Value, Defined

At VMS we work to improve the value of all our client’s projects.

But what exactly is value?

Our technical definition of value is the relationship between performance, cost, time, and risk in accomplishing a function or set of functions.  

In actuality, we all know that technical definitions do not always apply so neatly to real-world applications.

So what does value mean to our clients?

For them, value means identifying and minimizing a project’s risks, streamlining business practices, improving product features, reducing costs, providing training, decreasing production time, enhancing designs and overall, creating better returns on their investments.

On each of our projects, VMS works closely with our clients to determine what value means to them individually, and how that value translates to their products and services.

Once we’ve determined our client’s definition of value, our team use a variety of tools and techniques to measure, analyze, and make recommendations to help clients reach their goals.

The meaning of the word “value” means something wholly different not only to each client but on each project. At VMS, we are experts at helping our customers make decisions and adjustments to realize their best values, no matter what they may be. 

The Value of Authorship

Writing a book is no easy task. It is an exercise in determination, patience, and discipline.

As November is the national month for three different writing and literacy programs, VMS would like to celebrate the authors on our team.

Rob Stewart, VMS President, has authored three books on the management of value and risk:

VMS’s Technology Director, Ethan Brown, has written two books on software development:

  • Learning JavaScript, 3rd Edition – Covers practical JavaScript programming topics in a clear and approachable manner perfect for beginners, while also going over complex concepts such as functional and asynchronous programming.
  • Web Development with Node and Express – Shows how to build dynamic web applications with Express, a key component of the Node/JavaScript development stack.

VMS’s Chief Operating Officer, Terry Hays, wrote the chapter on value engineering for Maynard’s Industrial Engineering Handbook – Fourth Edition (McGraw-Hill). He has also written training manuals on value engineering that cover construction projects, product designs, manufacturing processes, and administrative systems and procedures.

VMS’s other experts on staff have also authored a variety of white papers and journal articles detailing new ways to improve value engineering and risk management practices.  You can read them here.

We thank our team members for taking the time to share their knowledge and expertise, their papers and books help us all improve our skills and gain a better understanding of our industry.

The Value of being Aware

Social engineering is the psychological manipulation of the natural human tendency to trust.  People inherently want to be helpful, so some con artists assume a level of credibility with you to gain access to information that seems harmless but is actually very important.

What usually happens is people hear a professional sounding voice on the phone or see a seemingly trustworthy email, and then scammers use that and other psychological tricks to con people into opening malicious files or sharing critical information.

At VMS we advise our team to be suspicious of unsolicited calls or emails looking for information, such as:

  • Emails looking for names of our team members. For example: “I need the names of your engineers for the company sweatshirt order…”
  • People you do not recognize claiming to know you and asking for help. For example: “We met at a conference, can you please look at my paper and give me some insights?”
  • Emails from authority type institutions such the IRS, federal courts, etc.
  • Pushy people calling you and asking you to take immediate action on a previously unknown issue.
  • Social media invitations from people you do not know.

Remember that social engineering cannot be blocked by technology alone. We all must be on the lookout for potential threats.

The Value of being Vigilant

Everyone thinks they are too smart to be conned. We all know that emails that come from foreign princes willing to share their riches with us but first need our banking information are a scam. We know not to open any email attachments from suspicious looking senders.

However, phishing attempts have become more sophisticated and anyone can be tricked.  Here are some red flags we train VMS employees to look for:

  • Emails looking for general information (email, fax or phone number), specific technology or more information about products/services advertised.
  • Emails soliciting business and marketing services.
  • Students looking for help, peer reviews or comments.
  • Emails that target an employee’s ethnicity.
  • Emails with spelling and grammar mistakes.
  • Generic email addresses (Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo) and foreign email addresses (IN, RU, IR, CN, CU.)
  • Emails with no job titles or contact information.
  • Remember do not open attachments or hyperlinks from unknown sources!

Scammers can recreate your company’s email signatures and logos, or even mimic a current co-workers email address. Be suspicious of emails from a co-worker asking for any form of money, check or credit card information.

Think before you click. Think before you respond. And remember to report any suspicious emails to Defense Security Services.

The Value of Coming Together

The Harvard Business Review recently published an article claiming that companies who participate in teambuilding exercises that solely focus on teambuilding and nothing else will never achieve lasting long-term results. However, companies who have their employees come together and mutually decide on goals and objectives are much more successful.

Just a week after the article was posted, VMS cleared two days from our busy schedule of client work to bring all our employees together to do exactly that – to better understand all the facets of VMS and to determine our goals and values as a group.

At VMS the needs of our clients are constant and ever-changing. Many of our managers are gone for weeks at a time, consulting on dozens of projects.

So why then, did the VMS Management Team decide it was worth our time to devote two full days to non-billable work?

Because it is their firm belief that to produce the best results for our clients, our team needs to be unified.  We need to know that everyone has the same definition of success, is working towards the same goals and has a full understanding of our services, capabilities, and the talents of our team.

Based on a survey of our employees’ experiences at VMS’s offsite, the event was a valuable use of everyone’s time.

How did we make our offsite a success?

By using the same practices we utilize on our client projects.  As we began planning our offsite, we asked employees what they wanted to achieve during the event. What information did they want to take away? What did they think VMS’s strengths were? Where could we improve?

With the information we received from all the different functional areas, we looked for common themes and issues. Next, we developed a plan on how the event would address those concerns. We also asked for feedback during and after the offsite, so we could make on-the-fly adjustments and begin planning how to improve next year’s event.  One example of the many outcomes which emanated from the offsite was the group identification and prioritization of the values we hold most important at VMS.  These included:

  • Care and Concern
  • Innovation
  • Invest in People
  • Trust
  • Humility and Grace

Ultimately, by building a solid internal foundation, VMS can better serve our clients. By operating as a cohesive, well-informed team, VMS ensures that no matter the challenge, or who is on our team, we will deliver the exceptional results we are known for.

The Value of Thinking Before You Post

Loose lips may have sunk ships, but with today’s social media landscape, loose tweets can sink fleets.

October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month and VMS would like to share some of the social media safety practices our employees use to help ensure the security of vital information.

Social media can be a double-edged sword, while it allows us to share more information and at a more rapid pace, it is also those same features that increase possible operations security risks. People, especially those who work with critical data, need to be careful about what they tweet or post. VMS encourages our team to:

  • Think smartly about what you post or share online. Remember that anyone can see what you write, so be careful what you disclose about your family and occupation.
  • Remember to use privacy settings to help protect your personal information.
  • Remember to turn off location features from your devices and posts so others cannot track you or where you are working
  • Double check before connecting to any public wireless hotspots to ensure that the network is legitimate

By taking a few moments to think before you post, you can help ensure that your information, and your company’s information, stays secure.

VMS’ Doug Leo Elected President of AACE

In AACE’s recent election, VMS Senior Cost Estimator Doug Leo was elected for a three-year commitment as President of the Board of Directors. Formerly known as the American Association of Cost Engineers, AACE is a professional society serving the total cost management community since 1956. Doug currently maintains several important total cost management certifications and designations, including Certified Cost Professional (CCP),  Certified Estimating Professional (CEP), and Honorary Life AACE Fellow (FAACE). He himself was part of  the AACE task force to develop and streamline the CEP certification.

Doug has more than 30 years of total cost management, professional estimating, and project consulting experience. At VMS, Doug has been responsible for preparation, review and validation of conceptual and detailed estimates for domestic and international capital projects ranging from $200,000 to over $10 billion in size. He specializes in capital projects of strategic importance, utilizing new technologies and innovating in parametric estimating methodologies.

Join us in congratulating Doug Leo. At VMS, we regularly see the benefits of Doug’s involvement in AACE for our Project Controls Group, and look forward to many more years of his guidance, mentorship, and innovation in total cost management.

VMSPro® launches with fanfare from clients and consultants alike

VMSProIt comes as no surprise that VMS’ clients welcomed our latest innovation in value management, VMSPro®. The easy-to-use, comprehensive software was rolled out in recent VA/VE and decision analysis studies to resounding success. But more surprising, VMSPro® is piquing interest in business consultants from around the world. In fact, requests for demos have doubled as they discover how powerful VMSPro® can be in helping their own clients with custom business solutions.

To see the power of VMSPro® for yourself, visit


VMS primary contributor in VE/Risk Analysis Research for Project Delivery

VMS recently contributed to the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Research Report 850, which investigated methods, techniques, and tools for the application of Value Engineering, Risk Analysis/Risk Management, Constructability Review to improve project delivery for transportation projects. This study included a set of seven training videos which provide instruction the VMS-developed Value Management System Tool. To read the report, visit the Transportation Research Board website.

VMS President Rob Stewart on the intersection of Project Management and Value

Rob Stewart was recently invited to discuss value management and its role in project management for an episode of the PM Point of View Podcast, produced by the Washington DC Chapter of PMI®. In it, he talks about his impressions of the pressures imposed on project managers to deliver projects while juggling various project constraints.

Rob describes how project managers drive value, but aren’t always the ultimate decision-maker. “Project managers tend to be champions of projects, but they may not always be in the right position to challenge the basic premise of a project,” he says. “We don’t ask why enough; we assume we understand why, when we really don’t.”

Value management – including value engineering, risk management, and performance management – offers a bridge between competing elements and stakeholders to deliver projects.

“You need a balanced platform to make informed decisions and to get the various stakeholders in alignment,” Rob says, “and that’s where value management plays a central role.”

Click to listen to the full PM Point of View Podcast episode, and contact us if you’d like to continue the discussion on how value management is critical to overall project management.