To be (or not to be) Integrated Project Management

At the last meeting of the NDIA Project Management Systems Committee the group voted overwhelmingly to rename itself the Integrated Program Management Division.  This is a significant shift in the thinking of industry and government when it comes to project management, though it may not have been fully comprehended by all attendees at the time.  From my discussions with colleagues many believe that earned value management (EVM) is the basis for integrated project management, but I will have to respectfully disagree.  EVM is an assessment technique that may or may not be the basis for integration but that is orders of magnitude from stating that EVM is the basis for integration.  So what is the basis?

The basis for all project planning is, well, the PLAN.  That is, in formal parlance, the integrated master plan or–using standard acronym–the IMP.  Yet this document garners only a passing reference in the scheduling guide for project management; and as a voluntary artifact at that.  This forms the basis for the integrated master schedule (IMS).  And yes, I know that I have not touched on estimates in forming the plan and whether they will be bottom-up or top-down, whether the schedule is resource-loaded, where rates are applied, how the time-phasing of cost is measured, and how technical performance–another topic that has recently gained new life–is taken into account.  But here is where the discussion begins.

Notice that I have yet to mention EVM.  It, of course, is part of project performance assessment built off of all of these antecedent systems.  It may very well turn out that EVM is the appropriate intersection of IPM in terms of performance and assessment, but there are also other leading edge indicators based on schedule, technical performance, and the time-phased plan that are yet to be taken into account.

My own opinion is that true integrated project management follows the course of estimate to IMP to IMS to resources to cost management, including risk-adjusted time-phasing, and project performance measures that include contributions from EVM, schedule, risk, and technical performance.  We may find that there are also contributors from the other five business systems identified by DoD for assessment by DCAA and DCMA.  To date the approach has been to apply the rule as a means of withholding funds from a contract where the systems are deemed inadequate, but a more pro-active approach that includes self-assessment and measurement of project impact would militate against withholds and cause the desired improvement in business processes desired by DoD.