Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, New Mexico
From Financial Tracking to Financial Management
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:
- Defend what we were and were not able to do given limited
funding and resources, and
- Measure how we were performing on the work that we were doing.
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,
- 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
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.