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Regarding project management, keeping a close eye on timelines is crucial. 75% of business and IT executives anticipate their software projects will fail. If you are a project manager, you know how important it is to measure and monitor the performance and efficiency of your projects. The Schedule Variance (SV) is a key performance indicator (KPI) that allows project managers to gauge how well a project adheres to its planned schedule. Understanding and utilizing the SV can help you identify delays early on and take action to get your project back on track.

What is the Schedule Variance(SV)?

The Schedule Variance (SV) is a metric used in project management to assess the efficiency and progress of a project in relation to its scheduled timeline. It is part of Earned Value Management (EVM), a technique used for objectively measuring project performance and progress.

Calculating SV with the Formula

To calculate SV, you’ll need to employ the following straightforward formula:


EV (Earned Value) is the budget assigned to the work that has been completed.
PV (Planned Value) is the budgeted amount for the work that was scheduled to be completed by a certain date.

How to Interpret the SV?

Positive SV (SV > 0):

  • Indicates that your project’s earned value (the budgeted cost of the work performed) exceeds the planned value (the budgeted cost of the work scheduled for completion).
  • Suggests that your project is ahead of schedule regarding cost.

Zero SV (SV = 0):

  • Implies that the earned value aligns perfectly with the planned value at a specific point in time..
  • Indicates that your project is precisely on schedule concerning cost.

Negative SV (SV < 0):

  • Indicates that the earned value falls short of the planned value, suggesting that the actual cost of work completed is behind the planned cost.
  • Suggests that your project is behind schedule in terms of cost.

Interpreting SV empowers you as a project manager to understand whether your project is over, under, or precisely meeting its scheduled cost performance at a given point in time. It offers valuable insights into resource utilization efficiency and adherence to the planned cost schedule.


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Example of SV in Action

Imagine you’re managing a software development project where, according to your plan, the design phase budgeted at $50,000 (this represents your Planned Value or PV) should have been completed by the end of the third month. However, due to unforeseen complications, only $40,000 worth of work (your Earned Value or EV) has been accomplished in the design phase.
To calculate the Schedule Variance (SV):
The Schedule Variance (SV) in this scenario is -$10,000.
Interpreting the SV result:

  • A negative SV (-$10,000) indicates that the earned value (actual work completed) is less than the planned value (expected cost of completed work).
  • This suggests that the project is behind schedule in terms of cost, with $10,000 less work completed than planned at that specific point in time.

So, Schedule Variance (SV) reveals the specific cost variance between the planned and actual work completed at a given point in the project timeline.

Some Best Practices and Recommendations for Using as a KPI

  • Use SV along with other KPIs, such as Cost Variance Ratio (CVR), Cost Performance Index (CPI), and Schedule Performance Index (SPI), to get a comprehensive view of the project performance and efficiency.
  • Track and report SV regularly and consistently throughout the project lifecycle and compare it with the baseline and the target values.
  • Analyze the root causes of the SV deviations and implement corrective and preventive actions to address them.
  • Communicate the SV results and actions to the project stakeholders and team members, and solicit their feedback and suggestions.

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Measuring Schedule Variance with OKRs

To bring the above-mentioned best practices into action, you can use OKRs to start measuring the SV immediately. When creating OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) focused on the Schedule Variance(SV) KPI, it’s essential to establish clear, actionable initiatives that support each key result. Below is an example of how OKRs can be structured around SV and specific initiatives to drive the desired outcomes.

Objective: Optimize Project Delivery Timelines through Effective Schedule Management
KR 1:Achieve an SV of at least 1.0, indicating on-schedule or ahead-of-schedule performance.
Initiative: Implement a weekly progress tracking system to monitor EV (Earned Value) against PV (Planned Value) in real-time.
KR 2:Reduce instances of SV falling below 1 to fewer than 5% of all measured activities.
Initiative: Establish a risk management protocol that proactively identifies and mitigates potential delays
KR 3:Improve corrective action response time for schedule variances from a current average of 4 days to 2 days.
Initiative: Create a rapid response team dedicated to addressing schedule variances as soon as they are identified.

Taking Action Based on SV

Identifying a schedule variance is the starting point in effective project management. The real value of this metric comes into play when it prompts deeper inquiry into the reasons behind a project’s current standing. As a project manager, the next critical steps involve investigating the underlying factors contributing to the variance. This means exploring and understanding the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of the project’s progress: why is the project lagging or exceeding its planned schedule, and how can it be adjusted to get back on track? This process may entail thoroughly reviewing resource allocation, identifying and addressing process bottlenecks, or considering external factors influencing the project’s timeline. It’s not just about acknowledging the deviation but actively seeking solutions and strategies to steer the project back towards its scheduled goals, ensuring timely and efficient completion.

Wrapping Up

In conclusion, the Schedule Variance is a potent tool in the project manager’s toolkit. It provides a clear, quantifiable metric that can be easily communicated to stakeholders and team members alike. By regularly calculating SV, you can keep a finger on the pulse of your project’s progress and ensure that you are making informed decisions to steer your project in the direction of success.
Remember, while SV is an excellent indicator of schedule performance, it’s most powerful when used in conjunction with other KPIs, such as Cost Variance (CV) and Schedule Performance Index (SPI), to give a well-rounded view of the project’s health.
So, incorporate the SV into your project management practices and ensure your projects stay on the path to timely completion.

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