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9.2: Managing the Budget

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  • Learning Objectives

    1. Describe methods to manage cash flow.
    2. Describe the terms and relationships of budget factors used in earned value analysis.
    3. Calculate and interpret budget and schedule variances.
    4. Calculate and interpret the schedule performance index and the cost performance index.
    5. Calculate and interpret estimates to complete the project.
    6. Calculate the revised final budget.

    Projects seldom go according to plan in every detail. It is necessary for the project manager to be able to identify when costs are varying from the budget and to manage those variations.

    Managing Cash Flow

    If the total amount spent on a project is equal to or less than the amount budgeted, the project can still be in trouble if the funding for the project is not available when it is needed. There is a natural tension between the financial people in an organization, who do not want to pay for the use of money that is just sitting in a checking account, and the project manager, who wants to be sure that there is enough money available to pay for project expenses. The financial people prefer to keep the company’s money working in other investments until the last moment before transferring it to the project account. The contractors and vendors have similar concerns, and they want to get paid as soon as possible so they can put the money to work in their own organizations. The project manager would like to have as much cash available as possible to use if activities exceed budget expectations.

    Contingency Reserves

    Most projects have something unexpected occur that increases costs above the original estimates. If estimates are rarely exceeded, the estimating method should be reviewed because the estimates are too high. It is not possible to predict which activities cost more than expected, but it is reasonable to assume that some of them will be. Estimating the likelihood of such events is part of risk analysis, which is discussed in more detail in a later chapter.

    Instead of overestimating each cost, money is budgeted for dealing with unplanned but statistically predictable cost increases. Funds allocated for this purpose are called contingency reserves (Project Management Institute, Inc., 2008). Because it is likely that this money will be spent, it is part of the total budget for the project. If this fund is adequate to meet the unplanned expenses, then the project will complete within the budget.

    Management Reserves

    If something occurs during the project that requires a change in the project scope, money may be needed to deal with the situation before a change in scope can be negotiated with the project sponsor or client. It could be an opportunity as well as a challenge. Money can be made available to the project to be used at the discretion of the manager to meet needs that would change the scope of the project. These funds are called management reserves. Unlike contingency reserves, they are not likely to be spent and are not part of the project’s budget baseline, but they can be included in the total project budget (Project Management Institute, Inc., 2008).