It entails finding the difference between the earned value and the actual cost of a single project phase or time period — without taking into account previous or future variances. A big part of project cost control is figuring out how much the actual cost deviated from the cost baseline and what caused the variance. Cost variance is a powerful measurement for project cost control as it shows us whether we’re on the right track regarding our expenses.

Throughout the life of a project, project managers check in on progress and compare it to the project plan—comparing their predictions to reality. If they don’t do this regularly, odds are the budget will suffer and their project will fail entirely. Luckily, these deviances from the plan, such as cost variance, don’t have to sink a project. For example, if the actual cost is lower than the standard cost for raw materials, assuming the same volume of materials, it would lead to a favorable price variance (i.e., cost savings).

  • Throughout the life of a project, you’ll want to have each of these cost variance formulas at your disposal.
  • Labor cost variance is the difference between budgeted and actual costs for direct labor.
  • Quantity standards indicate how much labor (i.e., in hours) or materials (i.e., in kilograms) should be used in manufacturing a unit of a product.
  • The cost variance formula helps us determine the difference between the budgeted cost of work performed (BCWP) and the actual cost of work performed (ACWP).

While this was a straight forward cost variance analysis, some of them aren’t so easy. In an ideal world, the EV and the AC would be identical because that would mean you were spending as much value as was being earned. However, nonrecurring items definition in real life it’s likely they will be a little different because of how equipment and time is booked and paid for. The challenge for you as the project manager is to reconcile the variance with what is acceptable.

Cost Variance – Earned Value Management

Its core purpose is to project if there will be a budget deficit or surplus at the project’s end. Most of the time, the values we use to calculate cumulative CV are for consecutive timeframes. We essentially want to know how much we’ve gone over budget (if at all) up to a certain point in time.

The variance at completion is the cumulative cost variance at the end of the project. The calculation parameters are the budget at completion (BAC) and the actual or estimated cost at completion (EAC). The VAC is often used as a measure of the forecasting techniques – you will find more details in this article on the estimate at completion (EAC). Variance analysis can be summarized as an analysis of the difference between planned and actual numbers.

  • These cost variances send a signal to management that the company is experiencing actual costs that are different from the company’s plan.
  • The cost variance should be analyzed in conjunction with the schedule variance (SV), which tells you how far ahead or behind schedule the project is.
  • Cost variances can be a result of various issues and changing circumstances.
  • Harold Averkamp (CPA, MBA) has worked as a university accounting instructor, accountant, and consultant for more than 25 years.
  • However, that rarely happens as not every project always goes according to plan.

If the risk management work has not been costed effectively, those actions could be eating into your budget. It’s possible that a few additions to scope have sneaked in without going through the proper process. If that has happened, it’s likely that the baseline and the cost forecast are no longer aligned. All three methods use the same formula, but they apply the calculation differently in order to determine different things. A work breakdown structure (WBS) is just what it says it is — it is a breakdown of everything you need to do for the project to complete it.

What is Variance Analysis?

Simply put, earned value is the monetary value of the accomplished work at a given point in time. Be sure every project requirement has been identified, documented, and confirmed with all necessary parties. Ready to apply your CV formula and Project Cost Management knowledge to some sample PMP exam questions? As a potential PMP credential holder, calculating CV is just the first step. Interpreting your results is the next step and will tell you if you are over, under, or on budget. Harold Averkamp (CPA, MBA) has worked as a university accounting instructor, accountant, and consultant for more than 25 years.

You are a project manager with a $100,000 budget and 12 months to complete the project. You’ve spent $60,000 for six months but have only completed 40% of the job. To determine whether you are now above or under budget, apply the cost variance calculation. The actual expense is $60k, while the value achieved is $40,000 (40% of $100k). The cost variance formula is a simple one, which is part of its strength.

How to calculate cost variance in project management

Incorporating some of the suggestions above will help minimize fluctuations in budgeting. Previously known as Budgeted Cost of Work Performed (BCWP), Earned Value is the amount of the task that is actually completed. People in 100+ countries use this software to keep their cost variances positive and their projects on budget. After all, all of these project-based companies are running business which need to make profits, and predictable and well formulated cost variances  increase the chances that every project will turn a profit. Understanding a projects cost variance enables a company to gauge project performance during the course of a project. Estimating the project budget at the beginning of the project and then seeing where the costs landed at the end of the project is a great way to blow a budget.

The Advantages of Using Earned Value Management

Cost Variance (CV) determines how much a project has spent in relation to its budget and the difference between what was planned to be spent and what was actually spent at a certain time. It’s the difference between the Budgeted Cost of Work Performed (BCWP) and the Actual Cost of Work Performed (ACWP). Cost variance is one of those terms that is commonly used in the business world.

Cost variance definition

It’s the project manager’s job to take all of these costs into account and create a flexible budget. This means that the total costs that have been incurred so far exceed the
earned value by 30. Adding these two variables together, we get an overall variance of $3,000 (unfavorable). Although price variance is favorable, management may want to consider why the company needs more materials than the standard of 18,000 pieces. It may be due to the company acquiring defective materials or having problems/malfunctions with machinery.

When you’re managing a project, calculate cost variance periodically in order to determine whether your project is staying on or under budget. You can even calculate individual variances for different budget categories, like labor or supplies, in order to find areas that are most likely to push a project over budget. There are four variations of the cost variance formula used in earned value management (EVM). Each of these variance equations solves for different values, so it’s very important to understand all of them and what exactly they show.