Project Control Using AS4817 for Earned Value Management "The VIPER Experience
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- The advantages of using software to manage aircraft maintenance..
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Project Control Using AS4817 for Earned Value Management
“The VIPER Experience”
P. Weaver1, L.M. Bourne2,
1 Fallon Project Management Pty Ltd, Canberra, ACT, Australia
2 Mosaic Project Services Pty Ltd, Melbourne, VIC, Australia
This paper discusses the evolution of VIPER into a fully-fledged, commercial project control system that
uses Earned Value as its core progress reporting system. VIPER is designed to optimise repetitive project
cycles (in this case, aircraft maintenance and repair programs) in a data rich environment.
Business and project communities are facing a number of contradictory trends:-
• The downsizing and deskilling of their work forces, particularly in the technical support, engineering and
middle management areas
• The increase in litigation and lack of tolerance towards any processing errors and/or omissions and
• The need to be ever more efficient with reduced project budgets and shorter delivery timeframes. The
combination of these factors is creating pressures on business systems (with particular reference to
project control systems) to deliver enhanced efficiency and process integrity whilst minimising the
opportunity for errors.
The VIPER system is used to manage and schedule aircraft deep level maintenance programs for the ADF
and a number of commercial businesses. VIPER integrates maintenance data, timesheet data and hangar
floor reports; using sophisticated data integration and management techniques, including automated data
capture processes, to deliver an integrated management and control system. Since its introduction VIPER
has generated cost savings in excess of 30% for the ADF’s deep level maintenance programs.
VIPER integrates the prudential processes needed to ensure every aircraft servicing is 100% complete with
an effective scheduling and management control system. Earned Value Performance Management is a
central component of its project management and control mechanisms.
The new ‘AS4817-2003: Project performance measurement using Earned Value’ has been designed to
encourage the use of Earned Value as a normal part of project control techniques in the general project and
business communities. It provides a very practical framework for implementing Earned Value supported by
VIPER complies with and uses the concepts of Earned Value described in AS4817 in a very effective and
efficient manner. As implemented in VIPER, almost all of the data needed for the Earned Value calculations
and reports is sourced from information already residing in the businesses management systems. Powerful
and effective reports are generated quickly and easily.
VIPER’s Earned Value reports are typically completed within hours of a nominated status date (often twice a
week) and require virtually no additional effort to generate. This contrasts noticeably with the massive
commitment of specialist staff and resources needed to process the Earned Value data on major Defence
The approach embodied in VIPER allows project management systems to be designed utilising the most
effective components (Scheduling, Earned Value, MRP, Timesheet, Data management, Accounting, etc) and
then to use data integration techniques to ensure prudential processes are followed whilst:
• Optimising the overall efficiency of the business unit and reducing paperwork.
• Delivering a major boost in operational efficiency and management information.
• Using the power of effective information (with particular reference to Earned Value) as a catalyst for
improving workforce culture and productivity.
From the perspective of “project management” VIPER is a system that combines the traditional project
control methodologies of resource levelled, Critical Path Scheduling and Earned Value Performance
Management with sophisticated data management techniques to provide a semi automated project
management system that is quick, responsive and cost effective to operate. It is also a pseudo ‘Expert
System’ that capture best practice and encourages performance improvement.
The primary purpose of VIPER  is the management of airworthiness issues associated with the validation,
control, and tracking of maintenance data essential for the safe repair of aircraft and other capital assets
(although these are only briefly mentioned in this paper).
The focus of the paper is on the underlaying philosophy of the VIPER process and its potential to be applied
to other business endeavours that manage complex resource limited schedules on a routine basis. A
secondary focus is the ease and effectiveness of applying Earned Value principles to enhance the
effectiveness of project control processes, particularly when data capture is automated and integrated.
The primary source of data used in this paper is the personal observations of the authors based on a direct
involvement with the development and implementation of VIPER and its predecessors of the last 15 years.
The Requirement for, and Evolution of, VIPER
Business Pressures in the 21st Century
A combination of factors is creating pressures on business systems (with particular reference to project
control systems) to deliver enhanced efficiency and process integrity whilst minimising the opportunity for
errors. These drivers include such elements as the downsizing and deskilling of the businesses work force,
 increase in litigation and lack of tolerance towards any delays, processing errors and/or omissions,
reduced project budgets and ever shorter delivery timeframes  and the increasing complexity of many
projects and project systems.
The solution sought by businesses to overcome these problems is to look for systems that deliver accurate
prudential processes, enhanced efficiency and improved outcomes whilst being quick to implement, and are
cheap and easy to use. An interesting (but not impossible) challenge!
The Evolution of VIPER 
Commercial VIPER is the result of 15 years of development. The initial systems were developed under the
auspices of Australian Defence Force (ADF) managers as they sought to respond to some of the business
pressures outlined above. More recently, the drivers for VIPER enhancements have come from a
combination of ADF and commercial managers seeking to reduce the cost and optimise the maintenance of
ADF air assets.
VIPER is not the result of some sudden “flash” of inspiration, nor was the final form of the system foreseen
during the early stages of development. Each change in process and its supporting technology was driven by
real needs and issues at that time. Then, as the new “enhanced” processes were rolled out, new expectations
were created, new issues and problems recognised and new opportunities identified. 
VIPER is an adaptive or evolving system.
Vertically Integrated Programmed Engineering Repair (VIPER) was initiated as a project by Support
Command in late 1995 to further develop an earlier system called HERMES and make it available to all
RAAF maintenance units.  
The initial rollout was based on variants of HERMES customised to meet the requirements of individual
units. Whilst the relatively quick deployment was an initial advantage, the large number of VIPER variants
soon started to cause enhancement and maintenance problems.
A single unified system for the whole ADF, VIPER97, was released at the end of 1997. This system has been
progressively improved and enhanced based on management requirements and user feedback.
VIPER migrated from being an ADF exclusive system to a commercial system with the outsourcing of
aircraft maintenance for the Hercules and F111 fleets to Qantas and Boeing respectively. The needs of
commercial operators differ significantly in some key areas from the requirements of defence force
management, and have caused a fresh round of system developments. VIPER8 (V8) was released in 2002
followed by V9 in 2003.
The balance of this paper will focus on these latest systems and the advantages to be gained from the
effective integration of data management systems.
Current VIPER Functionality 
VIPER is a complex system with a range of interlinked processes. Rather than attempt to describe the whole
system in detail this paper will focus on the features that support the use of Earned Value as an integral part
of VIPER’s management control processes.
Figure 1 - VIPER Overview
The concept of “Packages” used by VIPER significantly simplifies the paperwork needed to document a
servicing. A package typically includes all of the work to be completed in a particular phase of a servicing,
on a nominated part of an aircraft, by a trade. The “Package” is also the basic planning element, incorporated
into the Master and aircraft specific schedules. Each “Package” becomes an Activity (or Task) in the
schedule with an assigned duration, description, resource allocation and cost.
The major efficiency delivered by “Packages” is the reduction in time needed to deal with a servicing’s
paperwork. The packages contain all of the necessary information needed to complete the work and places
for the work to be completely “signed off” as it is completed. Packages are issued progressively, to facilitate
the progress of the works, based on the requirements of the critical path schedule. A package cannot be
returned as “complete” until all of the necessary signatures are attached. This makes tracking the “sign off”
process a progressive function that was dealt with as the servicing proceeded and as a consequence,
eliminates the massive “paper chase” that would otherwise be required at the end of a servicing.
One of the key elements of the VIPER concept design is that the same package (number, description and
scope) should always refer to the same element of work at the macro level. This allows a history of
performance on the package to be built up over time and improves the VIPER operators/managers ability to
refine future estimates and to recognise when something “unusual” is occurring during an aircraft servicing.
Not all packages contain the typical work described above. Some packages may include tasks that need a
combination of trades to be completed efficiently. Repair packages are typically empty (with an estimated
duration and resource requirement but no actual work) until rectification works are identified and added
during the inspection processes. The design of VIPER gives users the flexibility to specify packages in a
way that optimises the performance of their business.
The package paperwork is printed and held in a plastic ring binder for ease of use, it includes:
• Planned schedule and resource information (derived from the scheduling tool)
• Descriptions of the specific maintenance jobs to be completed as a part of the package, including
references to any necessary technical instructions, manuals, etc.
• The optimum sequence for carrying out the individual operations included in the package.
• Places for all necessary signature requirements (both for each individual job and control of the overall
• Space for recording and signing off any minor repairs completed during the course of the work specified
work on the package (pre-printed EE 508s)
• Barcodes for linking to MRP and Timesheet systems if required by the user
If a better sequence of working is identified, the improved sequence can be locked in and stored for use in
future servicings, either at the operation level within and between packages, or at the schedule level.
Systems Integration & Functionality
VIPER is designed to facilitate integration with other business systems to add new capabilities, functionality
and/or save costs and facilitate ease of use. The core processes addressed by VIPER are:
• The import and “packaging” of approved maintenance data.
• The creation and management of unique package numbers for each servicing.
• The creation and management of a schedule for each servicing based on a ‘Master’ schedule.
• Prudential processes to ensure every single item of work raised against a servicing has been properly
• Close coupling of the maintenance data with scheduling processes to optimise the efficiency of the
• Reporting on the “completeness” and schedule aspects of the servicing.
MRP, Timesheet and Accounts systems are designed (as a part of their core competencies) to deal with
material costs, labour costs, progress claims, payments, etc. VIPER recognises this and does not attempt to
duplicate their functionality. Rather, key data are exchanged to facilitate the operations of all systems.
Within this integrated environment, VIPER performs the following functions and processes:
• It ensures the prudential management of the servicing data through to completion.
• It facilitates the collection of all necessary maintenance data required prior to starting each aircraft
• Core data are protected.
• It facilitates the design and sequencing of packages.
• It allows the management of operations within packages.
• VIPER is an expert system.
• VIPER’s packaging facilitates best work practice and benchmarking.
• VIPER integrates scheduling functionality.
• Integration with downstream analysis tools
• Integration with Timesheet, MRP and other systems
Whilst it is probably true to say, VIPER’s primary focus is on the efficient management of maintenance data
and airworthiness requirements, it is probably equally true to say VIPER attraction to commercial
maintainers is in the significant efficiencies VIPER generates by closely coupling scheduling processes
(including Earned Value) with the management of maintenance data.
Over it life with ADF maintenance units, VIPER has generated savings of many millions of dollars by
increasing efficiency and reducing maintenance times by as much as 30%.
Earned Value – The Key Performance Indicator
VIPER’s Earned Value Philosophy
Aircraft maintenance schedules generally have a few sequential tasks at the start and end joined by many
dozens of short parallel paths through the “Inspection and Refit/Repair” processes. From the perspective of
pure logic, there is no fundamental reason why all four engines on an Orion aircraft could not be removed
simultaneously. However, resource constraints usually dictate a sequential approach to this type of work. As
a consequence, the overall duration of a servicing is controlled by resource availability and the scheduled
dates for many tasks by the resource levelling process.
Resource levelling at the beginning of a servicing may optimise tasks/packages in a particular sequence, (eg
Engine #1, #2, #3, #4). A later analysis may optimise the sequence differently (eg Engine #1, #4, #3, #2),
possibly because there is more work to complete after Engine #4 is finished (eg a fuel tank leak test). In these
circumstances, comparing current schedule and baseline schedule dates on a task by task basis is not overly
helpful. The servicing schedule is optimised but Engine #2 dates are substantially later than planned when
the baseline schedule was stored.
VIPER addresses this issue in four different (but complementary ways):
• Overall progress is monitored against key milestones to check if the servicing is meeting the contracted
Time to Make Serviceable (TMS) and other important internal checkpoints.
• Checks are implemented to note and action any packages that have been ‘open’ for an extended period
(options exist to transfer incomplete work items to other packages if they are being delayed by external
influences, eg spare parts).
• Performance on individual packages is monitored based on the hours of effort planned and expended.
This means performance on the package is still relevant even if work had to stop for a week awaiting an
engineering decision or a new part:
Planned effort = 100 Hrs, Actual = 80 Hrs, Forecast to complete = 15 Hrs OK
Planned effort = 100 Hrs, Actual = 80 Hrs, Forecast to complete = 25 Hrs Problem
• Overall performance (ie is adequate work being accomplished at a reasonable cost) is monitored using
Earned Value techniques.
The metric used in VIPER’s EV system is work hours. This metric was chosen for a number of reasons
• Confidentiality of financial information – For maximum benefit, VIPER’s reports should be widely
distributed within the workspace. Generally, financial performance data is seen as confidential; as are
pay rates, charge rates, etc.
• Control and responsibility – Hangar management generally has little control over the cost of spare parts,
etc. They have full control over the performance of the workforce.