What is S-Curve in Project Management?

An S-Curve is a measurable graph used in project management that shows important cumulative data for a project (such as cost or man-hours) plotted against time.

The term “S-Curve” refers to the shape of the graph, which is often shaped like a loose, shallow “S.”

When it comes to project management, S-Curve is frequently used to monitor the progress of a project.

In today’s fast-paced corporate environment, ensuring that a project is completed on time and within a budget is critical to its overall success.

This S-Curve will certainly consist of two graphs, one representing the plan and another representing the actual.

S-Curve Plan-Actual

The difference in the graph line at any point in time represents a deviation, which might take the form of ahead (the completed earlier than planned) or delay (the project finish is later than the plan).

Applying of S-curves

There are several s-curves possible for use in project management. The following are listed:

Why S-shaped?

Actually, the S-Curve is not always perfectly shaped like the letter S. The curve is often S-Shaped because progress will look more sloping in the early stages of the project.

This is because the workload in the early stages usually has a low weight, and the need for manpower is not as many as the main work.

S-Curve Manpower
Source: slideteam

For example, in the early stages of a construction project, the work carried out: permit, site clearing, utility removal, traffic management, design, etc.

The main work will usually start when the project runs 5 to 10 percent of the overall progress. Hence after a certain period, the project curve will rise significantly.

Furthermore, when the project is nearing the end, the curve will slope because the weight of the work is decreasing.

That’s why curves are often S-shaped.

Also, read what is project management?

What are the most often used applications of the s curve in project management?

S-Curves are advantageous for a variety of functions during the project’s life. Several of the most critical applications of S-Curves are covered below:

1. Evaluation of Performance and Progress


S-Curves are mainly used to evaluate the progress and performance of a project. This can be done by using Earned Value Method (EVM).

S-Curve graphs are often created as part of the EVM process and give the necessary information for evaluating the progress and performance of a project.

Numerous elements must be considered while determining the project’s present state and forecast projections.

They are as follows: Budget at Completion (BAC) also known as Project Budget, Budgeted Cost of Work Scheduled (BCWS) also known as Planned Value; Budgeted Cost of Work Performed (BCWP) also known as Earn Value; Actual Cost of Work Performed (ACWP) also known as Actual Cost.

The calculation of these four elements are as follows:

  • BAC = Project Budget.
  • AC = Actual Cost of the Project.
  • PV = Percent Complete (planned) x Project Budget.
  • EV = Percent Complete (actual) x Project Budget.

This comparison is beneficial because if you want to know whether a project is going over budget or if another work is falling behind schedule, you can quickly look at the graph.

It will provide you with the information you need.

2. Forecasts of Cash Flows


The following use of S-Curves is in developing cash flow and projecting the changes that cash flow will bring.

On the other hand, cash flow is the timing and flow of cash in relation to the activities and events that occur throughout the project’s execution.

This cash flow curve is very valuable to stakeholders.

Creating a cash flow curve allows you to examine the company’s cash requirements (plan) and the actual timing of payments due under accepted commitments (contract).

3. Comparison of Quantity Output


Another critical use of s curves is to determine the amount of output that your project will generate. This is a more prevalent method of construction and manufacturing.

4. Possibilities Range for Schedule (Banana Curves)


This is perhaps the most critical use of S-Curves. As is well known, the majority of scheduling software can readily elicit S-Curves from schedulers via parameters such as Quantity, Man Hours, Cost.

The banana shape curve indicates the range of possible completion dates for the project.

This program can generate the following s-curves.

  • The first line may be formed based on the earliest dates.
  • The second line of S-Curve may be based on latest dates.

These two forms of S-Curves often intersect at the project’s beginning and finish. They take on the shape of a banana, therefore the name Banana Curves.

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