Work Break down Structure (WBS) using MS project and chart pro

Work Break down Structure (WBS) is a deliverable orientated sub task/activity/goal of a project that is defined in a hierarchical way. Typically the WBS consist the organized task list, estimated time and the resources assigned/required for each tasks. It is very good way to communicate scope and deliverables of the project to stakeholder. Breaking down any project in to smaller components, makes it more manageable. As because, WBS consist the basic information of the project objectives, it becomes easier for the stakeholders to understand the scope and goal of the project.


WBS is absolutely necessary for the success of a project. As soon as we have the basic information and understanding to the project, we should start building the WBS. As stated earlier, breaking down a project in smaller pieces turns the project more manageable. However, it is always recommended to keep focus on project deliverables instead of activities while creating a work breakdown structure. Focusing on activities/actions will end you up with a large and unmanageable WBS.


Following example shows the steps to create WBS using MS project 2003 and Chart pro 4.7. Though MS project comes with number of tools and adds-on for presenting WBS, but I prefer to use chart pro. Chart Pro is an excellent tool to present WBS in more presentable and informative way. It can integrate with MS project and exchange data bi-directionally. So the step one is to have the project plan ready with tasks, subtasks, schedule and resources. Your project should look like following in Gantt chart view…

Then run WBS chart pro from your start menu. Go to Tools – Microsoft Project – Display WBS chart of active project

There are numbers of view available that can be accessed from View – views. Also same can be navigated from tool bar using navigation buttons. I took “Critical Path View 2” and my WBS chart looks like following

In this chart, there are number of information like Task Name, Start and End Date, Duration, Progress available. However, to add more information like resource name in the bottom of each task box, select a task box – go to format menu – Text Boxes. Following dialog box will appear.

Select the last cell in task box and click on Insert Below button in the left, it will insert two cells in the bottom to task box, select both then turn the “Merge Cell” check box on. Go to the field dropdown in the bottom and select resource names then Ok. Your WBS will look like this…..

Other features in chart pro are available to make your chart more attractive and informative.

That’s all folks.

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Calculating Earned Value in Microsoft Project

In this example I tried to show how to calculate earned value using MS-Project. Expecting the reader has sufficient knowledge on Earned Value Analysis and familiar with Microsoft project 2003.

Let’s take the example that I used in my other writing “Earned Value Analysis”, i.e. rolling out data network in remote office. A $30,000 project targeted to finish by eight weeks.

Well to get earned value metrics form your ms project work you need to do following tasks in sequential order

  • Have the resources name and their cost.
  • Assign resources to the tasks.
  • Save the baseline.
  • Work on the project and enter actual schedule and actual completion of the work
  • Check the EVA metric from the earned value view or reports

For this example, I put following example data in my Gantt Chart, entry view

Gantt Chart Entry View

Next, enter the resource information in resource sheet. To get resource sheet, select view menu – resource sheet. There are two types of resources in MS project, i.e. work and material. Work resources are human and materials that consumes time to get a task down. Whereas materials are consumable supplies, i.e. data cable, router, switch.

Resource Sheet

Now I have my primary data ready. I know the tasks and timeline at the same time I have the arms, ammunitions and mercenaries ready to accomplished the tasks. Next assign tasks to the resources.

To do that, click on the icon Assign Resources from standard toolbar.

Assign Task

After assigning the resources if you want to see the overall project costing or cost per task, do following

  • Split the window by selecting windows menu à split
  • Go back to Gantt Chart  – > entry view using view menu i.e. Select view -> Gantt Chart, again Select view -> Table -> Entry.
  • Select view -> Task Usage In lower window

Split View

You can take different combination of views for both windows to get clear idea about the data in your project.

As the base information is ready, the next step is to baseline the project plan. Saving the project baseline is an important step because later on you will be referring to this baseline with your actual cost and schedule to measure and manage your project.

To save the project baseline, follow these steps:

  • Select Tools – Tracking – Save Baseline
  • In the appeared Dialog box, select the Save Baseline radio button
  • Select the Entire Project radio button.

Save Base Line

Now go back to Gantt chart entry view and make some changes in the schedule of work progress as like entering the actual data. In real word team started working on the project, start updating the project with actual data.

Now time to compare the actual data with baseline and get the earned value metrics.  Both earned value view and reports are available for that.

To get earned value view, select view – Table – More table.  Select Earned Value from more table dialog box

Earned Table View

And you get your all earned value metrics.

Earned Value Metrics

Earned Value
Field Name


BCWS Budgeted cost   of work scheduled or Planned Value
BCWP Budgeted cost   of work produced or Earned Value
ACWP Actual Cost of Work Produced or Actual Cost
SV Schedule Variance
CV Cost Variance
EAC Estimate at Complete
BAC Budget at Complete
VAC Variance at Complete

That’s all folks…………

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Earned Value Analysis…..

If you are managing project or studying project management books you must have heard the magic word of “Earned Value Analysis.” What exactly is it? According to PMBOK earned value analysis is “an objective method to measure project performance in terms of scope, time and cost.”

Hmmm, a bit dry theoretical line…. lets dig it down… Earned Value Analysis (EVA) is a collection of few formulas and some simple math. It is nothing but an excellent technique that helps you assess your project health and at the same time gives you option to apply number of measurement to manage your project. EVA is also an effective way to present overall budget and schedule status to the management or customer.

Project health depends on time, cost and scope which often call as “Triple Constrain”. In project reporting, project manager prepares a report of overall project status by summarizing the status of time, cost and scope. Usually traffic light status approach is use to identify trouble points that need management or customer’s attention. The problem with this approach is it gets created more on perception and influence than any objective metrics. A project report with red status might become yellow or even green in next review meeting. In worse case a project with all green status might become red before launching date.

Earned Value Analysis evaluates the project health in a certain point of time using earned value metrics. To get the earned value metrics you need to have answer of following

  • How much work did your plan to complete? (Planned Value)
  • How much work did you actually complete? (Earned Value)
  • How much did it cost to complete the work? (Actual Cost)

Planned Value (PV) represents the budgeted cost of all the activities that were planned to start and finish at this point of time

Earned Value (EV) represents the total cost of all the activities that been completed at this point of time.

Actual Cost (AC) is the actual cost of the work produced.

Please remember EVA is based off original project budget.  Let’s take EVA in action.

Assume a small eight weeks data network rollout in a remote office is budgeted for $30,000. While reporting in fifth week, project manager find out the team has only completed 50% of the work, where they suppose of complete 62.5% by that time. He also noticed that the team has spent $25,000 to date on the project. What is the status of the project?

In this example planned value is % planned to complete * project budget, i.e.

PV = 62.5% * $30,000 = $18,750

where earned value is % actual complete * project budget, i.e.

EV  = 50% * $30,000 = $15,000

And the actual cost is

AC = $25,000

With these metrics we determine the cost variance (CV) and schedule variance (SV). CV measures the actual value of the work performed to the project value and SV measures the actual project progress to the schedule. These variances comes from two simple formulas

CV = EV – AC  => $15,000 – $25,000 = – $10,000

SV = EV – PV  => $15,000 – $18,750 = – $3,750

So both the variances are coming in negative figure that points the project is over the budget and behind the schedule. A positive variance indicates cost saving or schedule efficiency. So the project manager always want to keep the variance either zero or greater.

By reviewing these variances a project manager can prepare his next action i.e. fast track, crashing or extend schedule, ask for extra budget or reduce scope.

However two more indexes are needed to communicate the status to stakeholders that are cost performance index (CPI) and schedule performance index (SPI). These indexes are very helpful to do an objective assessment of the project health and determine the estimate at completion (EAC). CPI is a measure of project’s earned value compared to actual cost incurred and SPI is a measure of actual progress of a project to the project schedule.

CPI = EV/AC  => $15,000/$25,000  = 0.6

SPI = EV/PV  => $15,000/$18,750  = 0.8

Both numbers are less than one thus indicates the project’s budget and schedule need to be analyzed. However, if the project continues to perform in such rate, what would be the project’s revised budget? To calculate the estimate to completion (EAC), we need to divide the original budget by CPI

EAC = BAC / CPI  => $30,000/0.6 =  $50,000

Now we have all the calculative values to replace the traffic lights while presenting project status to the management or customer.

That’s all folks…….

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