Schedule Variance and Cost Variance are two important parameters in earned value management, helping you analyze the project’s progress, i.e. how are you performing in terms of schedule and cost.

In my previous blog posts I have discussed earned value management and its three basic elements.

If you have not read these blog posts, I suggest you read them first, then come back to this post. In this post I will discuss Schedule Variance and Cost Variance, which are determined with the help of earned value, planned value and actual cost.

Let us start with an example:

Suppose you are managing a construction project, and the client comes and asks you to update him about the current status and progress of the project.

What does the client mean by asking for the status and progress of the project?

How will you get this information?

The client is asking about the cost incurred to date, work completed, and how the project is performing in terms of cost and schedule. Put more simply, the client is asking you to provide him with the project’s earned value, planned value, actual cost, Schedule Variance, and Cost Variance.

Earned value is the value of the work actually completed to date, planned value is the money that you should have spent as per the schedule, and actual cost is the amount spent on the project to date

Schedule Variance helps determine if you are behind or ahead of schedule, and Cost Variance helps determine if you are under budget or over budget. These variances give you important information about the project’s progress, and it is your job to monitor these variances regularly.

Variance analysis is a key to the success of any project. A successful project must finish on time and within the approved budget. With the help of these variances, you can easily monitor your project performance and take corrective action whenever required. Variance analysis will inform you if you are going in the correct direction or not.

**Schedule Variance (SV)**

It is very important for you to keep your project on schedule. Not only does it help you complete your project on time, but it also helps you avoid unnecessary cost overruns due to slippage of schedule, because as you go over the stipulated time, your costs start rising exponentially.

For example: you have rented some equipment for a specified duration of time. However, if you need this equipment for some additional time, and you may end up paying more because the equipment may not be available at the previously negotiated price, or you may need to rent this equipment from other suppliers on an urgent, short term contract at a higher price.

Schedule Variance is a very important analytical tool for you. This tool gives you information needed to determine if you are ahead of schedule or behind the schedule in terms of dollars.

**Formula for Schedule Variance (SV)**

Schedule Variance can be calculated by subtracting planned value from earned value.

Schedule Variance = Earned Value – Planned Value

SV = EV – PV

From the above formula, we can conclude that:

- If Schedule Variance is positive, this means you are ahead of schedule.
- If Schedule Variance is negative, this means you are behind schedule.
- If Schedule Variance is zero, this means you are on schedule.
- When the project is completed Schedule Variance becomes zero, because at the end of the project all Planned Value has been earned.

**Example of Schedule Variance (SV)**

*You have a project to be completed in 12 months and the cost of the project is 100,000 USD. Six months have passed and 60,000 USD has been spent, but on closer review you find that only 40% of the work has been completed so far.*

*Find the project’s Schedule Variance (SV), and determine if you are ahead of schedule or behind schedule.*

Given in the question:

Actual Cost (AC) = 60,000 USD

Planned Value (PV) = 50% of 100,000

= 50,000 USD

Earned Value (EV) = 40% of 100,000

= 40,000 USD

Now,

Schedule Variance = Earned Value – Planned Value

= 40,000 – 50,000

= – 10,000 USD

The project’s Schedule Variance is -10,000 USD, and since it is negative, you are behind schedule.

**Cost Variance (CV)**

Cost Variance is as important as Schedule Variance. You must complete your project within the approved budget. Exceeding planned budget is bad for you and your stakeholders.

It is all about the money, and clients are very cautious about what they are spending. Organizations are sensitive towards it because any deviation from the cost baseline can affect their profit, and, worst case, they may have to put more money into the project to complete it. This is especially detrimental if the contract is fixed price.

Cost Variance deals with the cost baseline of the project. It provides you with information about whether you are over budget or under budget, in terms of dollars. Cost Variance is a measure of cost performance of a project.

**Formula for Cost Variance (CV)**

Cost Variance can be calculated by subtracting actual cost from earned value.

Cost Variance = Earned Value – Actual Cost

CV = EV – AC

From the above formula, we can conclude that,

- If Cost Variance is positive, this means you are under budget.
- If Cost Variance is negative, this means you are over budget.
- If Cost Variance is zero, this means you are on budget.

**Example of Cost Variance (CV)**

*You have a project to be completed in 12 months and the cost of the project is 100,000 USD. Six months have passed and 60,000 USD has been spent, but on closer review you find that only 40% of the work has been completed so far.*

*Find the project’s Cost Variance (CV), and determine if you are under budget or over budget.*

Given in the question:

Actual Cost (AC) = 60,000 USD

Earned Value (EV) = 40% of $100,000

= 40,000 USD

Now,

Cost Variance = Earned Value – Actual Cost

CV = EV – AC

= 40,000 – 60,000

= –20,000 USD

Hence, the project’s Cost Variance is -20,000 USD, and since it is negative, you are over budget.

**Summary**

Schedule Variance and Cost Variance are great tools to analyze project health. If both variances are positive, this means that your project is progressing well. However, if either variance is negative, this means that something is wrong and you have to take corrective action to bring the project back on track.

This concludes my review of Schedule Variance and Cost Variance. If you have something to add, you can do so through the comments section. You can now move on to my next blog post on Schedule Performance Index and Cost Performance Index.

If you are interested in learning all the mathematical formulas for the PMP exam, you can try my PMP Formula Guide. You can also try my PMP Question Bank to practice 400 PMP exam sample questions.

**Reply to Mr. Ravindra’s Comment:**

I miscalculated it.

Please find the correct calculation as follows:

Cost Variance is lower than the Schedule Variance; i.e.

CV < SV

EV – AC <EV – PV (

in my earlier explanation I miss-typed it as EV – PV < EV – AC)-AC < -PV

AC > PV

Hence, A can not be correct. C is the correct answer.

If you are interested in learning all mathematical formulas for the PMP exam, you can try my PMP Formula Guide to learn and practice more mathematical questions.

Pershant says

It was really helpful and it helped me in grasping the concept of variances , thnkyou for sharing

Fahad Usmani says

You are welcome.

peter yocote says

I dont think that at completion SV = 0, in your example, at month 6, 40% of the work was done but it should be 50%, so we got SV = -10,000.

What would happen if at month 9, 100% of the work was completed? EV=100,000 and PV=75,000 then SV = 25,000 at completion!

Also if at month 12 only 70% of the work is done, we’ll have PV= 100,000 and EV=70,000 then SV=-30,000!

Could you please clarify?

(would I receive an email with the answer? or do I have to come here everyday?)

Fahad Usmani says

Once the project is completed, this mean all planned value has been earned,

i.e. EV = PV

The rest you can calculate with substituting data in the formula.

Reshma says

Dear Fahad,

I have a query here. Why will EV be = to PV. Planned Value is what we expected & Earned is what has happened. So in the 1st example where 100% work is done in 9 months, EV is 100000 but since we planned to complete 75%, PV is 75000. So SV = 25000 which means as put forth in theory we have completed project ahead of schedule & months wise we have saved 3 months. At the same time it means we have not really calculated well since we considered 3 more months for completion. Ideal scenario would have been if we would have completed this work in 12 months. EV would have been equal to PV then. Isn’t this the way it should be.

EV can’t be equal to PV in most cases and that is what we intend to find. This 25000 gives us that clarity. So why should we have EV = PV if project has been completely done or why is that even really required. Planned value has been earned since Planned is less than Earned here but the purpose is to find the issue & then target why there was a variation. So why compel EV to be equal to PV when ideally it is +ve.

Like if it would have been reverse eg :EV = 90000 in 12th month but PV = 120000. Then we would say SV = -30000 which would have meant we are behind schedule & would take 2-3 months more to finish the project.

Can you please guide !!

Regards,

Reshma

Fahad Usmani says

When the project end how much value is remain to be earned? Nothing, this means all project work is complete and everything is earned. That is why when the project ends, EV = PV.

Reginald Smith says

Completely disagree. Your argument makes no sense mathematically which in turn makes no sense from a PMP perspective.

Fahad Usmani says

What is your point?

KK says

my question is on the effect of CV. The blog says is CV > 1 then its Under Budget. Lets see if the below makes sense:

BAC (Total Budget) = 10,000 USD.

As of now the project is completed with a total cost of 9,000 USD. So AC = 9,000.

Since 100% of work is completed, EV = (100%) * BAC = BAC = 10,000

CV = EV – AC = 1,000. In layman terms, I budgeted for 10,000 and finished the wok in 9,000 which is good and I save 1,000. Shouldn’t this mean, my Budget Estimate was more than the actual. And so if CV > 1 is actually good.

Sorry, somehow, I am unable to digest how the CV > 1 is not always good and means under budget

Fahad Usmani says

This means your budget calculation was wrong and you must correct it as soon as you discover it.

Amir Arif says

Technically speaking, an under budget project (CV>1) is a good thing. But, as a planner, it is a bad thing that you kept more budget for a project which actually costed less. In this way, you are actually showing bad estimation and planning capability.

Besides, you have to understand that under budget or over budget is the status of the project at that certain point of evaluation of status. If you are saving a thousand dollars from a project, it is a good thing for the sponsor but bad thing for you as a person who keeps his estimates on a higher end with too much buffer.

Fahad Usmani says

If you are consistently very under budget this means something wrong with your estimate and you need to re-look it.

Clem says

Pretty useful. I have never seen previously scary arithmetic concepts made so simple. Indeed simply demystefied

Thanks. I doff my hat.

And come to think of it? Its free and I have paid a lot of money to learn these concepts at the Masters Level?

Fahad Usmani says

I’m glad Clem I could be of some help to you.

Ravindra says

Fahad,

Can you help answering this test question:

What would be the best explanation for the following: both the cost variance and schedule variance are negative, but the cost variance is lower than the schedule variance.

A) the project activities look longer than expected, but costs were lower

B) the project over spent due to increased costs and yet completed some activities faster

C) the project underspent because all work was not completed but overspent for work that was done.

D) the project underspent because costs were lower than planned and activities were easier to complete than planned.

Fahad Usmani says

As per your first statement, both variances are negative, it means your project is over budget and you are behind your schedule.

Now come to second point.

Cost Variance is lower than Schedule Variance; i.e.

CV < SVEV - PV < EV - AC- PV < - ACAC < PVIt means that Actual Cost is less than the Planned Cost.Now we can say that, project is behind the schedule or taking longer time than than expected and actual costs were lower than the planned cost.Therefore, in your given option, I think that 'A' is correct answer.

TEJAL says

hi,

you have interchanged the formula for CV and SV

CV = EV- AC

SV = EV-PV

Cost Variance is lower than Schedule Variance; i.e.

CV < SV

EV-AC < EV-PV

-AC<-PV

PV<AC

planned value is less than actual cost so the answer should be B

Fahad Usmani says

Hello Tejal,

There was some error with the commenting system causing signs to appear wrongly, that is why I have written this comment again, just after the end of the blog post. You can check it at the end of this blog post.

Ravindra says

I had come to the conclusion of ‘A’. Unfortunately the correct answer was “C”. Following was the given explanation :

Remember, for variances, negative is bad. In this situation, both the variances are negative. To answer the question, first look at which of the four choices exhibit negative variances for both cost and schedule. Since the project underspent because all work was not completed, but overspent for work that was done, both the cost and schedule variances are negative.

Fahad Usmani says

I miscalculated it.

Please find the correct calculation as follows:

Cost Variance is lower than the Schedule Variance; i.e.

‘CV < SV''EV - AC PV’

Hence, A can not be correct. C is the correct answer.

Sorry for giving you wrong answer.

(Anyway, if the Cost Variance would have been more than the Schedule Variance then “A” was the correct answer.)

Fahad Usmani says

I just noticed that content of this comment is not appearing as I have written. Some texts are gone missing causing it confusing.

I tried to correct it but failed; therefore, I am posting this comment again at the bottom of this post. Please go there and find the correct explanation.

Arturo says

Hey Ravindra,

if you have the correct response for an answer but you do not understand it, I think the clean way to act is to make the open consult of your doubt providing with the complete information to the expert.

Please, let me know if you agree, thank you.

Arturo

Reshma says

Can you please elaborate on how answer is C. I understood the calculation but am not able to apply the same to these set of choices. I am not able to understand how we chose C based on equation AC > PV.

Also i am unable to understand these choices including choice C. Can these choices be explained a little in detail please.

Fahad Usmani says

I have explained it at the below of my blog post. You can read it at the end of this blog post.

Fardin Shaikh says

Can anyone explain me this scenario.

Planned Star Date = 1 March 2013

Planned End Date = 10 March 2013

Actual Start Date = 5 March 2013

Actual End Date = 15 March 2013

In both condition the time taken in 10 days only, but will this be considered in Schedule Variance as we have delayed the delivery? Kindly provide a concrete solution.

Fahad Usmani says

Based on these parameters, Schedule Variance can not be calculated.

Marius Voitek says

Why Not?

I’m having the same dilemma…

Fahad Usmani says

In fact once the task is completed, this means all planned value has been earned; i.e. schedule variance will be zero.

Akhilesh says

I agree with Fahad there is no schedule variance in this case.

-Akhilesh

Jaggu says

May I know the formula for % of schedule and cost variance.

Fahad Usmani says

Once you have have the EV and CV you can calculate the % of completion.

Iva says

Fahad,

thanks for your clear and great explanations and thank you for all your efforts!

Regards from Bulgaria.

Fahad Usmani says

You are welcome Iva.

Manmita says

In the 1st question, how did you arrive at PV = 50% of 100,000$ in six months? its not necessary that planned value (PV) is uniformly distributed over the period.

Fahad Usmani says

You are right. However if this data is not given in the question, you can safely assume that it is evenly distributed in each month.

Apoorva says

Really helpful. Well explained.

Fahad Usmani says

Thanks Apoorva.

Hetal says

Well explained in simplest form. Thank you

Fahad Usmani says

You are welcome Hetal.

Dan says

Hello Fahad,

Many thanks for the good work you are doing.

Please can you take a look at this question i found at one of your recommended links to the pool of pmp questions.

On your current project, EV = $45,000, AC = $50,000, PV = $40,000. What is the schedule variance as a percentage of the work accomplished at this point in time?

Suggested solution

the formula for schedule variance is SV = EV – PV. Therefore the schedule variance as a percentage of the work accomplished is PV/EV or +88.8%

Link to the question.

http://edwel.com/Free-Resources/PMP-Certification-Final-Exam.aspx

It is question number 2

Fahad Usmani says

Earned Value is 45,000 USD and Planned Value is 40,000 USD.

So the schedule variance will be 1.125.

No idea why did they take inverse of it and come up with 88%.

I suggest you can contact them and if you get a reply, please update here as well.

Daniel says

Thanks Fahad

IQRA ASLAM says

ASSALAM -O-ALAIKUM

THANKS FOR GIVING SUCH A SIMPLE AND UNDERSTANDABLE CONTEXT.

Fahad Usmani says

Walaikum Assalam,

You are welcome Iqra.

Knoxx says

In MS Project when you have used a rate to define a schedule cost and the task is completed ahead of time how do you factor this in as this will mean less cost calculated.

Fahad Usmani says

It will be added to the float. However, if the activity is on critical path and many activities are completing before actual completing time, you need to review the schedule.

Michael says

Which aspect should we improve normally if a project is OVER BUDGET and BEHIND OF SCHEDULE?

Kindly share some viewpoints on this matter. Thank you.

Fahad Usmani says

In this case you will need to find the exact cause of it. If there is problem with project plan or any unidentified risk has occurred caused you delay in schedule and cost.

Based on the issue, you will take corrective action.