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How to Set Up Your IBR for Success

Posted by Lia Briggs, PMP on Monday, September 23, 2019

Let’s start by ensuring we have an understanding of the purpose and goals that drive an Integrated Baseline Review (IBR).

A successful IBR ensures that there is joint alignment and agreement that sound execution strategy in place as early as practical between the contracting agency and the contractor.  There should be a clear understanding of the risks that exist and any opportunities for cost savings or technical advancement that improve the products the program is delivering.

More simply put, at the end of the IBR all parties should walk away feeling comfortable that the project can be completed successfully within the defined constraints of scope, cost and schedule.  Below I share a couple of key steps to having a successful IBR. 

It’s a Tool…not an Event

The first step on the path to success is to start with a mindset that an IBR is a tool and not just a formal event for the customer.  All parties have something to gain from using this tool with precision especially the contractor.  IBR planning shouldn’t start after the customer provides the prospective agenda for the IBR and a meeting date.  It also shouldn’t be started on the eve of the 180 day rule often in place.   IBR planning should start when the contract is signed.  Artifacts such as the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), Organization Breakdown Structure (OBS), dollarized Responsibility Assignment Matrix (RAM), program critical milestones, proposal assumptions and Basis of Estimates (BOE) are the gatekeepers for project planning that will also be reviewed as part of the IBR.  Are they complete and accurate?

Control Account Managers

As the baseline plan begins to take shape the Control Account Manager (CAM) can use the preparation for an IBR to facilitate conversations with the Project/Program Manager (PM) about the work they have been assigned.  Is the timeframe an insurmountable challenge?  Are resources needed to perform the tasks scarce?  Is there a meeting of the minds on feasibility of the work to be performed?  CAM discussions are the primary feature of an IBR so there should also be a self-evaluation on if additional training is needed and ask for the necessary training. 

Project/Program Managers

The PM can use preparation for an IBR to ensure that all elements of the technical scope of work have been accounted for in the planning and scheduling of the project.  The project management team as a group has an opportunity to ensure that handoffs between CAMs are unambiguous and documented with their probable impact to cost and schedule long before there is a formal meeting between customer and contractor.  The PM can use preliminary IBR meetings to gain a better understanding of risk.  Have all risks been properly documented on a risk register that continues to be updated as more information is discovered during the planning process?  Review the schedule and the critical path.  Does it support key milestones?  Put yourself in the shoes of the customer and do a thorough review of the project plan several times as the schedule is developed, and the cost and resource plans are established.

The IBR Script

Another step on the path to IBR success is establishing a standard script for the IBR to ensure consistency.  Close the loop on common information gaps that will be exposed in a formal review in preliminary IBR meetings.   Plan to conduct several preliminary IBR trials as part of IBR planning.  Schedule them and approach them with the seriousness of the actual IBR.  The script should contain the following information:

  • Introductory information about the project and contractor – This should be a known, but it sets the stage.
  • Basic system overview to include terminology specific to the organization – This reduces the need to cover this information in every CAM discussion.  Redundant information takes away from valuable time spent evaluating the detail plan.
  • Detailed background of the CAMs including relevant PM/EVMS training – Why are they the person for the job?
  • CAM Discussions with supporting documentation – The goals should be a demonstration of their competency in project planning from pointing out where they fall in the organization to navigating the schedule to critical path tasks and any tasks that fall on the risk registry.  There should be a seamless familiarity with work authorization documents that tell a consistent story about management processes.
  • Closeout – Ensure time to review findings and settle open issues as well as receiving initial observations and feedback

Consider having a third party conduct a preliminary IBR like Pinnacle Management Systems to add teeth to your IBR preparation.  We can offer a comprehensive assessment that will cover developing a personalized IBR script, performing a data trace of project artifacts, reviewing CAM competency and assessing the schedule and baseline for completeness.  Give us a call today for a free consultation.


Topics: Aerospace & Defense, Energy, Utilities, Oil & Gas, Earned Value Management (EVM), Integrated Program Management (IPM), Technology, Deltek PPM, Government & Public Sector, News

Lia Briggs, PMP

By Lia Briggs, PMP

Lia is a senior consultant from our IPM Solutions team. As a certified Project Management Professional and Six Sigma Black Belt Lia has over 20 years of experience consulting and implementing IPM related solutions for A&D companies, federal contractors and government agencies.

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