Our guest author, Albert Garriga, the man behindrecursosenprojectmanagement.com, covers in detail two of the most powerful methodologies for multiproject situations: critical chain and earned value.

vector modern colorful geometry triangle pattern, color abstract geometric background, pillow multicolored print, retro texture, hipster fashion designA common situation in many companies is the existence of several projects running in parallel, which share and compete for the resources of the departments. This is what is known as a multiproject environment, and requires criteria and tools to prioritize the allocation of these resources and maximize the overall result of the organization.

In this article, we are going to discuss two methods to be able to manage multiproject organizations; which are based on two well-known project management methodologies: Critical Chain and Earned Value.


Start calculating the earned value of your ITM Platform projects

Critical Chain Prioritization

If projects are planned using the Critical Chain method, the protections of the different projects allow for an objective criterion for the decision making process, at least in relation to the schedule; as this shows the actual status of the project and the risk of not complying with the delivery date.

Imagine that we have six projects, each with its protection related to the tasks in its critical chain and its degree of progress. From this data, we can place them in a graph that shows the percentage completed on the horizontal axis and the percentage of protection consumption on the vertical axis.

The graph would be as follows and allows to distinguish three areas:

  • Green area. The consumption of protection is low in relation to the progress of the task, implying that the project is performing better than expected, and therefore the confidence interval to meet the schedule has increased. This would be the case for projects D and E.
  • Yellow area. The consumption of protection is close to the estimated, so we expect the project to meet the schedule. This would be the case for projects A and C.
  • Pink area. These projects have consumed more protection than estimated for their degree of progress, so they will not meet the schedule if their performance does not improve or countermeasures are implemented. This would be the case for projects B and F.

This graph allows us to objectively compare the state of the different projects from the point of view of the schedule, and thus determine which of them need additional action to meet the objectives and which are less of a priority. Obviously, from the point of view of the organization, the objective is that all the projects fulfill their objective, which implies that all are in the green and yellow areas.

Based on this, it would be reasonable to pass resources from the green area projects to those in the pink area, and prioritize the latter in case of conflict. In a way, we are "damaging" the projects that are better to "favor" those which are worse, with the aim of all going as expected.

Another important point when it comes to prioritizing projects according to this chart is to view their progress, since a more advanced project will cost more to change their situation than one that is just starting:

  • In the pink area, means that a more advanced project will have higher priority when it comes to receiving resources than one that is less advanced.
  • In the green area, the opposite is true: the more advanced projects are the least priority, since the reduction of resources will have a lower impact on the final result (less time to act).

Prioritization with Earned Value

In projects managed with Earned Value, it is also possible to objectively prioritize and compare their status’, with the advantage being that in this case we can make time and cost comparisons simultaneously through different parameters:

Cost variation (CV), which is calculated as a percentage CV = (EV-AC) / EV, where EV is the earned value and AC is the actual cost, which is used with the following criteria:

  • CV> 0: project is saving money
  • CV = 0: the project is following the planned cost line
  • CV <0: the project presents extra costs.

Schedule variation (SV), which is calculated as SV = (EV - PV) / PV, where EV is the earned value and PV is the planned value, and is used with the following criteria:

  • SV> 0: the project is ahead of schedule.
  • SV = 0: the project is on schedule.
  • SV <0: the project is behind schedule.

Imagine that we have six projects managed with Earned Value, which allows them to be shown together in a chart according to their SV and CV; distinguishing four areas:

  • The pink area (3) shows the projects that are not meeting either the costs or deadlines (projects A and E); which then become the highest priority.
  • The two yellow areas (1 and 4) show the projects that are not meeting one of either cost (project C) or schedule (project B).
  • The green area (2) means that the project is better than planned in relation to cost and time (project F), or is progressing just as planned in point 0.0 (project D)

According to this criterion, the goal of the organization would be to have all projects in the green area. Therefore, the criterion in prioritizing resources would be as follows:

  • Prioritize the use of the most economical resources for projects in areas 3 and 4, which can be done even if it implies a delay in the projects of area 4, since these have more time in terms of schedule.
  • Increase resources for projects in areas 1 and 3 so that they can be completed quicker, even at the expense of higher costs in area 1 projects, taking advantage of having savings on them.
  • This prioritization can be done "at the expense" of the projects in area 2, since these have the margin to delay or assume higher costs. Except the projects in 0,0 which would be better left alone, as they are perfectly on track.

The most complex situation occurs in the projects located in area 3, since these must improve simultaneously both cost and time. This implies that we must avoid improving one variable by lessening the other.

Final considerations on prioritization

So far, the prioritization between projects has been treated objectively and based on quantifiable variables, which is correct but insufficient. In reality, there is another aspect to take into account: the political or commercial interests of the organization.

If we think beyond the time or cost of executing the projects, we see that not all of them are just as important for the organization. In some cases, we will have projects that can generate new orders or have high visibility, which gives them priority. Therefore, the person in charge of managing the portfolio of projects must know these political and commercial aspects, and know how to balance them with the objective criteria.


Albert Garriga



Receive the latest blogs directly into your inbox


The success of projects is key to any company, but even more so to those where the outturn account depends on projects. Programming, design, construction and consultancy companies and, generally-speaking, any company that undertakes projects for its clients must pay significant attention to the profitability of each project.

This article offers an analysis of the main factors influencing project profitability. This is a complicated topic and no sweeping generalizations should be made. Hence, these factors must be adapted to the specific circumstances surrounding each organization, sector and client.

Zoom into your projects while maintaining a global vision of your entire project portfolio with ITM Platform, try now for free!

1.- Define the scope

The first and major issue affecting project profitability is linked to discrepancies between what should be included or excluded from the scope of a project. Clients tend to consider a broader scope than project leaders and this difference in perception often leads to problems and conflicts that eventually affect project profitability.

Spending the necessary time to define and share the scope of a project is a key factor in project profitability.

General information, ITM Platform

2.- Estimate the effort

There can occasionally be little time to provide a client with a commercial offer for the project. This can lead to hasty estimations based on similarities between the project in question and others carried out in the past. As a result, the risk of mistakes is very high and should be reduced by breaking down the tasks involved and producing a bottom-up estimation to confirm that the overall estimation is in line with the work that needs to be done.

This estimate should include as much detail as possible on the profiles needed for each activity.

A good estimate will avoid project cost deviations.

Estimated effort

3.- Plan slowly

The break-down of tasks and their estimation should be undertaken as part of careful planning of the work to be done. The organization of activities and their inter-relationships may result in the need for additional tasks or certain tasks being completed after others, which can lead to additional project costs.

Optimistic planning will mean the client has hard-to-meet expectations about the delivery date and this will eventually affect the cost.

Gantt, ITM Platform

4.- Choose the right team

The project team is a key piece of the puzzle in transforming project estimates and planning into reality, thereby meeting client expectations and maintaining the appropriate level of quality. Scrimping on resources may be more expensive in the long run. Using under-qualified personnel with no experience or little motivation may be cheaper to begin with but this can very easily become a negative factor for profitability when having to do the same work more than once, wasting time on ensuring people are clear on what needs to be done or learning how they need to do it.

High-productivity teams are capable of significantly increasing project profitability.

Assign role

5.- Identify risks

All projects have some sort of risk that must be analyzed and assessed. Some risks may be unlikely while others may have a minimal impact on the project, meaning that highly significant corrective actions to counteract such risks would be unnecessary.
Those risks with the greatest exposure, i.e. those whose impact and likelihood are average or high, should be managed and may require specific actions to guarantee project profitability.

It might even be necessary to establish a safety margin in the cost to be paid by the client depending on the degree of uncertainty and the risk posed by the project.

Risk Matrix

6. Analyze profitability at the start

While considering all the aforementioned factors, project profitability should be analyzed before the project begins. It is possible that, for commercial reasons, projects with little initial profitability will sometimes need to be undertaken in the hope that the client will contract other services in the future. At any event, this fact and the level of profitability to be expected from the project should be ascertained.

Only by ascertaining the expected profitability will we be able to manage it.

Costs and revenues

7.- Foster communication by the team and with the client

Communication within the team and communication with the client are key to project profitability.

If the team communicates quickly and smoothly, it will be possible to identify any problems in time and any confusion or misunderstanding that could ruin a project will be avoided.

Communication with the client will enable expectations to be properly managed and the client to understand and collaborate on any stumbling block that may arise.

platform to communicate, comment

8.- Record data and manage them

Data are key to project management. Feelings and anecdotes in management may provide a comfortable or negative sensation of progress and advancement, but only objective and recorded data will be able to provide the information needed for efficient management. Recording data may lead to conflict with the project team, the members of which tend to focus on activities they consider to be productive.

It is essential for the team to understand the importance of tracking information and undertaking data entry on a regular basis and without unnecessary effort.

Time sheet, ITM Platform

9.- Track profitability at all times

Tracking project profitability is not an issue that should be left until the end, once the project has finished: it should be undertaken constantly, regularly checking project status to date and taking any necessary steps when unforeseen deviations or circumstances are identified.

If they are identified quickly and a timely response is given, we will be able to correct any problems and return to maximum profitability.

Real and budgeted costs

10.- Project deviations

Small deviations at the start of a project tend not to be considered seriously in the hope that the project will get back on track as time goes by. However, recovery from such initial deviations is usually a very complex task that is hard to achieve.

Furthermore, these deviations are often the symptom of a larger problem, meaning it is important to project them into the future and gain a clear picture of the situation.

The Earned Value technique is a very useful tool for making project status projections.

Added value

11.- Learn from mistakes and successes

If we properly record the most relevant data from our projects, we will be able to analyze what really happened and what the specific factors were that meant certain projects achieved greater profitability than others.

We should learn from both our mistakes and our successes, being able to identify those we should correct and improve upon as well as those we can repeat and encourage.

Project portfolio

12.- Use the right tools

For all these reasons, it is important to use the right tools (without generating a high cost for the project) that will enable swift and efficient project management, help estimate and plan, record and analyze data, and allow the team to work comfortably from anywhere.

Try ITM Platform for free

Receive the latest blogs directly into your inbox