At lab, EVM earns its keep

Using the software to track projects helps Livermore steer clear of project overruns

LARGE GOVERNMENT projects overrunning their schedules and budgets aren't rare.

But at the Energy Department's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which has the job of ensuring that the nation's nuclear weapons remain safe, secure and reliable, project overruns are anathema.

The department requires that any capital project worth more than $5 million use an earned value management system to track progress. EVM, which measures work performed against a baseline plan, can act as an early warning signal that a project is going off course before large sums of time and money are lost.

The primary benefit of EVM is that it helps people be forward-thinking, said Anita Zenger, project control division leader at Livermore.

'With EVM, from Day One you're looking at what your variance of completion is going to be. Two months into a project, I might know that it's going to cost $100,000 more than expected.

So we'll know we have to either fund it using contingency funds or cut scope.'

Zenger and her team had to meet complex department project management methodology requirements, including ANSI Electronic Industries Alliance 748A EVM standards to fulfill Energy's 413.3A requirements, which are mandatory for projects valued at more than $20 million.

The ANSI standard consists of 32 industry guidelines. 'If you comply with 31, you don't pass,' Zenger said.

Zenger and her team used P6 EVM software from Primavera Systems, primarily in a client-server configuration. They started implementing the system in late 2004 and underwent a compliance review in September 2005, Zenger said.

The group is also implementing a Web access version for broader dissemination of the data.

'You can get certified without using Primavera,' Zenger said. For example, one group implemented EVM by using Excel in an Oracle database. Another group used a combination of Primavera and Deltek's Winsight EVM tool.

About the Author

Trudy Walsh is a senior writer for GCN.

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