|IN THIS ISSUE|
|Sunday, January, 1, 2012|
|Keeping Squirrels Out of the Attic: Baseline Management|
|Tags: Innovations, Baseline Management, Project Management|
|Posted By Carol Vernon, IT Capital Planning Program Manager at the Department of Labor (DOL)|
Imagine you need a new roof on your house but the contractor is squeezing you in between other projects, doesn’t have the proper materials or enough labor, and then leaves to complete another job before coming back to yours. Meanwhile the hole in your roof has let in rain, leaves, and maybe even a few critters, all of which have caused more damage. Housing projects can spiral out of control fast and without a solid plan from the beginning, you could have squirrels in your attic year round.
The same goes for federal IT projects. Federal government IT investment oversight is increasingly focused on baseline management for good reason. Effective baseline management allows the project manager (PM) to achieve the intended business outcome in a cost-effective way, on time, and within budget. It also provides early warning of increasing variances from planned cost or schedule, thus giving the PM a chance to identify and address any red flags.
When baseline management is ineffective, however, IT projects can easily go off the rails because there is no useful “blueprint” for achieving the intended outcome, no accurate measurement of cost and schedule performance, no early warning of problems, and no opportunity to resolve problems while they are still fixable. The results can include increased IT investment costs, schedule delay, “scope creep,” and failure to achieve the intended outcome.
Federal IT capital planning efforts increasingly focus on supporting, guiding, evaluating, and improving IT baseline management processes because of how critical they are to IT project success. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) memorandum M-10-27 requires all Federal agencies to implement IT baseline management policies, processes, and training. Investments that do not remain within +/- 90% of planned cost an schedule are subject to increased scrutiny from oversight entities as well as possible suspension or termination.
Establishing the Baseline
The first significant step is creating a sound, accurate, and comprehensive baseline. This is the foundation for effective baseline management over the life cycle of the project. Here are five IT capital planning strategies for working with PMs and Integrated Project Teams to ensure this happens.
1. Document Requirements
Clearly describe the two sets of requirements that must be met in establishing a baseline:
PMs and investment teams must understand both sets of requirements. Specific documented requirements and frequent meetings between the PM, investment team, and the IT Capital Planning team within the Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) ensure everyone understands the requirements for establishing a baseline, available resources, evaluation criteria, and appropriate sequencing of planning activities.
2. Provide Resources
Training sessions, templates, guides, and tools will (1) help PMs and investment teams comply with requirements and (2) provide standardized processes across the enterprise. For example, simply requiring an Integrated Baseline Review (IBR) is not as useful as providing an IBR training session, an IBR Guide, and an IBR Summary Report template. A departmental IT Cost Estimation Guide provides a useful, standardized structure and process for estimating, improving, and validating planned costs for an IT investment.
3. Track Progress
The tracker (below) is a useful tool for summarizing requirements and tracking progress when establishing the baseline.
Tracker for Establishing a Baseline
4. Evaluate Deliverables via Scorecards
The OCIO evaluates the PM’s deliverables, prepares the scorecards, and then provides the scorecards to the PM, sponsor, program manager, and other key stakeholders. First and second scorecards can:
The first scorecard measures the quality of the initial requirements analysis, the evaluation of cloud solutions, the cost benefit analysis, the acquisition plan, the performance goals, and the initial draft of the baseline. This first scorecard provides an opportunity to identify and address problems before expending further resources. For example if a technical architecture schematic cannot be produced, it is premature to develop the baseline. Likewise if useful performance goals and target metrics cannot be identified, the scope and purpose of the investment are not adequately understood. This scorecard process stops the organization from spending additional resources before the necessary planning has been accomplished.
The second scorecard focuses on the IBR Summary Report, the IT Cost Estimation Summary Report, the Earned Value Management (EVM) Assessment, and the proposed baseline. The results of the IBR should strengthen the draft baseline and reflect stakeholder consensus on activities, cost, schedule, risk management, and other elements of the baseline. The results of the cost estimation process should further refine and validate planned costs in the draft baseline and show sponsor approval of the final planned costs. The EVM Assessment shows that the person who will be handling EVM reporting for the investment understands basic EVM concepts. The proposed baseline represents an improved version of the draft baseline.
5. Incorporate Lessons Learned
The process and requirements for establishing a baseline can be improved by analyzing IT acquisition problems. For example, if IT security configuration issues halt a system development effort, it suggests that technical requirements were not adequately analyzed or understood in the beginning. How can the process and requirements for establishing a baseline be modified to incorporate more robust requirements analysis? If actual costs increase significantly, how can the process of estimating planned costs be strengthened? Baseline management oversight can and should be improved on an ongoing basis by examining what works well, what doesn’t work so well, and what process improvements can be made.
So the next time your roof needs to be replaced, don’t rush into it without getting a solid idea of what it will cost, how much time it will take, and what the exact outcome will be. Otherwise you may have some wet furniture and furry roommates in the very near future.