Measuring Test Effort Progress with EVM

In many software development environments, an important part of the overall software-testing effort is having the ability to measure the progress of the test effort. One technique for doing this is a project management technique called Earned Value Management (EVM).

EVM is a simple quantitative technique that can be used to measure the schedule progress—and optionally the budget progress—of any type of project, including a software-testing effort or some part of the overall effort. EVM had its origins in a 1962 initiative by the U.S. Department of Defense called PERT/Cost. Although EVM is simple to use and can be applied to test efforts of any size, based on my experience many software engineers incorrectly believe that EVM is suitable for use only with large software development efforts.

In the February 2011 issue of MSDN Magazine I wrote an article where I explain what EVM is, walk you through an example of using EVM to measure test-effort progress, and describe when to use EVM and when not to use it. See for the article. The most difficult part of EVM is breaking down the test effort in manageable chunks to produce a so-called WBS (work breakdown structure). However, even a rough attempt at a WBS is usually better than no WBS at all.

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