Practical Software Measurement

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Estimating Plays a Vital Role in Agile – Dad Says So!

#yesestimates for agileRecently a friend of mine sent me a link to a YouTube video featuring Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber, the founders of Scrum, discussing the latest update to the 2016 Scrum Guide.  The updates to the guide were comprised of survey feedback from the Scrum community, with the goal to understand what is important to them that should be included in the updated Scrum guide.  

The most compelling part of this discussion for anyone contemplating whether estimating belongs in Scrum happens at the 32:10 point.  Jeff and Ken are posed the question, “what is the difference between a forecast and an estimate?”   They answer with the idea that many people confuse the word estimate with commitment, which plagues any development effort regardless of method.  Subsequently Jeff and Ken changed the word “estimate” to “forecast” in the latest Scrum Guide to reflect the ever-changing growth and reduction in project scope, i.e., the estimate will show our best commitment and what we think is going to happen.  That can change once the project starts, BUT, we can measure that too through forecasting, essentially re-estimating throughout the project.  

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Agile Estimation

New Article: The Importance of Continuous Tracking

Importance of Continuous Software Project Tracking

Developing early software project estimates is an industry best practice, but creating those estimates is only half the battle when it comes to improving productivity. By continually keeping the pulse of a project—measuring performance against estimates and adjusting when necessary—teams can gain valuable insight into their software development processes. This insight can be leveraged in future development cycles, leading to more efficient production and a better bottom line. Estimates are just the beginning. In this article for Project Times, Larry Putnam, Jr. explains how project tracking, reforecasting, and post project review are three valuable strategies teams can employ to monitor the development process and improve outcomes.

Read the article!

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Project Management

Is There a Better Way to Do Agile Planning?

Plan Agile Projects BetterThere are so many questions around agile planning, one of the biggest being: do we need an estimate? Project managers and scrum masters will spend months developing a system either for internal use or for their clients, yet some of them say that estimates are not needed. Some recommend starting the project without an estimate. They say they will see how the first few weeks go before they generate an estimate. Others say not to worry about an estimate at all; they are a waste of time.

The problem with those recommendations is that there are business decisions that need to be made regarding whether or not to even start the project. Reliable estimates for cost and duration are needed to make these decisions. Also, for the projects that do move forward, there is usually limited information available early in the lifecycle, not enough to provide a detailed plan. Product owners need to see the big picture before a reliable detailed plan is generated.

There is also the IT manager that needs to figure out how they will allocate their resources. There is the vendor manager that needs to evaluate multiple bids for a large software system that could cost the company millions of dollars. There is the proposal manager that needs to write a proposal that must be cost competitive to win business. And, there is an annual budget at stake and the CIO needs to know how much money their development organization is going to spend over the next 12 months. You can’t support these decisions in the best way possible without reliable release level estimates.

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Agile Estimation

Assessing Project Portfolio Risk in IT Budgeting

No one said IT budgeting was easy. It seems like you just finished last year’s budget and now it is time to start all over again. Not only is this task difficult, it is made worse by the fact that most organizations do it in an overly simplistic way. This often results in up to 40% of the projects grossly missing the mark, which wreaks havoc on the enterprise resource plans and results in disappointed business stakeholders.

A large part of successful IT budget planning is identifying grossly unrealistic projects – the ones that are likely to fail and the ones that are ultra conservative and wasteful. Our solution is to perform a basic feasibility assessment on each project as it enters the budgeting process. Ultimately, we will want to make adjustments to these projects, making them more reasonable and improving the overall project performance.

So how is this feasibility assessment done? Start by creating a set of historical trend lines for schedule, effort, and staffing versus size of functionality produced. The trend lines provide a basis for the average capability that could be expected. It also gives us a measure of the typical variability that can be expected. Next, position the initial budget requests against the trend lines. The intention is to identify whether or not the projects are outside of the norm and typical variation; i.e., projects that are high risk or poor value. Figures 1 through 3 highlight some of the techniques used to identify those types of projects.

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Estimation IT Budgeting

New Article: How a Center of Excellence Can Help Teams Develop Excellent Software

The ways that enterprises handle software development have changed immensely over the past couple of years. But as many organizations are upending traditional business cultures as they strive for greater collaboration, some core principles remain the same. Business stakeholder requirements need to be delivered within a reasonable timeframe and budget, with a good user experience and solid return on investment. By implementing an Estimation Center of Excellence, organizations can ensure that their projects remain on track, even (or perhaps especially) in highly agile environments. In this article originally published in SD Times, Doug Putnam outlines best practices for establishing an Estimation Center of Excellence.

Read the full article!

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Articles Estimation

Can We Take the Tracking of Agile Projects to the Next Level?

Before an agile project starts, many product owners will run an early release estimate. Once the activities get started, managers or scrum masters begin to track the progress. When they track, they usually include the person hours of effort and the number of user stories within each sprint.  There are a number of agile tracking tools and methods in the marketplace for these tasks. 

But wouldn’t it be great if the tracking and estimation process could be combined, using the actual tracked effort and user stories to run new and improved ongoing estimates at the release level? At QSM, we have applied this process to hundreds of software projects. This type of adaptive forecasting can help save time and effort by showing when a software release is headed down the wrong path. It can also help organizations avoid signing up to inflated resource planning numbers that cause many companies to waste millions of dollars at the release and enterprise levels.

In the SLIM-Control charts below, we see the blue plans versus the red actuals and the new forecasts in white. We are capturing the total effort spent and the actual work delivered each week, then using that information to generate mathematical models that produce new empirically based forecasts at the release level.

Agile Project Tracking

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Agile SLIM-Control

New Agile Article: Sizing Matters

Cone of Uncertainty

Agile is about adapting to change, not completely abandoning documentation or dismissing helpful planning and estimating inputs. In this article for Projects at Work, QSM's Jay Daniel explains how the benefits of an agile approach can shine brighter when used in conjunction with a fundamental development practice such as sizing.

Jay Daniel is a Professional Services Manager with QSM's Consulting Services team. He is an IT professional that has served in a variety of consulting roles, ranging from Program and Project Management to providing Independent Verification & Validation (IV&V) support to clients. For the past five years, Jay has focused his attention on agile methodologies in the implementation of software development efforts. He is a certified project manager (PMP), scrum master (CSM), and product owner (CSPO).

Read the full article!

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Agile Articles Sizing

Our IT Project Overspent by $1 Million? No problem!

IT Project OverspendingRecently the correlation between seeking the best gasoline prices and software project overspending collided for me.  On one hand, IT projects will easily outspend their budgets, and on the other hand, in our private lives, we are doing all we can to save pennies in our personal budgets.

From time to time I have found myself pondering whether to drive the extra 5 miles out of my way in order to beat the system and enjoy the best gasoline price in my area.  I don’t believe I am alone in this quest as evidenced by the websites that publish the lowest gas prices within a certain radius.  Typically the competing stations have very small differences between their prices.  If I play my cards right, I may be able to save a total of $.50 - $.75 for a fill up.  In almost all other walks of life $.75 is not even worth a second thought.

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Estimation

The New QSM Website

New QSM Website Homepage

Our team has been working hard to make sure we’re making your job as a project manager, estimator or company executive as easy as possible. QSM is more than an estimation company, providing predictive analytics to support fact-based decisions and realistic resource demand predictions for enterprise level capacity planning. This means that no matter where you are with your project or portfolio, you can find the information you need quickly and easily.    

So, as you may have noticed when you came to our site today, things are looking a little bit different, as we’ve rolled out our new and improved website! Our hope is that you’ll find it incredibly easy to navigate. If you aren’t exactly sure where to start, right on the home page you can now select a starting point by clicking on any of the following buttons:

At a quick glance of the homepage, you can also now get a brief overview of QSM and the industries we serve, and access our blog, news, and client list

One of our primary goals for the new site is to help each and every visitor understand the problems we solve, so they can better serve the companies, organizations and government agencies they work for.  This new drop down menu includes the following:

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QSM News

Why Should I Care about the Actual Data? The Project Is Complete.

"The game ain't over 'til it's over." - Yogi Berra

Baseball season is here and with apologies to the late Mr. Yogi Berra, “it’s like déjà vu all over again.”

Why would a project team or program management office (PMO) take the time and spend the resources to collect information about a project that was just completed? Isn’t this the time when victory is declared and everyone runs for the hills? In many cases, delving into what happened and what actual costs and durations were incurred can seem like an exercise in self-flagellation.

Historical data is arguably the most valuable input available in the software estimation process. While other inputs such as size and available duration or staffing can be seen as constraints, properly collected historical data moves the activity from the realm of estimating closer to “factimating.”

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Data SLIM Suite