Tips for Implementing Rolling Wave Planning

August 31, 2018

Rolling wave planning, sometimes called continuous planning or block planning, is a useful technique for longer duration projects where the statement of work (SOW) is likely to change. If you aren’t familiar with rolling wave planning, it is an incremental planning approach where near term work effort is planned in detail and future work effort is planned at a higher level, in a planning package, until more is known about the work scope requirements. These planning packages may be summary level planning packages (SLPPs) within the WBS or control account level planning packages. As the project progresses and more becomes known about the future work effort, the higher-level planning packages are converted to detailed plans as soon as possible maintaining a continuous planning horizon for near term work.

The summary level planning packages (SLPPs) or control account planning packages are included as activities in the integrated master schedule (IMS) with durations and budget allocation for the likely resource requirements. This complete set of planning and budget data are necessary to establish the performance measurement baseline (PMB) for the entire scope of work. The goal is to maintain that “just right” balance of sufficient detailed planning for work effort coming up to proactively manage the project.

When properly used, rolling wave planning helps to:


  • Reduce the time required to develop the schedule and budget plan for future work effort in situations where you don’t yet have the necessary information to define the detailed tasks.
  • Ensure you have allocated the necessary budget for the future work scope and scheduled the work in the IMS. Budget allocations for future work effort should be specific to the work for which it is intended, time phased in alignment with the schedule activities, periodically reviewed for validity, and not used to perform other work scope. The intent is to prevent the situations where project personnel “borrow” the budget allocated for future work to complete current work effort.
  • Reduce the volume of baseline change requests. When you don’t have the necessary information to define future detailed tasks, why create the detailed tasks in the first place when you know things will change multiple times? It is better to define and maintain a control account planning package or a summary level planning package until you can define the detailed tasks. Then you can convert the control account planning package to one or more work packages with an assigned earned value technique. Or, you convert a SLPP to one or more control accounts with subordinate work packages and planning packages.

Implementing rolling wave planning does require a level of project control discipline. For example:

  • A planning package must be converted to one or more work packages (scope, schedule, and budget) with an assigned earned value technique before work begins. Your rolling wave planning process should strive to ensure work is detail planned as soon as it is practical depending on the nature of the work.
  • You will need a means to reconcile your detail planning changes at the control account level to previous dates and values. What was the impact of converting a planning package to a work package? Did the work scope, period of performance, or budget allocation for the control account stay the same because of the detailed planning? Or, did it change? If it changed, did the change impact other work packages or other control accounts? If you converted a summary level planning package to one or more control accounts, was the budget allocation for the control accounts the same or different? Or, did only a portion of the summary level planning package get converted to a control account? You will need to reconcile the budget values to the project level contract budget base, distributed budget, and undistributed budget when applicable.
  • You will need similar basis of estimate (BOE) rationale for this detail planning as you did during the proposal phase. The BOE details are necessary to substantiate the work package schedule activities, duration, resource requirements, and budget allocation. The BOE details can also help the control account manager (CAM) select an appropriate earned value technique for a work package to measure performance.

That’s where integrated tools like ProjStream’s BOEMax and EVMax can simplify things and support your project control requirements at the same time.

The first step is to work through the process of converting a planning package into one or more work packages in BOEMax. This can be an iterative planning process of updating the current schedule activities and resource assignments to detail plan the work packages. Using the BOEMax schedule integration utilities, you can produce the work package time phased budget details from the resource loaded activities. As part of the process, the BOE rationale is documented in BOEMax. This addresses two data traceability requirements:

  1. The resource loaded schedule activities and time phased budget details align.
  2. You can substantiate how you determined the tasks, duration, resources, and budget allocation for the work package scope of work.

The next step is to initiate the built-in workflow process in BOEMax and EVMax that automatically produces data-backed documentation for you and ensures changes are implemented as approved. The changes you made in BOEMax provides the detailed source data for the baseline change request (BCR). And, once the BCR is approved, the changes are rolled in the control account work authorization with the approved changes merged into EVMax. This makes it very easy to:

  1. Demonstrate historical traceability for the entire duration of the project. Each BOE, BCR, and work authorization form reflects the source data in BOEMax and EVMax so you know what changed when.
  2. Reconcile the current budget values to previous budget values for each rolling wave planning cycle. The change log automatically records each project level and control account debit and credit transaction with a summary row generated at the end of each reporting period.

Interested in learning more about rolling wave best practices? One source is the NDIA Integrated Program Management Division (IPMD) where you can download the Planning & Scheduling Excellence Guide (PASEG).

Looking to improve how you implement rolling wave planning into your project control process? Call or schedule a demo of BOEMax and EVMax today.

Topics: Change Control, Project Management

Author: ProjStream

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