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EVM and Agile Processes

I am presenting a paper on EVM and xProcess next week at the 2nd EVM Conference in Birmingham, UK. I’d love to see you at the conference but if you’re not able to make it and would like a copy of the paper you can download it now from the xProcess Europe or Ivis web sites. Here's the abstract...

EVM and Agile Processes – an investigation of applicability and benefits

Earned Value Management (EVM) is a technique for understanding the degree to which a project is following a plan. A prerequisite for EVM as traditionally applied is therefore a stable baseline plan with a fixed scope. Agile processes for software development by contrast are designed to be responsive to a changing environment and enable discovery of requirements through their lifecycle. Agile plans are rarely stable or of fixed scope. However both approaches share the goal of producing plans that provide stakeholders with immediate feedback on the daily progress of projects and they share common needs in understanding and reporting progress and productivity. In addition the fact that agile processes map requirements to plannable tasks means that requirements may change without invalidating the baseline for progress reporting. This paper reports on work to develop tool support based on the xProcess process and planning product to apply EVM to agile processes. It shows how the metrics for schedule and cost efficiency can be modified for compatibility with agile approaches, and how they help effective management of agile projects, particularly when supplemented with tool support for project forecasting and monitoring.

Comments

Robin Dymond said…
EVM is not applicable for Agile projects and software development. There are numerous reasons why this is, the most important being that Agile delivers product to the business and a return on investment early, often, and throughout the project. This means that it is now possible to measure ACTUAL market acceptance and ACTUAL ROI. We are not building bridges or roads where the capital cost outlay is amortized over 20 years. Using EVM does not add value to the project, and does not increase understanding or visibility. Agile and Lean methods emphasize regular demonstrations of actual progress, and regular releases into production. This is what managers need to look at. Lastly, EVM is built on estimates that are wildly inaccurate because of the uncertainty built into any complex endeavor where the customer doesn't know what they want until they go on a learning journey with the team, and the business context is continually changing. I believe you and your colleagues are intelligent people, so I urge you to learn something new, and stop trying to shoehorn bad old ideas into a completely new way of working.

I would also recommend you read my paper on Appropriate Agile Metrics. You can find it here: http://www.innovel.net/?page_id=10

Regards,
Robin Dymond.
Andy Carmichael said…
Thanks Robin for your comments on this post. I welcome the discussion and I'd encourage others with views on this topic to post here also. I'll point delegates to this post so they can benefit from the views expressed. I am aware this is a controversial area and without such discussion simple statements may be taken out of context. For example people may misinterpret my views and think that I'm telling them to carry on in a waterfall fashion without adopting agile practices. I'm not!

Two important things to note about this paper:

1. I'm not recommending that people use EVM unmodified. The modifications explained in the paper may seem quite modest, but their effect is profound in that they allow precisely the flexibility to change the goals of the project and achieve the agility you describe.

2. This paper is not being presented to agile practitioners, but to an EVM conference. While some might take that as an opportunity to tell the delegates that everything they are doing is wrong, I actually believe there are lessons each camp can learn from the other. Rest assured though that I will make plain to them - as I hope I have in the paper - that EVM in an unmodified form is inappropriate for agile.

At the end of the day the important thing for agile teams is that they can work flexibly and improve the quality of their forecasting timebox by timebox. These metrics are by no means the only way to improve on "yesterday's weather" forecasts of velocity. I'm aware many others are working in this area too. As we understand each other's work better I feel confident that not only will our project management of agile projects improve, but that PM's from many other traditions will want to apply the results as well.
Greg said…
I think the value of an EVM approach for Agile projects is tied to the frequency of releases. If you do two week iterations and release every two to four weeks, then EVM likely doesn't add anything. However with 30 day iterations and releases every 3 to 6 months, EVM IMO has a role to play. You may argue that Agile programs that don't release more freqently than every 3 months are not agile, but it is not always possible in every domain to do so. Some commercial and DoD domains don't lend themselves to frequent releases, although they can still run Agile iterations with demonstrations.

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