Analyzing variance

The program manager uses tracking data to determine how the actual progress of the scheduled work compares to the original baseline schedule, but more importantly to determine impacts of actual work done on the overall schedule and on critical milestones.

Variances that are tracked include:

1. Tasks that are starting or finishing late. Along with updating the task start and finish dates through the Tools/Tracking command, the program manager identifies impacts of the change on linked tasks.

2. Tasks that require more or less work than scheduled. Changed durations and/or additional resources can be assigned to tasks that are running late; Microsoft Project will shift durations and start and finish dates automatically when resource units are changed.

3. Tasks that are progressing more slowly than planned. Tasks on the critical path that are progressing more slowly than planned must be addressed, either through redefining the task to stay within the schedule or adding resources. Tasks off the critical path provide the program manager with some slack time, or "safety buffer," before they go onto the critical path because of delays.

4. Resources that aren't working hours as scheduled. If there are major variances in actual work versus planned work, this can have implications for several projects. Based on actual hours worked, program managers reassign resources and link to the resource pool to broad impacts and conflicts. Microsoft Project's resource leveling capability can be used to address resource conflicts as well.

5. Earned value. Earned value is an indicator of cost and schedule variance. It is important to track both whether the actual work is on schedule and whether the actual resources expended on the work is consistent with what should have cost to get the work done based on the baseline budget. In other words, earned value tracks whether the work accomplished actually cost what it should have cost, given the original budget. Reports on earned value show schedule variance and cost variance.

6. Corrective action. The real issue in variance analysis and earned value is what corrective action the program manager takes to put a program, which is showing substantial schedule variance, back on schedule. Program managers are responsible for alerting the team to these variances, reporting them in program review, and coming up with corrective actions. Some corrective actions include:

a. Making sure there is no scope creep; that is, work the team is doing that is not on the system requirements specification b. Change task dependencies and linkages c. Assign overtime work d. Hire or assign additional resources e. Decrease amount of work necessary to do a task f. Reassign resources g. Delay selected tasks h. Change working hours

In support of tracking and program review, the program administrator/ planner:

■ Serves as a resource for Microsoft Project procedures and training

■ At the request of a program manager, tracks progress against the schedule and anticipates future schedule problems

■ Flags current and new issues for the week from current schedules

■ Distributes assignments in the central resource pool to project team staff and gathers feedback

■ Identifies conflicts and facilitates resolution

Project Management Made Easy

Project Management Made Easy

What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.

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