Have you ever heard contingency budget in project management? Actually, Contingency Reserve vs Management Reserve is an important topic for the PMP Certification exam. You may encounter some questions related to the reserves. Calculating reserve is a part of a project’s risk management process. Basically, a project’s risk management process starts with risk identification and qualification. Then proceeds with calculating the management reserve and contingency reserve. The Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK) defines reserves as a provision in the project management plan to mitigate the cost and/or schedule risk. This article reviews the topic contingency reserve and management reserve and describes the difference between both reserves.
Contingency Reserve and Management Reserve in Risk Management
Reserves provide a budget against the project’s risks. These risks may be either known or unknown risks. Contingency and management reserves are added to the project’s budget to manage potential risks.
Contingency reserve and management reserve sounds similar. Thus many practitioners think that they are identical. Likewise, some professionals think that their purposes and calculation methods are similar. However, they refer to different concepts.
Note that both reserves can be used to response both positive and negative risks.
The contingency reserve is a fund added to the cost baseline against identified risks. They are used to develop risk response strategies and mitigate the effects of the known-unknowns (or identified risks).
Simply we can say that Contingency Reserve is a planned amount of fund, time or resource which is added to an estimate for risks that might happen (also known as “known unknowns”).
Contingency Reserves are involved in the performance measurement baseline and the project manager has the authority to use when any identified risk happens.
Typically, the contingency reserve is a computable reserve that can be calculated by the help of techniques such as Monte Carlo Simulation, Decision Tree Analysis, and Expected Monetary Value, etc. Don’t forget that risk register plays a key role while calculating the contingency reserve of a project.
Note that the contingency reserves are associated with those risks is not spent, and the project comes in before time and under budget.
The PMBOK Guide defines the management reserve as an amount of the project budget withheld for management control purposes.
It is not a computable reserve and it is not a part of the cost baseline.
In other words, It is a planned amount of fund, time or resource which is added to an estimate for unforeseeable situations (also known as “unknown unknowns”).
Management Reserves are involved in the project’s budget but the project manager should get approval from the project sponsor in order to use it.
It can be determined by using historical records, by taking into consideration the project complexity and by recognizing customer nature. If you are preparing a complex project budget first time, you can assume management reserves 5% of the total project cost. But don’t forget it depends on many factors.
Management reserve is used to develop risk response strategies against the unknown-unknowns (or unidentified risks). Therefore it can not be used for schedule compression, gold plating and covering cost overruns.
Contingency Reserve and Management Reserve Examples
For better understanding the difference between Contingency Reserve vs Management Reserve, let’s look at the example below.
Let’ s assume that you are a project manager of a bridge construction project.
• 3 days ago a storm demolished some parts of the bridge. As a project manager, you have the authority to use the Contingency Reserve to repair the demolished parts. Because this risk was defined in the risk management plan and a fund has been added for this situation.
• Your project is not on a known earthquake zone so earthquakes are not considered as a risk (threat) to your project. But an earthquake happened last week and destroyed some parts of your bridge. As a project manager, you reported the event to your top management and asked their permission to use the Management Reserve to repair the destroyed parts.
What are the Key Differences?
As it is mentioned above, these two types of serves different purposes and they are not identical. For better understanding, let’s review the differences below;
- The contingency reserve is a budget or time to be used to response known-unknowns (or identified risks). On the other hand, management reserve is used to response unknown-unknowns (or unidentified risks).
- The contingency reserve is a computable reserve that can be calculated by the help of techniques. Management reserve is not computable. It can be added as a percentage of total project costs (or duration).
- Since the contingency reserve is added to the cost baseline, the project manager has the authority to use it. However, the project manager must get approval to use the management reserve.
- The contingency reserve is a part of cost baseline (or schedule baseline) where management reserve is not a part of the cost or schedule baseline.
- Contingency reserve can be removed when the identified risk does not occur. However, management approval is required to remove the management reserve.
Contingency Reserve vs Management Reserve is an interesting topic. Effective risk management plays a key role in a project’s success. Both types of reserves are used to manage identified and unidentified risks. Simply put, Contingency Reserve can be calculated by the help of techniques such as Monte Carlo Analysis, Decision Tree Analysis and EMV (Expected Monetary Value). On the other hand, it is not easy to estimate the Management Reserve. Mostly it can be thinkable as a percentage of the total project cost.
Note that the project risk management process is an important topic for PMP Certification exam. There may be one or more than one questions related to the topic.
Francois Simosa is the head of training for the Gragados Training Associates, which provides special project management and risk management training programs.