Earned Value Management (EVM) and Agile Project Management - A Comparison

Earned Value Management (EVM) and Agile Project Management - A Comparison

This article explores the similarities and differences between EVM and burn charts in traditional and agile project management, discussing their applications and benefits.

Earned Value Management (EVM) provides one of the most effective methods for evaluating, then monitoring, and controlling a project's progress, as described by Norman, Brotherton, & Fried (2011). The project manager analyzes the planned project progress and spending and compares this to the actual progress and actual project spending; the project manager can clearly view the project's planned, current, and anticipated value by calculating the EVM.

The EVM can assist the project manager in determining whether the progress or productivity that is delivered by the team is delivering value or producing outcomes at a predicted or planned rate possible or at a rate faster or slower than originally planned, as Norman, Brotherton, & Fried (2011) points out. The project manager can determine if the performance rate is being achieved at the anticipated cost or at more or less of a cost than originally planned, as Norman, Brotherton, & Fried (2011) describe. Using EVM enables the project manager to produce the project's final cost and delivery date. Many project managers' monitoring and control techniques provide information about a project's state in the present or recent past; EVM goes past that by providing insight into what may occur in the future, as Norman, Brotherton, & Fried (2011) points out.

At our office, we use Agile, and the use of burn charts such as the burn-up and burn-down graphs or charts, as Sulaiman, Barton & Blackburn (2006) points out, are similar to EVM in a traditional project and correspond well to the concept of Earned Value. The burn-up chart shows the increasing amount of functionality accomplished as a function of time and is reported regularly. The benefit of a burn-up chart is a simple-to-understand reflection of the status and velocity of features that are delivered. The burn-up chart is conceptually equivalent to the Earned Value accumulated at a specific date, as Sulaiman, Barton & Blackburn (2006) discuss.

A burn-down chart presents comparable information to the burn-up chart but indicates how many features remain to be completed or depicts what is left to complete. In addition to showing how many features remain, the sample burn-down chart captures scope change as the project progresses, as Sulaiman, Barton & Blackburn (2006) point out. The burn-down chart lets the project team focus on the committed features during the time-boxed iteration. Burn-down charts succinctly capture the scope change that occurs during the project, the amount and frequency of which is of interest to the project manager.

Although our organization does not use traditional project management EVM techniques, agile scrum EVM experiences use burn charts in agile scrum. The graphs are built easily and quickly using the online software as a service agile development tools. The one that we are currently using is Rally Development, which is now owned by computer associates. These burn-down and burn-up charts are easily displayed to the team to help them understand the velocity of the teamwork and hopefully motivate them to complete stories before the end of the sprint or iteration.


Norman, E. S., Brotherton, S. A., & Fried, R. T. (2011). Work breakdown structures : the foundation for project management excellence. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com

Sulaiman, T., Barton, B., & Blackburn, T. (2006, July). Agile EVM-earned value management in Scrum Projects. In Agile Conference, 2006 (pp. 10-pp). IEEE.

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