About Total Project Control

This site is dedicated to the exchange and exploration of ideas and techniques that will lead to better project management.

Total project control (TPC) is the main, but not the only, methodology that will underlie the information and discussions on this site. It is a project management method that emphasizes continuous tracking and optimization of ROI. It was developed by Stephen Devaux (aka Steve the Bajan), based on the first edition of his book Total Project Control, published in 1999. The second edition, Total Project Control : A Practitioner's Guide to Managing Projects as Investments, will be published by CRC Press in April 2015 as a practitioner's companion to Managing Projects as Investments: Earned Value to Business Value, published by CRC Press in September 2014.

The TPC methodology is not a heterodox approach but rather is grounded in traditional project management techniques: work breakdown structures, critical path analysis, resource leveling, earned value management. However, in the TPC approach all of these techniques are informed by a new recognition of the essence of every project: all projects are investments, initiated and funded because the business value of their completed scope is expected to be greater than the cost of performing the projects. The difference between the expected value of any investment and the amount that must be invested is the most important metric of any investment: whether called ROI, profit, net present value, or the terms that TPC uses, expected monetary value (EMV) and expected project profit (EPP).

This approach of focusing on the expected value of projects has led to recognition of certain aspects of a project that impact its expected value, and to techniques that can help plan, track and maximize that value. These include:

  1. Project EMV estimation. This is an estimate of the value of the scope of each project. It includes the recognition that certain projects (called enabler projects) can have greatly multiplied value due to the profits that they will ultimately enable from other projects in a program.
  2. Estimates of the value/cost of time on each project. The expected value of almost every project varies according to the timing of its completion and the deployment of its scope. Finishing later than a specific target date usually decreases the expected project profit and finishing earlier usually (but not always!) increases it. Knowledge of the impact of time is crucial information for decision-making on a project.
  3. The Golden Triangle. With both the Scope and the Time sides (as well as Cost) of the triple constraint "Iron Triangle" thus monetized into the Golden Triangle model, the impact of all project decisions can be judged in investment terms. The project can then be planned to maximize expected project profit. Devaux's Index of Project Performance (the DIPP based on this 1992 Project Management Journal article) can be used to track project performance (DIPP = {$EMV +/- $accel or delay} / $Cost estimate-to-complete).
  4. Critical path drag. Since project duration can have a major impact on the expected monetary value of a project, it is important to be able to identify the items that are adding time to the project duration. Every project's duration is exactly equal to its longest path of activities, sprints, stumbles, and constraints (logical, calendar and resource). The TPC methodology has developed the critical path drag metric, a way of measuring how much time each item on the longest path is adding to the project duration. By calculating this new critical path metric (practice exercises for which can be found here), the delaying factors and the amount of their delays can be identified and often alleviated.
  5. Drag cost. The time by which an activity or constraint is delaying project completion is its drag. But the amount by which that additional time is reducing expected project profit is its drag cost. For instance, if the project's expected project profit (EPP) would be $20,000 for each week earlier that it finishes, the drag cost of an activity with two weeks of drag would be $40,000. This information is vital for justifying the resources that could compress the schedule and thus make the project a more profitable investment.

Other TPC metrics and techniques that we will discuss over time include:

  • The value breakdown structure (VBS)
  • The true cost of an activity (TC = drag cost + resource costs)
  • Resource availability drag (RAD)
  • The cost of leveling with unresolved bottlenecks (the CLUB)
  • The doubled resource estimated duration (the DRED, a metric for estimating an activity's resource elasticity)
  • The DIPP Progress Index (DPI, for tracking value during execution)

The blogs will discuss various aspects of these techniques over the coming months. If you want more information faster and in a much more coherent format, both of Devaux's books as well as many of his articles can be found online.


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