Why an Agile Approach Needs to be Different



Earned Value and Agile

By Luis C Contreras

AzTech International LLC (goAzTech.com)



Quick Definitions

Firstly, let’s define Agile broadly and understand if it is, indeed, different from EVM based on high-level definitions or objectives. For the purposes of this paper, let’s assume that Agile is an umbrella term that includes Scrum, Extreme (XP) Programming, and other similar practices.


Agile project management might be called a “features-driven”, “values-driven”, and “time-driven” approach to managing software projects by cycling through rather short sprints or iterations of feature development to produce tangible value in multiple deliverables. Agile includes methods with terms that are unfamiliar to most EVM practitioners. These terms include scrums, scrum masters, XP programming, releases, stories (epics, themes, and just plain stories), story points, story owners, sprints, backlogs, burn-down charts, burn-up charts, velocity, standup meetings, and more. Agile can be used for small or large projects and even for projects less than one year long, though certainly for multi-year projects as well. Agile has proponents who promote a continuum of agile complexity that ranges from using “agile concepts” to adopting formal Agile such as SCRUM and certification for SCRUM Masters or practitioners.

Earned Value

Earned Value might be called a “plan-driven” or “baseline-driven” approach that emphasizes management by exception using variance thresholds to manage any kind of complex project, including software or hardware systems, construction, or other development and production efforts. EV uses terms known throughout the aerospace, defense, and other sectors with large, government-funded projects, usually exceeding $20M and typically longer than one year. EV has proponents who promote a continuum of EV complexity that ranges from using “EV concepts” to what some call “EV-Lite” and then to what is called “full-blown EVMS” requiring adherence to the ANSI-748’s 32 guidelines for implementing an EVMS. The US Government requires ANSI-748 compliance for government-funded projects over $20M and in some cases for smaller projects too. Other national governments also require or encourage using ANSI-748 or some variation for managing large and risky projects.


Some Agile proponents consider EV old-fashioned, perhaps even outdated, and not flexible enough to manage software projects. Some suggest that EV emphasizes “waterfall planning” where work is highly sequential:


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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. An introduction by Ray Stratton launched the series in the April 2015 edition of the PMWJ. This is the first article in the series. For information about CPM, visit their website at https://www.mycpm.org/


About the Author


Luis C Contreras

AzTech International LLC (goAzTech.com)


Mr. Luis Contreras
is President of AzTech International LLC and has over 20 years of experience implementing Earned Value Management Systems throughout the US, Canada, and Europe. He has worked with both government and industry on both sides of DCMA Compliance Reviews, and with contractors on numerous Integrated Baseline Reviews (IBRs). He helps organizations optimize all facets of EVMS–from the proposal stage to baseline development and execution. His breadth of expertise includes EVM, scheduling, ERP/MRP, and earned value in a manufacturing or production environment. Mr. Contreras has led AzTech’s design team in developing custom applications as well as commercial tools such as Run!23 and Run!AzTech for MS Project scheduling professionals, AutoVAR for advanced variance analysis, and AzTech Compliance Expert (ACE) for assessing EVMS compliance prior to Integrated Baseline Reviews (IBRs), Compliance Reviews, Reviews for Cause, and for independent assessments and self-assessments.