Systemic Comparison of the Application of EVM in Traditional and Agile Software Project



By Sam Ghosh

Maryland, USA



This paper reviews the differences between the traditional waterfall software project and agile software project. It identifies the approaches for applying Earned Value Management (EVM) for both waterfall and agile project. It analyzes how an agile software project can overcome the inherent pitfalls of EVM that are also applicable in waterfall project.

  1. Introduction

EVM is predominantly used in traditional software projects that use waterfall approach. Literature review shows that the adoption of EVM is not widespread in agile software projects. There is also a misconception that EVM cannot be applied to the agile projects because, the agile projects rely on progressive elaboration. This paper analyzes how EVM can be applied to the agile projects.

  1. Key Characteristics of Traditional Waterfall Software Development

The traditional software application is known to follow waterfall software life cycle development. It follows sequential steps of analysis, design, development, testing and rework, implementation. A subsequent step is not started, until the previous step is completed. There is no overlap between these sequences. A thorough analysis of the entire software application is done during the analysis phase. Design is done only after thorough analysis is done. Software coding starts only after all the functions are analyzed and designed. Software testing begins after all the software features are coded.

If a defect is identified in a later stage e.g., during testing or implementation stage, it is costly to fix it as it may require re-work of previous steps of analysis, design and coding.

Requirements are gathered up front. For complex projects spanning months, requirements may change mid-way through the project. Change in scope is costly to incorporate in waterfall project as it will require re-work of many of the previous stages of development.

The milestones and Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) for the entire software application is decided early in the project during the planning process group.

The Figure 1 shows WBS of an Inventory management System. All the work packages are identified during the planning phase.


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Editor’s note: This paper was prepared for course ENCE667 Project Performance Management, a core course for the Master of Engineering in Project Management degree in the A. James Clark School of Engineering, University of Maryland (UM), College Park, Maryland, USA. Course instructor was Dr. Gregory Baecher, Professor and Director of Research of the Project Management Center of Excellence at UM. This paper was originally published in the February 2012 edition of PM World Today and is republished here with permission of the author.


About the Author

pmwj37-Aug2015-Ghosh-PHOTOSam Ghosh

Maryland, USA




Soumajit (Sam) Ghosh has over twenty years of experience in industry, and academia in Information Technology, and Project Management. He has worked as Project Manager, and Enterprise Architect for start-up ventures, government agencies and Fortune 500 companies in mission critical projects. He is certified Project Management Professional (PMP), PMI, Sun Certified Enterprise Java Architect, Sun Certified Web Component Developer, Sun Certified Java Programmer and Competent Toastmaster, Toastmasters International. He holds MS in Computer Science, and MS in Industrial Engineering from Texas Tech University. He is a PhD Candidate at A. James Clark School of Engineering, The University of Maryland, College Park, specializing in Project Management. He can be reached at: [email protected].