← Back to Blog

Schedule Variance: Understanding Its Importance and Calculation Methods

minute read
Updated on:
April 21, 2024
Table of contents
Discover Bonsai all-in-one business management software.

Schedule variance is a key feature in project management. Measure the gap between planned and actual work. It’s a digital tool that helps you identify work progress precisely. One of the most vital benefits - tracking and monitoring project delays, resource management, and schedule changes. 

Schedule variance serves as a watchdog that keeps you on track with the project’s progress. It is also a component of earned value management. Earned value management is a proven and tested project management approach that helps you track and predict project status. 

Introduction to Schedule Variance

When implementing an Earned Value Management project management, schedule variance is an essential concept. It’s a strategic tool to track and monitor your project status and ensure that it gets completed on time. Tracking and monitoring your project’s progress can be crucial for managing your project performance. It gives you an overview of how you’ve implemented workload planning and scheduling. 

Schedule variance also plays a crucial role in managing your time and resources. By enhancing your task management and responding to concerns about project timelines, schedule variance helps you allocate your resources effectively. 

Definition of Schedule Variance

Schedule variance is the measurement of a project's alignment with its schedule. Assessment of schedule variance helps project managers improve their time and resource allocation, workload management, task assignment, planning, scheduling, and forecasting. It helps you run your operations smoothly and efficiently. 

Proactive monitoring and tracking of schedule variance helps you get ahead of your project’s progress. It helps you identify potential bottlenecks, and prepare possible solutions, to ensure that the project will be finished on time. Overall, it helps you enhance your team's capacity as well. 

Importance of Schedule Variance in Project Management

Project managers and company owners consider schedule variance as a key indicator of successful project completion. The ability to track and monitor your project progress opens to the efficiency of many facets of your business operations. From resource allocation to workload management, it helps you create a more streamlined process and optimize your resources, be it human or assets. 

Schedule variance is also an essential component in Earned Value Management. It provides a precise visual of a project status which keeps you on track with your deadlines and more efficient with managing your time and resources. 

Understanding the Concept of Schedule Variance

The main concept of schedule variance is determining the gap between accomplished work and the planned work. It is measured in terms of cost and deadlines. This concept is a vital element in the Earned Value Management technique. When you have a positive value of your schedule variance, it means that the project is ahead of the timeline. However, when it is a negative value, it means that it is beyond the project’s schedule. 

Accuracy in schedule variance is an essential factor to spot on delays. It enables project managers to mitigate issues and finish within tight deadlines. The real-time project status assists project managers to effectively manage time and resources. It greatly impacts the performance of your project management efforts specifically in project scheduling. 

How Schedule Variance Works

To gauge the schedule variance of a project, one must know the formula. Here’s how it’s calculated:

Schedule Variance (SV) = Earned Value (EV) - Planned Value (PV)

  • Earned Value (EV) is the value of work completed on a project to date.
  • Planned Value (PV) is the value of planned work to be completed on a project to date.

A positive result means the project is on schedule. When the result is a negative value, it means the project is delayed. 

The values that you get from the calculations will determine if you need to rectify things to get things done on time. When there are adjustments to the project plan, it’s easier to spot on. If there are tight deadlines, thorough monitoring, and tracking of schedule variance is necessary. 

Interpreting Schedule Variance Results

The values that we get from schedule variance calculations tell us whether the project is ahead or behind schedule. When you get a positive value, it only means that the project is executed as planned or even faster than the completion timeline. When you get a negative value, it indicates that the project fell behind the deadline. When this happens, it requires you to evaluate your resource allocation, planning, and scheduling. That way, you’ll be able to rectify any issues to keep things finished on time. The interpretation of schedule variance is a big factor in determining the efficiency of your processes and predicting potential roadblocks.

Calculating Schedule Variance

Schedule variance is a major component in Earned Value Management. The Earned Value refers to the budgeted cost of completed work, while the Planned Value refers to the budgeted cost of scheduled work. These terms are widely used in project management to refer to a project's progress. 

Calculating schedule variance provides valuable insights into your project status, resource management, and workload management. It helps project managers to be proactive with mitigations on tight deadlines, and project scheduling.

Key Components in Schedule Variance Calculation

Several components make up the schedule variance calculation. It consists of the following:

BCWP - Budgeted Cost of Work Performed, representing the earned value.

BCWS - Budgeted Cost of Work Scheduled, representing the planned value.

Subtracting the BCWAS from BCWP will give you the schedule variance value. Whether you get a positive or negative value, this method allows you to manage risks efficiently. It’s necessary to make course corrections and meet tight deadlines. 

Step-by-Step Guide to Calculate Schedule Variance

Assessing the schedule variance value is a vital component in determining the progress of a project. You need to learn how to get this value and interpret this to ensure that you get things done efficiently. 

Here are the steps to calculating the schedule variance: 

  1. Gather data on earned value (EV) and planned value (PV). Earned value refers to the work completed in a certain period while planned value refers to the intended value of the project. 
  2. Calculate the schedule variance. Use the formula SV = EV - PV. When you get a positive value, it means the project is ahead of its schedule. When you get a negative value, it means that it is beyond the project timeline. 

It is crucial to understand the value of schedule variance for you to maximize task management, allocate time and resources effectively, and stay on track with project milestones. 

You can use the significant insights from the value of schedule variance. You can incorporate them to make project management more efficient. 

  • Constant Monitoring - Continuous improvement starts with regular monitoring throughout the project lifecycle.
  • Baseline Comparison - Make a comparison of your current schedule variance with your baseline to identify your project’s progress and determine areas of improvement. 
  • Risk Assessment - One of the benefits of determining schedule variance is risk management. It allows you to determine potential bottlenecks and take corrective measures.
  • Resource Allocation - When tasks are assigned appropriately, it enables you to optimize your time and resources. 
  • Communication - Interpretation of schedule variance allows you to be transparent with stakeholders. It promotes collaboration to address delays and manage expectations.
  • Root Cause Analysis - After calculating the value of schedule variance, it is vital to introspect what went wrong in the first place. When doing this, enables you to prevent it from occurring again. 
  • Corrective and Preventive Actions - One of the most important things to keep in mind, is to set a corrective action plan when things go south. It is to ensure that you’re able to manage future variances and meet deadlines. 

Common Misconceptions about Schedule Variance

The most common conception of schedule variance is that it directly indicates delay or ahead of schedule. It indicates the project's progress. But, it only refers to the cost and not time. 

Another misconception is that a negative schedule variance value means that the project is behind schedule already. You have to consider also if there is extra work or changes done. Schedule variance focuses on the costs related to project schedules. It does not directly signify individual task and resource management

Clarifying Misunderstandings about Schedule Variance

Schedule variance is a detailed analysis emphasizing the project’s progress. It indicates whether the project is on track or behind the planned schedule. But, it does not necessarily mean the time. There are several factors to consider to determine if the project is behind schedule or not. 

It is a vital component in managing resources and tasks. However, it does not directly indicate issues with resource management or even the success of the entire project.

Tools for Schedule Variance Analysis

Several tools like Earned Value Management help with schedule variance calculation and analysis. These tools consist of the following primary features:

  • Task management -  Helps you plan and structure project tasks.
  • Resource management - Maximizes the utilization of resources.
  • Project scheduling - Helps define and adhere to project deadlines. 

These key features collectively improve project performance management. They provide real-time project progress and data, helping you manage resources and tasks efficiently. 

Microsoft Project

Microsoft Project is a leading project management software. It offers comprehensive functionality for managing projects effectively. It provides advanced features for project scheduling, task management, and resource management. 

With its comprehensive functions, it enables project managers to manage resources and evaluate performance. It helps to spot delays and implement corrective measures promptly. 

Oracle Primavera

Oracle Primavera is popularly used by many due to its robust features. It has advanced functions such as earned value management,  and project performance insight. It keeps your team on top of everything with real-time updates. 

The Oracle Primavera project management software is best suited for professionals who want precise control of project timelines. It has a user-friendly interface with multiple project management functions. You can also integrate this tool into other Oracle software. It even has a mobile app, so you can access it on the go.


Smartsheet is a centralized work management tool. It has powerful features that help teams manage projects, automate tasks, and gain real-time visuals of a project’s progress. Over 90% of Fortune 100 companies use this project management tool to promote efficiency, enhance agility, and achieve better results. 

By staying on track on project scheduling, and drilling into project deadlines, Smartsheet helps you meet timelines and deliver outputs on time. 

How Agencies Can Benefit from Schedule Variance

Agencies that are using schedule variance can significantly benefit from it. When used as part of their project management process, it helps you gain insight into your project’s progress and helps you identify potential problems ahead.  Determining whether or not you are behind schedule makes it easy to spot on. It can also help you be more efficient with task management and resource management. 

Improving Project Efficiency

One of the advantages of implementing schedule variance is enhancing the efficiency of a project. It involves robust task management, efficient resource management, and precise project scheduling to meet tight deadlines. Managing your resources effectively requires the following:

  • Constant updates on the project progress.
  • Thorough management of project timelines.
  • Comprehensive application of project management tools.

Enhancing Client Communication

Determining the schedule variance allows you to determine the gap between the completed work and planned work in terms of cost. Whatever value you’ll get, you need to communicate this to the people involved. Communication is a vital component in any business to thrive. 

Project managers must be adept at collaborating with every team member involved to be successful with project completion. Promote positive feedback and continuous improvement. 

Conclusion: The Value of Schedule Variance

One significant element in project management is schedule variance. Finding the value of schedule variance allows you to manage risks efficiently, allocate time and resources effectively, and handle project deadlines with ease. 

Schedule variance plays a crucial role in Earned Value Management. It facilitates efficient tracking of a project's progress. It also helps you manage project delays to help you meet tight deadlines. It helps you evaluate your processes to ensure efficient project management. 

Understanding schedule variance and implementing the right project management tool helps you achieve efficient business operations. Utilizing schedule variance is essential to ensure that projects are completed within the scheduled timeline.

Related Articles