Organizational agility is often supported or hindered by an organization’s project management methodology.
Companies that use traditional PPM have a harder time creating an agile environment that supports change because of the lack of valuable performance and predictive data, which is why organizations — especially those seeking to be more agile — are making the switch from traditional PPM to EVM.
EVM provides program managers with advanced project data that can help them make more informed decisions and adjustments as needed based on real-time data. As Greg Cimmarrusti, PMP notes, EVM systematically integrates the measurement of cost, schedule and scope into a single system that can:
- help determine benchmark achievements,
- provide an early warning for performance troubles
- and forecast future performance.
Thus, organizations that use EVM for project management are more suited to an agile environment. And Department of Defense (DoD) contractors that are required to use EVM for program management are in an excellent position to turn compliance into agility.
The new EVAS surveillance process could provide a further nudge toward agility because of its focus on data and the opportunities it provides for self-correction.
An Overview of EVAS
Earned Value Analysis System (EVAS) is the Defense Contract Management Agency’s (DCMA) new data-driven approach to surveillance of DoD projects over $100 million dollars, and other projects as deemed necessary. EVAS is on track to be implemented sometime in 2018.
Under the new approach, contractors will be required to submit data on a monthly basis to be reviewed by DCMA for EVM compliance and the identification of high-risk projects that may require further review. Traditionally, surveillance was done on a predetermined schedule in-person and on-site, with every project treated equally.
Within EVAS, DCMA has derived a series of metrics that can show compliance to all of the ANSI/EIA 748’s 32 criteria, which are detailed in the National Defense Industrial Association’s ANSI EIA 748 Intent Guide. The approach uses 131 metrics that align with a specific intent in the guidelines and include automated measures that run monthly, as well as manual tests metrics set at variable frequencies.
The contractor’s data will run through all of the metrics at the appropriate times to verify compliance and flag questionable items for further review. According to its presentation at DVM World 2017, when reviewing results of the tests DCMA will be focusing on:
- Red metrics — data that trip preset thresholds
- Trends — metrics that are tripped month over month
- Communication — information learned through conversations with the contractor that are saved from one period to the next so issues are less likely to be repeated
Whereas under the current system one red flag usually triggers a Corrective Action Report (CAR), under the new system that same red flag may not trigger a CAR until it shows up three months in a row, giving contractors time to fix process issues on their own.
That flexibility offer contractors an opportunity to better understand their internal processes and then use the data to identify areas that need improvement. That continuous improvement is a key aspect of agility.
The Importance of Data to Continuous Improvement
Achieving organizational agility is not easy, explains Joe Kerins, chief defense industry strategist here at Artemis. And the concept of encouraging change throughout a project is scary for traditional program managers.
Kerins notes that most organizations, and the program management field at large, are still trying to figure out how to do agile well. However, in spite of the executional uncertainties, agile has increasingly grown in popularity among organizations over the past decade, according to the 11th Annual State of Agility Survey by VersionOne.
The key issue is that agility requires a shift to a collaborative, innovative, continuous improvement environment, which is a marked difference from the linear progression of traditional waterfall methodologies. In an agile environment, innovation and change are encouraged and expected.
And, as we discussed in a previous post, a key driver of continuous improvement is data.
Data takes the guesswork out of decision making. Elana Roth, writing for business intelligence software company Sisense, notes that data-driven companies are more agile and innovative in meeting market demands.
EVAS forces DoD contractors to engage with the data they need to drive agility.
EVAS Provides the Data for Improvement
EVAS helps contractors become more agile by scouring their data and alerting them of issues within their processes. Contractors are thus given the opportunity to be proactive in performing better analyses, identifying deficiencies and fixing their processes.
The benefits are twofold: Contractors minimize their risk for further surveillance, and they become more agile through their efforts to conform to EVM standards. The improved processes help ensure better project and deliverable outcomes.
Under the new data-driven surveillance method, contractors have the benefit of this data being real-time. Under the current system, data is gathered periodically based on the review calendar, which is a disadvantage to projects that are running with broken processes. The sooner the data is collected, issues identified and processes corrected, the faster a program manager can react.
But data itself is not enough. Organizations have to want to improve. Those that are able to adapt quickly to change and continuously improve based on real-time data are better positioned to meet project deliverables and pass EVM compliance standards than those that are resistant to change.
A Single-Database Solution Can Enable a More Agile EVM Environment
Software can be a program manager’s biggest asset. Kerins explains that a program that uses a single database for data collection is the solution that contractors need to facilitate EVAS compliance and process change because such software can automate much of the EVAS data-collection and continuous improvement processes.
A single-database solution eases the burden of data gathering and reporting for contractors by automatically running about 40 percent of the required EVAS checks. The same software can also help streamline the change process by automating the approvals and documentation required for regulatory compliance.
EVAS and Organizational Agility Go Hand-in-Hand
Agile organizations “profit from significant improvements in productivity, engagement, innovation, efficiency and customer satisfaction,” says Valerie Nichols, executive consultant at corporate learning company Hemsley Fraser. The improvements account for why so many companies are endeavoring to be more agile. But that transition cannot happen without the right tools.
EVAS provides that support to DoD contractors. Through its data-focused platform, EVAS provides the information to program managers and senior leadership that has the potential to drive an agile transformation.