind schedule (See Project Summary Report).


To make this process more meaningful, many teams will organize their user backlog items into the Features that are to be delivered. By committing the to Features to be delivered during a release, the team can communicate more effectively with their product owner to provide a more detailed understanding of the progress being made on the Release and the true value being delivered.

Agility provides several ways to assist the team in both the planning of their Features and the delivery of their current value reports to their product owners. The Portfolio Tree provides the team with a quick glance at the Features to be delivered during a specific Release and the current progress being made.



Through the use of the Analytics tool in Agility Ultimate Edition, other meaningful reports can be created to further communicate progress made throughout a Release and provide the Percent Complete for each Feature being delivered during the Release.


For traditional Agile teams, the Project Burndown report provides the visual indication of the team's current progress against the ideal line given the time that has elapsed.

It is the Percent Complete that provides the basis for the calculation of the Earned Valued Metrics on an Agile project. Since Agile teams are not typically subjected to change during a Release, Cost Variance should be extremely minimal. However, this can easily be determined by dividing the Actual Cost by the Planned Cost and comparing it to the Percent Complete of the Release.

Additionally, since the Release end date is a firm deadline, Schedule Variance should also be extremely minimal. However, this can also be easily determined by dividing the total number of days of the Release by the number of days past and comparing it to the Percent Complete of the Release.

Although many teams approach EVM differently, the common best practice is to measure at the Release, not at the Project, and base the measurements on the percent of Backlog Item Points completed compared to the percent of time elapsed. Once again, this information is visually presented to the team in the Project Burndown report. However, changes do occur, and the team must be able to quickly determine the effect of these changes on the current Release. Agility provides a Release Forecasting tool to enable teams to conduct "what if" analysis on their current release, without making actual changes to the Release itself. Additionally, it allows the team to compare the amount of work they have committed to completing within the Release with the current Velocity over the past several sprints. This provides unique visibility to the team to help them understand the specific impact a change may have on their Release date and the Features to be delivered.


So while EVM may not match up with Agile exactly, you can use Agility to view many Earned Value metrics for a project or release.


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