Elisabeth Pendergrass's blog

Elisabeth Pendergrass's blog

New Article - Why Software Estimation Is More Important Now Than Ever

In a world trending away from traditional waterfall and toward agile development methodologies, it would be understandable to assume that there is no longer a need for software project estimation. Many agile practitioners feel there’s no value in estimation, since they are already working with smaller increments and sprints and grooming their backlogs.

However, that assumption would be wrong.

In a recent interview, Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland, the founders of Scrum, were asked about the #NoEstimate movement. Schwaber believes a more appropriate term may be #NoMeaningfulCommitments. He feels that people often confuse estimation with commitments and that, in fact, estimates should be used in making commitments. Sutherland mentioned a recent Rally (now CA) survey that asked members of 70,000 scrum teams about the estimation techniques they used and then correlated those techniques with speed of delivery. They found that those that eschewed estimates altogether yielded some of the slowest delivery times, while those that employed scope-based estimation delivered the fastest results.

Larry Putnam, Jr.'s latest article for InfoQ explains why estimation is still a very valuable practice, even in organizations that are dependent upon agile development methodologies. He outlines several best practices that stakeholders can use to get their software estimation processes back on track toward adding value to their organizations. Software estimation does not have to be difficult, onerous, or ineffective. Done right, it can be a highly effective tool that can help project managers provide value to their organizations.

Blog Post Categories 
Estimation Agile Articles

QSM Releases SLIM-Collaborate 3.0

QSM is pleased to announce the release of SLIM-Collaborate 3.0, the web-based, software-as-a-service version of our trusted software estimation, tracking and benchmarking suite. With more advanced workflow capabilities, the updated version of SLIM-Collaborate enables more efficient communication between stakeholders throughout the estimation process. Additionally, the demand resource capabilities added in SLIM-Collaborate 3.0 make it easier for users to identify staffing needs and allocate resources to a software project.

Highlights of the new capabilities in SLIM-Collaborate 3.0 include:

Blog Post Categories 
Estimation SLIM-Collaborate QSM News

QSM's Larry Putnam, Jr. Discusses the Role of Estimation in SAFe in SD Times

Larry Putnam, Jr. was recently quoted in 'Framework and Standards Are the "Essence" of Agile at Scale,' an article published in SD Times. The article consulted other industry experts such as Ivar Jacobson, Matt Schenck, Dean Leffingwell, and Ken France on best practices for implementing agile at scale. Larry's advice below.

Agile estimation is the key to a successful SAFe implementation
With all of the benefits of SAFe, getting it right is key. Using agile estimation can help.

“For organizations that are implementing SAFe, they’re really trying to coordinate a lot of different stakeholders within the organization and the real benefit they’re looking to get out of it is a much more nimble delivery,” said Larry Putnam Jr., co-CEO of QSM. “To be able to do that, we’ve got all these different stakeholders that we have to coordinate. That becomes really complicated and estimation is kind of the communication vehicle for these different stakeholders.”

Putnam explains that the highest level of an organization is the business and its stakeholders. The stakeholders or senior managers within an organization need to ask in what direction the business needs to go and how software will support that. These needs are usually articulated at a high level, said Putnam.

“Those are going to get apportioned across different value streams, and they’re really looking at the whole portfolio of what’s going on within the enterprise,” Putnam said. “In order to implement all those capabilities the business wants, you’ve got all these different cross-functional teams that are working on different pieces of the system.”

Blog Post Categories 
Estimation Agile

Advice from QSM Experts for Successful Software Development in 2018

Advice for Software Development in 2018

At QSM, we understand the importance of looking forward, but we also strongly believe in sharing the insights and advice we’ve gained from our past experiences. That’s why we gathered our best and brightest team members to provide their top five pieces of advice for successful software development in 2018.

1. Use verified project data as a baseline.

Too many organizations think of “estimation” as really just bottom-up planning—dividing a software project into its component tasks, and then trying to pair each task with plausible time and resource numbers. They’re left with “point estimates,” or single values, that don’t account for the inherent uncertainty surrounding a project’s size, scope and productivity. Point estimates can lead to inaccuracies that can ultimately cause projects to run over time and budget.

Instead, organizations should base their estimates on real, verified project data. These “top down” estimates should be completed long before prohibitive schedules, budgets, and task lists get cemented into place. Organizations that use this approach are able to account for any changes in scope or requirements early on and adjust their quantitative estimates as needed, leading to better and more accurate forecasting.

- Larry Putnam Jr., Co-CEO, QSM

2. Fill in the information gaps in your software estimation process.

Blog Post Categories 
Estimation Project Management

New Article: Top-Down Estimation Can Drive Efficient And Boundaryless Software Development

Efficient Software Development

In 1990, former General Electric CEO Jack Welch wrote a prophetic passage in the company’s annual report. “Our dream for the 1990’s is a boundaryless company…where we knock down the walls that separate us from each other on the inside.” However, large enterprises who have attempted to live by Welch’s dream remain hampered by set hierarchies: development teams and product owners exist on one level, business management and system engineers on another, while enterprise architects and portfolio managers reside atop the organizational food chain. Employing a top-down estimation approach to project management can help organizations overcome boundaries and satisfy the three V’s of corporate success – vision, value, and velocity. This article, originally published in ISV Insights, takes a closer look at how this approach can work for software companies, particularly larger organizations, to help them improve project management, team collaboration, and development practices.

Read the article!

Blog Post Categories 
Articles Estimation

New Article: Using Parametric Estimation for Large-Scale IT Infrastructure Projects

Estimating Infrastructure

Large-scale IT infrastructure projects require an enormous amount of planning, design, configuration and testing to ensure that everything is working correctly and properly transitioned once the work is done. This takes time and resources. Like their software counterparts, IT infrastructure projects are more likely to be successful — more efficient, secure, and reliable — when accompanied by robust estimation and planning processes. In this article for ProjectManagement.com, Larry Putnam, Jr. and Joe Madden identify best practices for applying parametric estimation to IT infrastructure projects.

Read the article!

Blog Post Categories 
Infrastructure Articles Estimation

QSM's New Online User Forum

QSM recently launched a new online user forum program specifically for our clients. Hosted monthly, these user forums allow current users of our SLIM-Suite to ask questions and share tips on how they are currently using the tools. The theme of our most recent forum was "More than One Way to Skin an Estimate," which reviewed SLIM-Estimate solution methods and different ways to approach estimating challenges that users might have in their particular project environment. Moderated by Lead Support Representative and Trainer Laura Zuber, Laura started the meeting by revisiting the software production equation, which shows the relationship between size, effort, time, and productivity. By rearranging the equation different ways, the user can solve for what they don't know. This is the basis of our new redesigned solution wizards: Balanced Risk, ROM Estimate, Fixed Resources, Bid Evaluation/Playback, Time-Boxed, and Re-Estimate an In-Flight Project. After Laura gave a live demonstration of these wizards, we received great feedback from users that they found them more intuitive and helpful resources to get the answers they need. 

After the demo, clients were able to ask questions and share helpful tips and tricks that they have discovered in the tools. One user particularly liked analyzing scope creep using the Size Growth Analysis feature, while another recommended using the trend mix feature when estimating a complex project. Laura also took feedback and product feature requests. This is the kind of close feedback we want from our customers to get them the best value possible from our tools.

This user forum was a great success and we look forward to hosting these sessions regularly in the future. If you are SLIM-Suite user and would like to participate, please contact us.

Blog Post Categories 
QSM News SLIM Suite SLIM-Estimate

New Article: 5 Software Laws For Smooth Product Development


Software Executive Magazine

QSM's Larry Putnam, Jr. and Don Beckett recently published "5 Software Laws for Smooth Product Development" in Software Executive Magazine. Corporate executives are often removed from the daily ins and outs of software development and execution by necessity. Since their focus is on long-term projects and goals that will lead to profitability, they don't have time to be part of daily development meetings. Even so, executives should take steps to ensure they are firmly in the loop with software development projects, especially in the critical planning phases prior to project kickoff. This article identifies five core software development laws software executives should be mindful of to ensure their organizations software projects stay on schedule and within budget.

Read the article!

Blog Post Categories 

Webinar: Best Practices for IT Portfolio Budgeting

IT budgeting is anything but simple, so why do so many organizations do it in an overly simplistic way? Instead of relying upon detailed task-based spreadsheets and wild guesses, IT budgeting should be leveraging historical data and predictive modeling. This webinar will discuss the business process and application of estimation to the challenges of building the annual IT budget. Presented by QSM's Larry Putnam Jr. on October 11 at 11:00 AM EST, this upcoming ITMPI webinar will focus on how this process can support the following aspects of portfolio management: Pipeline - Demand Management, Risk Management, Resource Management, or Financial Management. Larry will demonstrate how a macro-level estimation process can leverage the very basic information typically available early in the development cycle to generate release level budgeting information. He will then show how to aggregate the releases to provide portfolio level assessment and adjustments that will conform to business level constraints. This webinar will be useful for anyone involved in or responsible for building the annual IT budget. 

Register for this webinar!

Blog Post Categories 
Webinars IT Budgeting Demand Management

Gartner Symposium Presentation: Cost Optimization for IT Portfolio Budgeting

QSM is pleased to announce Keith Ciocco will be presenting "Cost Optimization for IT Portfolio Budgeting" on Monday, October 2 at 6:10 PM on the Emerging Technologies Stage at the upcoming Gartner Symposium/ITXpo. This presentation will highlight cost optimization techniques in the annual IT budgeting process. Instead of relying upon detailed task-based spreadsheets and wild guesses, attendees will learn how to leverage historical data and predictive modeling for more accurate and cost-effective IT budgeting.

Additionally, QSM will be exhibiting SLIM tools and consulting services in the Emerging Technologies Area. Stop by booth ET14 to get a live demo and learn more about our IT budgeting and demand management solutions.


Blog Post Categories 
QSM News IT Budgeting