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# Understanding the S-Curve Theory for Project Management Monitoring written by: ciel s cantoria edited by: Michele

e McDonough updated: 5/26/2011 This article discusses S-Curve theory and how it is used in project management as a tool for monitoring the growth, progress and performance of ongoing projects. Understand the S-Curve model, its analysis, data and schedules needed to create the graph that reveals deviations from baseline metrics. Introduction to the S-Curve Concept

An understanding of S-Curve theory and its analyses will help learners and team members grasp the importance of monitoring the progress and growth of an ongoing projectat a specific stage or percentage of completion. Outside of the technical jargon, the S-Curve model simply makes use of the projected number of man-hours and costs to complete the project vs. the actual number of hours and costs incurred within the same time frame. The proposed time, man-hour and cost data are referred to as the baseline data. Understanding the S-Curve Model

Simplify Project Planning defineRefine.com/ProjectPlanning Create A Plan That Really Works Download The Workbook, Start Today Ads by Google The S-Curve is a form of mathematical theory, which aims to represent the utilization of resources over the proposed time of the project. Simply stated, the curvature illustrates the side by side comparisons of the actual time and expenditure components vs. the proposed time and costs allocations of specific resources. As a tracking tool, comparisons of different S- Curves against the standard S-Curve help in monitoring the growth or progress of the project. Data that is simultaneously plotted in graph form will clearly present how efficiently the team has performed so far, in accordance with the time or budget limitations. Two or more curved lines running symmetrically should both be flat at the beginning and become

steep in the center and become flat again towards a convergence at the projects completion date. This is how most project timelines would be depicted. In todays highly technological work environment, there are various software-scheduling packages that can automatically generate these S-Curves. However, the matter of understanding the significance of its theory and its analyses is of utmost importance. Image Credit: Coupled S-Curves courtesy of Wikimedia Commons Plotting and Analyzing the S Curves If done accurately, the S-Curve analysis of the "actual progress to-date curve" against the "baseline curve" facilitates the achievement of project goals by providing a warning of any project deviations from the baseline standards. The S-Curve is constructed using the dates on the X-Axis and the calculated values on the Y-Axis and by plotting data extracted from baseline or production schedules for each task. The Necessary Tools The Baseline Schedule: It contains information about the actual start date and finish date as well as the information on proposed man-hours and expenditure allocations. Use the data contained in this schedule to create the Baseline S Curve. The Production Schedule: It contains information of the actual man-hours and expenditures incurred for a particular stage of the project. The Different S-Curve Models and Analysis The Standard S-Curve Metrics: Baseline S-Curve: This is the S-Curve against which all other S-Curves will be compared as it comprises the proposed allocation of expenditures and man hours to be used for the projects completion within a proposed duration. The Growth Metrics this makes use of the Target S-Curve: The Target S-Curve represents the modified Baseline S-Curve figure, inasmuch as the constant monitoring of project performance could result to certain adjustments of the baseline elements. A new standard will then be calculated and becomes the representative of a new set of metrics. They are, however, called target values, to distinguish them from the originally proposed time and costs. As such, these values now represent the new set of metrics after the original baseline was modified. They are applicable as bases for analyses of succeeding work performances after the adjustment cut-off date. Comparisons between the Baseline and the Target curvatures denote growth of the project as far as scope is concerned. Plotting of the Target S-Curve may finish above or below the Baseline S-Curve, in which case: o If the scope increases and the baseline duration or time allotment is fixed, then it is likely that the project will be completed beyond the targeted date. This results to what is called the Project Slippage, or the difference between the targeted finish dates vs. the baseline finish date. o If the scope increases and the baseline costs or proposed costs are fixed, then it is likely that the project will be completed beyond the budgeted costs, which could

o o

result to fewer profits or even potential losses. If the scope decreases and the baseline duration or time allotment is fixed, then it is likely that the project will be completed ahead of the targeted date. If the scope decreases and the baseline costs or proposed costs are fixed, then it is likely that the project will be completed at less than the budgeted costs, which spells greater profits.

The Progress Metrics This is a comparison between the Target S-Curve and the Actual S-Curve, in which the latter is a measure of the actual man-hours and expenditures of a project on a specific completion stage date. Ordinarily, the Actual S-Curve is expected to run below the lines of the Target S-Curve, since the results of constant monitoring entails compliance and observance of the targeted time and costs. Hence, the two curved lines are expected to meet or converge towards the end of the project completion. If the curvatures present a graph where the Actual S-Curve runs open-ended above the Target S Curve as of cut-off monitoring date, consider the possibility of errors in the data contained in the production schedules. A careful review should be made to pinpoint unrealistic values of man-hours and costs incurred for the already completed stage. Image Credit S-curve(Asymmetric).jpg courtesy of Wikimedia Commons Value and Percentage Metrics: o Cost vs. Time S-Curve: This type of analysis is suitable for projects that require both labor and non-labor intensive elements. The main concern here is the cumulative costs at a specific stage of the project and its effect on the cash flow as well as the potential risks of exceeding the allotted costs. Creating the Cost vs. Time S-Curve Use the actual cumulative amount of expenditures incurred from baseline start date to cut-off date of progress stage and compare the S curve created against the Baseline S curve for total cost allotment for the same cut-off date. o Man Hours vs. Time S-Curve : This type of analysis is suitable for projects that are estimated as labor intensive, in which the project manager has to know the cumulative amount of man hours worked at a specific stage of the project. Results of the graph will provide the basis for adjustment, whether there is underperformance that warrants additional labor force or the implementation of closer supervision. Creating the Man Hours vs. Time S-Curve: Use the actual cumulative amount of man-hours worked from baseline start date to cut-off date of progress stage and compare the S curve created against the Baseline S curve for man-hour allotment

for the same cut-off date. As a note, the models and analyses can be used to monitor the different phases or tasks of a project. Since time is of the essence, the convenience of using the most appropriate and multi-faceted project management software allows the application of this theory for different project management scenarios. We Also Recommend... What Is Project Slippage? A Project Manager's Guide to Scheduling Tools & Techniques Least Squares Regression Analysis Can Help Projects Comprehensive Guide to Project Budgeting and Costing for Project Management Learners Fuzzy Regression Analysis for Fuzzy Data What others are reading Who Was Supposed to Turn the Lights Out? Keeping Track of Your Project's Action Items in Excel Understanding the S-Curve Theory for Project Management Monitoring Need to Confirm a Meeting? Free Tips and Examples that Work! Illustrate Workflow Process With a Swim Lane Diagram The Project Management Life Cycle - Successfully Guide Your Projects to Completion Using Excel to Monitor Production Downtime Project Communication Tips: Nonverbal Communication in Different Cultures Written Root Cause Analysis Example Example of Stakeholder Analysis Looking at the Benefits of TQM Related Topics: Agile Project Management Change Management Methods & Ideologies Monitoring a Project PM Certification PM Software Reviews & Tips PM Templates & Forms Project Planning Resource Management Risk Management Six Sigma

## HOW TO PREVENT PROJECT SLIPPAGE

Definition Of Slippage Project slippage is the time a project is late compared to the initial schedule baseline. Slippage can also be defined as the variation between the planned dates of a project starting and finishing. Slippage may take place when initiation of activities on the planned start dates is delayed and not controlled. Project slippage is a great concern for the project team, sponsor, and stakeholders. Therefore, concerted efforts are essential for its prevention. Slippage can produce harmful effects, like additional cost of human resources or poor organization reputation. Image Credit: morguefile.com/deanjenkins Prevention Of Slippage Slippage may be prevented by careful planning, executing, monitoring, and control efforts. The following actions may be useful in this regard: Sap Excel Download www.smartexporter.de/en Export data from SAP and analyze tax-relevant data. Quickly & easily Ads by Google Proper Resources Just what is project slippage? Generally, slippage occurs when appropriate resources, in number and quantity, are not provided to a project. The requirements of resources are accurately determined by the project team using the applicable tools, and efforts should be made for their provision. Strictly Follow The Project Plan The other general cause for project slippage is not strictly following the project plan. Activities are added to the project scope that result in an increase in cost, and slippage is likely to occur. Risk Management Risk management should be properly executed, including a proper risk identification, their qualitative and quantitative analysis, and suitable risk response plans. The risks should be monitored and controlled by assessing the existing risks as well as identification of new risks during the project execution. The new risks that are identified should also be analyzed qualitatively and quantitatively. Monte Carlo simulation software may be used for the conduct of Monte Carlo method risk analysis. This process is a fast and economical technique for risk quantification. It has been used by NASA and other important organizations in the world. Motivation To Vendors Generally, the supplies are delayed by the vendors engaged in a project, due to which timely execution of the activities is not possible. Therefore, efforts should be undertaken to motivate the vendors for delivery of their supplies in accordance with the schedule that has been agreed. An incentive clause may be included in their contract that involves additional payment if the supplies are delivered in accordance with the schedule. The vendor will therefore be motivated to ensure timely provision of the supplies. Suitable Methodology Suitable methodologies may be used that assist to track, review, and regulate progress. Variations in cost or schedule are indicated that can be controlled by the project management team. Useful

methodologies include construction cost estimating software, budget spread sheet, and primavera project management software like Primavera P6. Joint Application Development, generally called JAD sessions, may be conducted for the preparation of project plans, where JAD facilitation is the responsibility of a coordinator. Project delays cost project increase in organization. Therefore, efforts should be undertaken for the completion of activities in accordance with the schedule. Use Of S-Curves S-curves are considered to be an essential tool in projects. They permit tracking of project progress over time. They facilitate the identification of slippage and other likely issues that may seriously affect the project. A realistic assessment of the real S-curve and the planned S-curve will indicate the project progress and the variations. Normally, in most projects that are not properly planned and executed, the real S-curve will be under the planned S-curve. This indicates project slippage. We Also Recommend... Helpful Tips to Manage Project Slippage The Requirements for Closing Out Your Project Understand the Necessity for Internal Audit Project Deliverables Introducing a Weekly Time Tracking System: Do You Simply Impose it? Better Project Status Tracking: Top 10 Tips for Project Teams

USING S-CURVES
Why Use an S-curve? S-curves are an important project management tool. They allow the progress of a project to be tracked visually over time, and form a historical record of what has happened to date. Analyses of Scurves allow project managers to quickly identify project growth, slippage, and potential problems that could adversely impact the project if no remedial action is taken. Determining Growth Comparison of the Baseline and Target S-curves quickly reveals if the project has grown (Target Scurve finishes above Baseline S-curve) or contracted (Target S-curve finishes below Baseline Scurve) in scope. A change in the project's scopes implies a re-allocation of resources (increase or decrease), and the very possible requirement to raise contract variations. If the resources are fixed, then the duration of the project will increase (finish later) or decrease (finish earlier), possibly leading to the need to submit an extension of time claim.

Figure 6: Calculating Project Growth using S-curves Determining Slippage Slippage is defined as: "The amount of time a task has been delayed from its original baseline schedule. The slippage is the difference between the scheduled start or finish date for a task and the baseline start or finish date. Slippage can occur when a baseline plan is set and the actual dates subsequently entered for tasks are later than the baseline dates or the actual durations are longer than the baseline schedule durations". [2] Comparison of the Baseline S-curve and Target S-curve quickly reveals any project slippage (i.e. the Target S-curve finishes to the right of the Baseline S-curve). Additional resources will need to be allocated or additional hours worked in order to eliminate (or at least reduce) the slippage. An extension of time claim may need to be submitted if the slippage cannot be eliminated or reduced to an acceptable level.

Figure 7: Calculating Project Slippage using S-curves Determining Progress Comparison of the Target S-curve and Actual S-curve reveals the progress of the project over time. In most cases, the Actual S-curve will sit below the Target S-curve for the majority of the project (due to many factors, including delays in updating the production schedule). Only towards the end of the project will the curves converge and finally meet. The Actual S-curve can never finish above the Target S-curve. If the Actual S-curve sits above the Target S-curve at the Cut Off Date, the Production Schedule should be examined to determine if the project is truly ahead of schedule, or if the Production Schedule contains unrealistic percentage complete values for ongoing tasks.