Phil Friedman

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The #1 Overlooked Capability in Microsoft Project

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I work in the yacht and commercial vessel construction sector. As you might expect, I've seen lots and lots of MS Project Gantt charts. And task maps. And calendar overviews. And resource allocation reports. And so on, and so forth.  But,

I've rarely, if ever seen a report that calculates and tracks Earned Value or the way it is trending.

Calculating and tracking Earned Value, and the way it is trending during a project, are perhaps the most important functions a project manager can attend to — especially when it comes to complex, long-duration projects such as the building of a mega- or super-yacht.

Yet, most project managers in the yacht building sector overlook or ignore the critical nature of these two metrics...

The term "Earned Value" is frequently accompanied in discussion by a plethora of acronyms and jargon for related concepts (e.g., PMB, OBS, ACWP, BAC, EAC, IEAC, and so on, almost ad infinitum). And there are a number of alternative ways to define the term "earned value". However, to my mind, Earned Value can be a relatively straightforward conceptual tool for evaluating project status, provided you adopt the definition I recommend here.

Simply stated, the rate of Earned Value can be defined as the ratio of the percent of project completion to date, divided by the percent of budget expended to date. For example, if at a given time you have completed, say, 30% of the project, but spent 35% of the total budget, the rate of Earned Value is 0.857, or approximately 85%. This means that expenditures made on the project to date have only accomplished 85% of what they were budgeted and expected to accomplish. In other words, the budget expenditure to date has only bought you 85% of what it was budgeted to buy in terms of value.

If the rate of Earned Value is less than 100%, the project is, at best, eating into any planned profit or, at worst, heading to the red-ink zone...

Just as important as the Earned Value calculation itself is the projection of its trend out to project completion. For Example, suppose that at the 1/4 mark of completion, the project's rate of Earned Value is 94%. Suppose also that at the 3/8 mark, the Earned Value is 92%. In such a case, unless serious measures are taken to reverse, or at least halt the downward trending of Earned Value, the project will end up at a very serious cost overrun -- in this example, at roughly 18% over budget. I don't know about you, but in the business sector I work in, that amount of project cost overrun is a major problem, or just as likely, a total disaster.

Continually calculating and tracking Earned Value, and keeping a close watch on its trending are key in predicting and potentially remedying developing cost overruns...

You can, of course, accomplish both of these project management tasks without Microsoft Project software per se. Indeed, over the years I've personally developed several spreadsheet templates to do just this. But, if like a great number of project managers, you're already using Microsoft Project, you should be aware that the tools you need for calculating and tracking Earned Value and its trending are already present in MS Project's roster of capabilities. And it would definitely be worth your while to check them out.  — Phil Friedman

Author's notes:  I consult on shipyard and marina  operations and business management, and have done so for more than 20 years. I specialize in cost-effective solutions, often based on proprietary systems and software developed in the course of my work, and especially suited to implementation in the flat management structure found in most yacht building and boat yard operations. If you would like to discuss your problems and needs, on a strictly confidential basis, call or email today to make an appointment for a free 1/2-hour consult. 

If you find yachts and yacht building of interest, you may want to read some of my other marine industry and small business management articles:

"App or Not, Garbage In Means Garbage Out"

"Small Business Need to Keep an Eye on Gross Profit"

"Maxmizing Throughput on Fixed Assets and Overheads"

And if you'd  like to receive further installments of this ongoing series, or regular noticiations of my other writings on a regular basis, click the [FOLLOW] button on my beBee profile.  As a writer-friend of mine says, you can always change your mind later.

Feel free to "like" and "share" this post and my other LinkedIn articles — whether on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or Google+. I ask only that you credit me properly as the author, and include a live link to the original work.

As well, if you are interested in yachts, are allied with the yacht building industry,  or operating a small business in another sector, you should consider joining my beBee Hive, 

THE PORT ROYAL GROUP for Yacht Builders, Buyers and Owners,

where you will find experienced industry professionals discussing a wide range of topics. The ongoing conversation is always interesting, informative, and 100% industry insider.

About me, Phil Friedman:
  With 30 some years background in the marine industry, I've worn numerous hats — as a yacht designer, boat builder, marine operations and business manager, marine industry consultant, marine marketing and communications specialist, yachting magazine writer and editor, yacht surveyor, and marine industry educator. I am also trained and experienced in interest-based negotiation and mediation. In a previous life, I taught logic and philosophy at university.

Currently, I am supervising, as owner's representative, a new yacht build in Taiwan.  For a free 1/2-hour consult concerning your current or planned project, email

The #1 Overlooked Capability in Microsoft ProjectThe (optional-to-read) pitch: As a professional writer, editor, university educator, and speaker, with more than 1,000 print and digital publications, I've recently launched an online program for enhancing your expository writing: learn2engage — With Confidence. My mission is to help writers and would-be writers improve the clarity of their thought and writing, master the logic of discussion, and deal with criticism and disagreement.

To schedule an appointment for a free 1/2-hour consult email:

Text Copyright © 2016 by Phil Friedman — All Rights Reserved
Images:  Courtesy of Port Royal Group LLC and Phil Friedman

The #1 Overlooked Capability in Microsoft Project

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