Using Story Points to Generate EV Metrics


Series on Earned Value and Agile

Eric Christoph, PMP, EVP
L-3 Communications STRATIS



Project managers who want or need to provide Earned Value (EV) metric data on their agile development project must determine how to generate earned value without incurring the planning and execution overhead typical to Earned Value Management (EVM) and which Agile was created to avoid. In order to do this, managers need to find common ground between the two methodologies and understand the strengths and weaknesses of each. This paper discusses the difference between the EVM and Agile approaches, and describes a method for generating EV metrics on an Agile project without sacrificing the advantages of Agile.

Since the publication of the Agile Manifesto in 2001 Agile has become an accepted and in some cases required approach within the IT industry, inspiring many “Agilistas” to question existing project management best practice as defined by organizations such as the Project Management Institute (PMI) and the US Federal Government. In response, PMI has recently developed the PMI Agile Certified Practitioner certification and the US Congress passed a law that directs the Secretary of Defense to develop a new acquisition process for IT systems. Some project managers in the federal space are even seeing contract requirements to use both approaches on the same project.

Earned Value Management vs. Agile

In the IT arena EVM and Agile are competing management approaches. The majority of EVM and Agile practitioners are familiar with only one or the other of these approaches, as the two are not often seen as natural complements. In addition, there are widespread misconceptions about both approaches and plenty of examples where each has been abused, misused, or otherwise made a scapegoat for poor management or engineering practice. Before discussing how to generate EV metrics for an Agile project it will be useful for many readers to review and compare the two in terms of how they support the management of the project.

Earned Value Management 101

Earned Value Management (EVM) is an approach that compares the cost and time that was planned for completing a project with the cost and time actually spent. The key assumption in the approach is that the project manager is able to define what it means to be “complete”. Defining project completion starts with the creation of a work breakdown structure (WBS) as shown in Figure 1:


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Editor’s note: The College of Performance Management (CPM) published a Compendium of articles on Earned Value and Agile based program management in The Measureable News in late 2014. The articles are now being republished in the PM World Journal, as agreed with CPM and the authors. For information about CPM, visit their website at https://www.mycpm.org/


About the Author


pmwj35-Jun2015-Christoph-PHOTOEric Christoph, PMP, EVP

L3 Communications


Eric Christoph
, PMP, EVP has a keen interest in the design and implementation of program control systems for organizations of all types, and is a member of several related industry and government working groups, including the PMI Standards Consensus Body and the NDIA Program Management Systems Committee, where he served as L-3 Communications representative and at-large board member. Eric’s current efforts are focused on developing management information systems for large IT providers that are capable of supporting both project and service management functions. He can be reached at [email protected].