Article #037 Why Capital Project Cost Estimate and Project Budget Should Marry?


No one can deny that delivering a capital project within the approved budget is one of the must objectives if the project could be labeled as a successful project. For the project budget to be attainable, it must be based on the approved project cost estimate which will be prepared and detailed during the design development stages. The cost estimate must be comprehensive and covers all direct and indirect costs, contingencies, and finance charges during implementation.

Using Project Management Information Systems (PMIS) like PMWeb helps in transforming the approved cost estimate into a budget in a seamless process. PMWeb allows creating the project cost estimate by using the cost database for all items and labor and non-labor resources. PMWeb also allows creating building assemblies to capture the organization’s lessons learned and knowledge in estimating the project cost.

Nevertheless, what is more, important is that PMWeb allows importing the cost estimate from any other cost estimating source using the MS Excel import option. PMWeb allows mapping all the fields for the cost estimate source into the PMWeb cost estimate module. These include in addition to the items, unit price, quantity, project schedule activity ID, and cost breakdown structure among others ten additional fields that can be customized to capture more information on the cost estimate.

Similar to all other PMWeb modules, the attachment tab can be used to attach all drawings, specifications, quotes, proposals, and other documents that were used in developing the cost estimate. All those documents will be uploaded and stored in the PMWeb document management repository to maintain a complete history of all documents used in developing the cost estimate. In addition, the attachment tab can be used to link all PMWeb records that are related to the cost estimate. Those could include for example the risk register, requests for information and other queries, meeting minutes, and other project communications.

In addition, a workflow will be assigned to the cost estimate module to ensure that it gets reviewed and approved by the authorized project team members and other organization members before its status gets changed to approved. Only when the cost estimate status is set as “approved”, the cost estimate can be transformed into a project budget.

The project budget will reflect the approved transformed cost estimate where cost items will be summarized by their assigned cost breakdown structure. In addition, PMWeb allows for creating the budget spending plan projection for each line item. Further, budget line items could have their cost in different currencies if needed. Similar to other PMWeb records, documents can be attached to the budget and workflow can be assigned to formally review and approve the budget.

It is highly recommended that all changes to the approved budget, as long as the approved cost estimate is still valid, get managed using the PMWeb budget requests module. This module allows transferring budget funds from one cost center to another to detail the changes in the allocated cost for each budget line item. Similar to other PMWeb records, documents can be attached to the budget request form and workflow can be assigned to formally review and approve all budget changes. The workflow will incorporate the conditions to ensure that approvals are aligned with the predefined approval authority levels.

Similar to the option of creating the project budget from the approved cost estimate, PMWeb also allows creating budget requests from the cost estimate module. Accordingly, for additional or revised scope of work that might impact the estimated project cost, the cost estimating team will use the PMWeb cost estimate module to provide the estimated cost following the same steps used in transforming the cost estimate into the project budget. The created budget requests can be categorized as original budgets or budget revisions. This again helps in maintaining track of all budget changes and is the basis for estimating the cost of those changes.

The approved budget will provide the two important Earned Value Management (EVM) measures of Budget At Completion (BAC) and Planned Budget Spending Value (PV). The approved budget is also the basis for calculating the third EVM measure of Earned Value (EV) which will be based on the updated project schedule percent complete multiplied by the Budget At Completion (BAC) value. PMWeb will be used to import the updated schedule for which the EV will be automatically calculated. The Actual Cost (AC) measure will be based on the actual cost reported in each commitment progress invoice or any other miscellaneous invoice captured in PMWeb.

PMWeb forecast module will automatically capture those EVM measures and calculate the EVM performance metrics that include Schedule Variance (SV), Cost Variance (CV), Schedule Performance Index (SPI), Cost Performance Index (CPI), Estimate To Complete (ETC), Estimate At Completion (EAC) and Variance At Completion (VAC).

Although PMWeb allows the authorized users to adjust the Estimate To Complete (ETC) value, nevertheless it is highly recommended not to allow this practice. Instead, the potential changes module can be used to capture the details of all potential changes that could impact the project’s estimated complete cost. This will help in keeping track of all those potential changes including their details as well as who have submitted, reviewed, and approved those potential changes. In addition, it helps keep track of potential change orders that were approved as change orders and for which the project budget needs to be adjusted to reflect those changes.

This alignment between the approved cost estimate, approved project budget, approved budget adjustments, earned budget performance, the actual cost incurred and potential changes that could impact the cost to complete will prevent any reporting discrepancies between what was estimated to build and what has cost to build. This will ensure that the cost estimating team, the cost management team, as well as executive management, are communicating in the same language.

About the Authorfounder

Bassam Samman, PMP, PSP, EVP, GPM is a Senior Project Management Consultant with more than 35-year service record providing project management and controls services to over 100 projects with a total value of over the US $5 Billion. Those projects included Commercial, Residential, Education and Healthcare Buildings and Infrastructure, Entertainment and Shopping Malls, Oil and Gas Plants and Refineries, and Telecommunication and Information Technology projects. He is thoroughly experienced in complete project management including project management control systems, computerized project control software, claims analysis/prevention, risk analysis/management (contingency planning), design, supervision, training, and business development.

Bassam is a frequent speaker on topics relating to Project Management, Strategic Project Management, and Project Management Personal Skills. Over the past 35 years, he has lectured at more than 350 events and courses at different locations in the Middle East, North Africa, Europe, and South America. He has written more than 250 articles on project management and project management information systems that were featured in international and regional magazines and newspapers. He is a co-founder of the Project Management Institute- Arabian Gulf Chapter (PMI-AGC) and has served on its board of directors for more than 6 years. He is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) from the Project Management Institute (PMI), a certified Planning and Scheduling Professional (PSP), and Earned Value Professional (EVP) from the American Association of Cost Engineers (AACE) and Green Project Management (GPM).

Bassam holds a Masters in Engineering Administration (Construction Management) with Faculty Commendation, George Washington University, Washington, D.C., USA, Bachelor in Civil Engineering – Kuwait University, Kuwait and has attended many executive management programs at Harvard Business School, Boston, USA and London Business School, London, UK.

Contact us