HORIZONTAL ACCOUNTING - Strategic Planning for Project Management

In the early days of project management, project management was synonymous with scheduling. Project planning meant simply laying out a schedule with very little regard for costs. After all, we know that costs will change (i.e., most likely increase) over the life of the project and that the final cost will never resemble the original budget. Therefore, why worry about cost control?

Recessions and poor economic times have put pressure on the average company to achieve better cost control. Historically, costs were measured on a vertical basis only. This created a problem in that project managers had no knowledge of how many hours were actually being expended in the functional areas to perform the assigned project activities. Standards were very rarely updated and, if they were, it was usually without the project manager’s knowledge.

Today, methodologies for project management mandate horizontal accounting using earned value measurement techniques. This is extremely important, especially if the project manager has the responsibility for profit and loss. Projects are now controlled through a series of charge numbers or cost account codes assigned to all of the work packages in the WBS.

Strategic planning for cost control on projects is a three-phase effort, as shown in Figures below. The three phases are:

  1. Phase I—Budget-based planning (Figure below): This is the development of a project’s baseline budget and cash flow based upon reasonably accurate historical data. The historical databases are updated at the end of each project.
  2. The evolution of integrated cost-schedule management. Phase I—Budgetbased planning:

    evolution of integrated cost-schedule management. Phase I—Budgetbased planning

  3. Phase II—Cost/performance determination (Figure below): This is where the costs are determined for each work package and where the actual costs are compared against the actual performance in order to determine the true project status.
  4. The evolution of integrated cost-schedule management. Phase II—Cost/performance determination.

    evolution of integrated cost-schedule management. Phase II—Cost/performance determination

  5. Phase III—Updating and reporting (Figure below): This is the preparation of the necessary reports for the project team members, line managers, sponsors, and customer. At a minimum, these reports should address the questions of:
    • Where are we today (time and cost)?
    • Where will we end up (time and cost)?
    • What problems do we have now and will we have in the future, and what mitigation strategies have we come up with?
  6. The evolution of integrated cost-schedule management. Phase III—Updating and reporting.

    evolution of integrated cost-schedule management. Phase III—Updating and reporting

Good methodologies provide the framework for gathering the information to answer these questions.


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