Practical Software Measurement

Blogs

QSM Releases SLIM-Suite 10.1 with a New Look and Feel

QSM has recently released an update to the feature-rich SLIM-Suite of tools.  For a detailed list of updates, download the SLIM-Suite 10.1 release notes. The 10.1 desktop release updates the look and feel of SLIM-Suite tools with easier-to-read fonts and a cleaner, simpler color palette inspired by modern Business Intelligence and Data Analysis applications. A new, high resolution theme also offers better support for high DPI and high resolution monitors.

Bird's Eye Staffing View

Many of the visual updates are subtle, so this post will cover the high impact features you're likely to notice on upgrading to SLIM-Suite 10.1. In SLIM-Estimate, cross-hatched phase shading on time series charts has been replaced by lighter, transparent curve fills that grow progressively darker for successive phases.  The view below shows staffing over time, not broken out by role, for a project using a traditional lifecycle.

SLIM-Estimate Staffing View

Detailed Staffing View

Agile projects may prefer a more granular view of project staffing by role, with sprints delineated over the project timeline:

Project Staffing by Role

Task-Based Schedule View

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SLIM Suite QSM News

New Article: Good Planning – Not Development Methodology – Is the Key to Successful Project Delivery

Agile Team Size

Agile is all the rage today and companies are investing lots of capital to work within agile frameworks. Are these new methods the key to reducing project failure? When projects get behind schedule, a common reaction is still to add more people. Doug Putnam recently examined 390 contemporary applications of the same size, a significant portion of which used agile methods and tools, to see what matters more - staffing decisions or methodology. He discovered that while the additional staff reduced the schedule by approximately 30%, the project cost increased by 350%. The additional staff also created 500% more defects that had to be fixed during testing. Over the past 15 years, QSM has performed this same study in five-year increments and has found the same results -- staffing decisions have more of an impact on project success than any development methodology. In this article, Doug Putnam identifies a staffing "sweet spot" and outlines a step-by-step planning process  that uses predictive analysis and early estimation to more accurately account for staffing needs.

Read the article!

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Articles Team Size Agile

Are Your Software Projects Too Small?

We hear a lot about software projects that are too large or attempt to do too much in too short of a time.  They are very visible and negatively impact both budgets and careers in a not positive manner when they fail.  Small projects may fly under the radar.  This is a mistake.  Most IT projects aren’t large undertakings like Healthcare.gov; rather, they are enhancements and customizations to already existing software systems and account for the majority of most enterprises’ software budget.  Planning these projects to be optimally productive is an area in which most companies can realize the greatest returns.

How do you know what is the optimal amount of software to develop in a project?  In a newly published software benchmark study QSM analyzed productivity, cost/effort, and time to market of a large sample (over 600) of business IT projects that have recently completed.  The projects were divided into quartiles based on the amount of software they developed or customized, which were then compared to each other.  Fully ¼ of the projects were smaller than 3,200 implementation units in size or 68 function points for projects that used that size measure.  Projects in this quartile had a median productivity of 200 IU per staff month or 5 function points per staff month.  The median duration of these projects was slightly more than 3 months. The second quartile contained projects from 3,200 IU up to 8,000 (or 69 to 149 function points).  These projects had a median productivity of 377 IU per staff month (or 7.62 function point per staff month) and lasted a little more than 5 months.  This is a productivity improvement of 89%.  The smaller projects were markedly less productive.  So, simply by bundling software work into larger packages there are significant efficiencies to be gained.

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Estimation Sizing Productivity

Microsoft Services Global Apps CTO Discusses His Team's Evolution Around Estimation

As the Apps Global CTO for Microsoft Services, Lenny Fenster sees the need for estimation in many shapes and sizes throughout the world. In his twenty years at Microsoft, Lenny has also seen many different attempts to improve how Microsoft Services estimates time and effort for software development projects. Not all of them have hit the mark. In this presentation for the QSM 2018 Virtual Conference, Lenny talks about the evolution his team is driving in Microsoft Services to improve the maturity, consistency, and defensibility of software estimation for some of the largest and most complex software projects in the world. He talks specifically about the intentional separation of scope and estimation and the use of SLIM as a key ingredient in the success they are now having. Estimates are now done much quicker, reducing the time to run an estimate from days to just 4.5 hours.  

Lenny was gracious enough to answer questions throughout his presentation about the estimation process at Microsoft Services. This sparked great participation from our audience, who asked a number of questions worth resharing. Here are the highlights:

Q: Did you experience any resistance among the architects in changing the way they did estimation to a new approach?­

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Estimation Webinars

QSM Virtual Conference Recap and Presentation Replays

QSM would like to thank our fantastic presenters and all that attended our virtual conference. More than just one-dimensional presentations, each session included interactive Q&As with active participation from our audience. It was great to hear such a wide variety of presentations covering project management success in many different areas, including the return on investment from estimating agile projects, the application of the SLIM tools to government outsourcing programs, and the benefits of leveraging flexible sizing techniques and QSM estimation methods. If you were unable to attend last week, you can find replays of all of the presentations below. We encourage you to reach out with any additional questions or feedback.

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Webinars QSM News

QSM Virtual Conference: Lessons Learned from 40 Years of Estimation Innovation

QSM turns 40 this September! To celebrate this milestone, we will be hosting a free, all-day virtual conference on September 19th for current clients and those looking to learn more about software estimation best practices. The conference will feature presentations from IBMMicrosoftProgressive InsuranceRockwell Automation, and KPMG, as well as new developments in QSM research and tools. Below you will find a list of speakers and presentations. 

  • "Our Evolution Around Estimation" - Lenny Fenster, Microsoft Services

  • "Strengthening Estimation Governance in a Large-Scale Organization with SLIM-Collaborate" - Christophe Guillou and Angelo Moore, IBM Global Services

  • "Using Project History to Produce Estimates" - Daniel Horvath, Progressive Insurance

  • "Big Rock Estimation with SLIM Estimate" - Aaron Jeutter, Rockwell Automation

  • "Five Core Metrics to Reduce Outsourced Software Project Failure" - Joseph Madden, KPMG

  • "Understanding the Physics of Software Development" - Larry Putnam, Jr., QSM

  • "The Evolution of SLIM-Suite Tools" - Kate Armel and Laura Zuber, QSM

You can find the speaker's bios and abstracts here. Click here to register.

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QSM News

Is Software Estimation Needed When the Cost and Schedule Are Fixed?

In many agile environments, the budget, team size, and schedule are fixed based on an organization’s predetermined targets for sprints or iterations. This leads many project managers to question if software estimation is even necessary. The problem is, without a reliable size estimate, the amount of functionality promised within the time and money constraints could be difficult to achieve and could cause the product delivery to be short on features, or late and over budget.

This is where scope-level estimation tools come into play. They can help evaluate whether targets are reasonable and, even if the schedule and budget are both set in stone, they can help figure out how much work can be delivered. This type of analysis helps set customer expectations and provides data driven leverage for negotiations.

The best estimation tools leverage empirically-based models, industry analytics, and historical data. They can even be used before iteration level planning takes place. They ensure that the overall goals are reasonable before detailed plans are developed. 

In the three views below, we see an estimate generated from a “Time Boxed” method. This is where the product manager was able to input the predetermined time, a productivity measure (PI), and a team size, to see how many story points could be completed within the set constraints. The analysis also includes a “sanity check” of the estimate, comparing it to an agile industry trend from the QSM Industry Database and their own agile historical data.

Time Box

Time Box

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Agile Estimation

Bringing Transparency into Project Contingency Buffers for Schedule and Cost

The application of contingency buffer, more commonly known as “padding” or “management reserve” is the final step in any project estimation process.  The most common practice is for the estimator to use an intuitive multiplier which is added to base estimate.  Unfortunately, everyone has a different multiplier which is shaped by their own personal bias about risk and it is hidden in their head.  This creates a fundamental problem with transparency and consistency within most organizations.

Fortunately, there's a better way.  One solution is to define and configure agreed upon standards that are matched to specific business risk situations.  These should be collaboratively agreed to by all the stake holders in the organization.  Then they can be codified into a configuration that can be selected at the time when contingencies are typically applied to an estimate.  This helps solve the consistency issue.

Project Risk Buffer

To attack the transparency issue, you can use a technique of overlays to visualize the contingency in comparison to the base estimate. 

Project Risk Buffer

New Article - Five Traps that Lead to Project Failure (and How to Avoid Them)

Project Manager Today

No one starts a software project thinking that it is doomed to fail, but many projects end up falling far short of expectations. A recent PMI report shows that a significant number of companies are still underperforming expectations - failing to deliver software that functions as intended and drives positive business results. PMI’s report breaks out project development teams into two distinct camps: “overachievers” and “underachievers,” where the former are delivering projects on time and on budget, while the later is not. In this article for Project Manager Today, Larry Putnam, Jr. identifies five traps that the "overachieving" organizations are successfully avoiding, and better strategies that can be used in their place.

Read the full article!

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Project Management Articles

10 Tips for Better Software Project Tracking & Oversight

Software Project Tracking

 

During QSM’s 40 years in business we have often been asked to help with software projects that are out of control and riddled with unrealistic goals and soaring costs. Project managers often ask, "where is the light at the end of the tunnel?" In honor of Larry Putnam, Sr., who started QSM back in 1978, here are 10 tips for better project tracking and oversight.

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SLIM-Control SLIM-Collaborate Tracking