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Client: Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, New Mexico
Project: From Financial Tracking to Financial Management

Background

In many organizations, project management means financial tracking. Managers are given funding to perform a task and they track their progress as if they were driving a car. They speed up when they're under-running and slam on the breaks when they're overrunning. As long as they arrive at their destination on budget, everyone is satisfied. The fact that the "destination" wasn't clearly defined at the outset or that the project was completed six months too late doesn't always add to the measure of success.

This is the situation in which the Environment, Safety and Health Division of Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) found itself when budgets began shrinking. To prioritize work and use limited funding most effectively and efficiently, our customers (facilities throughout LANL) began demanding to know what was being done and when the work would be completed. We had no way to objectively respond to such requests. In addition, we needed to be able to:

  1. Defend what we were and were not able to do given limited funding and resources, and
  2. Measure how we were performing on the work that we were doing.

AMS Solution

AMS REALTIME Projects provided the foundation for us to work toward integrating scope, schedule and budget data into a single project management system that answers these questions. Among its many features, there are four AMS REALTIME tools that we use extensively.

  • Attaching Documents to Activities -- We are associating narrative work scope and status with scheduled activities.
  • Elements of Cost -- Maintaining connections to the financial data was critical for getting managers to integrate scope and schedule information with the more familiar cost tracking. We designed an 'Elements of Cost' table that is compatible with LANL's financial system, but summarizes financial data to an appropriate level of detail for managing a project. It calculates burdens and is used to prepare cost estimates, forecast the cost to complete, and import actual costs at summary levels.
  • Translate Utility -- We use the Generic and FoxPro translators to import actual costs into projects in AMS REALTIME Projects, ensuring accuracy.
  • Custom Report Writing -- To ease the transition from strictly financial reporting to both schedule and cost, we created reports that emphasize cost data by placing it at the top of the report, followed by schedule information. We also eliminated the need to understand acronyms by changing the terminology on the reports from BCWS, BCWP and ACWP to Planned, Work Performed, and Actual Cost, respectively.

Although change is always slow, we're showing progress. Managers are using AMS REALTIME Projects to plan and track their work - including scope and schedule as well as cost. More importantly, they are using it to prioritize work based on available funding and resources, to measure performance, and to anticipate and justify changes.

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