Cost Variance Is The Difference Between

Cost variance is the difference between planned and actual costs, which is used to measure the financial performance of a project and make necessary adjustments.

Cost Variance Is The Difference Between

Planned and Actual Costs

Cost variance (CV) is a project management metric that measures the difference between planned and actual costs. It is an important factor in determining the financial performance of a project, and can be used to monitor project progress and make necessary adjustments. Essentially, cost variance tells you whether your project is under budget, on budget, or over budget.

To understand cost variance, it is important to first understand the concepts of planned and actual costs. Planned costs are the estimated costs for a project, typically derived from a budget. They are the costs that you expect to incur and are based on projections, assumptions and estimations. Actual costs, on the other hand, are the actual amount spent on a project. This includes all the actual expenses incurred during the course of the project, such as salaries, equipment, materials, travel expenses, etc.

Calculating Cost Variance

Cost variance can be calculated by subtracting the actual costs from the planned costs. The formula for calculating cost variance is as follows:

CV = Earned Value (EV) – Actual Cost (AC)

Earned value is the value of the completed work at any given point in time, and is typically tracked against project milestones. Actual cost, as mentioned earlier, is the actual cost incurred up to the same point in time. A positive CV indicates that the project is under budget, while a negative CV indicates that the project is over budget.

Understanding Cost Variance Analysis

In order to gain better insights into how cost variance may impact project performance, cost variance analysis can be used. This involves breaking down the cost variance into its key components, namely:

• Schedule Variance (SV): The difference between the earned value and the planned value (EV – PV). SV indicates whether the project is ahead of or behind schedule.

• Cost Performance Index (CPI): The ratio of the earned value to the actual cost (EV / AC). CPI indicates whether the project is under or over budget.

By examining these components of cost variance, a more detailed picture of the project’s financial performance can be obtained. For example, a positive SV indicates that the project is ahead of schedule, while a CPI of less than 1 indicates that the project is over budget.

How Cost Variance Affects Projects

Cost variance can have significant implications for project management, and can impact the success or failure of a project. A positive CV is desirable, as it indicates that the project is under budget. This means that the project team has been able to complete work for less than what was budgeted, and that the project is delivering value efficiently.

A negative CV, however, is a cause for concern. This means that the project is over budget, indicating that there may have been poor cost estimation or that corrective actions may be required. A negative CV can also indicate that the project is failing to deliver value efficiently, which can impact stakeholder satisfaction and overall project success.

In addition to its impact on project success, cost variance can also impact stakeholder relations. Any variances in cost can affect the expectations of stakeholders and may cause mistrust, loss of confidence, and decreased support. This can lead to increased risk of project failure, further delays, or even abandonment.

Effective Cost Management Strategies

Effective cost management strategies can help minimize cost variance and improve project success rates. Here are a few key strategies:

• Accurate estimation: Proper estimation of projected costs can minimize the risk of underestimation leading to cost overruns.

• Cost control: Implementing a project cost control plan can help to monitor and manage costs effectively.

• Risk management: Identifying and mitigating risks before they occur can prevent cost overruns attributed to unexpected events.

• Earned Value Management (EVM): EVM is a project management tool that enables tracking of project performance against cost, schedule, and scope, thereby providing an opportunity to promptly identify variances and act accordingly.


The cost variance metric plays a crucial role in project management, enabling you to compare planned costs with actual expenditure. Through effective cost management strategies and cost variance analysis, project managers can identify potential risks, minimize cost overruns, and ensure project success. Accurate planning and tracking of costs are essential to avoid negative CV and maintain stakeholder support. Successful projects require commitment and diligence in cost management, as cost variance is an indicator of whether the project is delivering value efficiently or not.