QSM Resources

Thirty years of research – in one convenient place.

Articles and Whitepapers

In the interest of supporting the software development industry, the following resources are available free of charge.

Top-Down Estimation Can Drive Efficient And Boundaryless Software Development

By Larry Putnam, Jr. ( January 2018 )

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.

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Using Parametric Estimation for Large-Scale IT Infrastructure Projects

By Larry Putnam, Jr. ( December 2017 )

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.

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Measuring Effort and Productivity of Agile Projects

By Andy Berner ( August 2017 )

This is the sixth article in the QSM Agile Round Table series. The QSM Agile Round Table was formed to discuss the role of estimation in agile environments. QSM customers shared their questions, challenges, and experiences on the relevance and benefits of scope-based estimation in an agile environment. Participants had several questions about measuring effort and productivity, and whether there are special issues around how to define and collect these metrics in an agile environment. In this article, Andy Berner identifies best practices for measuring effort and productivity in agile and discusses how the two are related.

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Determining a Gearing Factor for Story Points

By Andy Berner ( August 2017 )

This is the sixth article in the QSM Agile Round Table series. The QSM Agile Round Table was formed to discuss the role of estimation in agile environments. QSM customers shared their questions, challenges, and experiences on the relevance and benefits of scope-based estimation in an agile environment. The previous two articles focused on determining size in a consistent enough manner across multiple products, projects, and agile teams in order to have good historical data on which to base an estimate. They looked at several possible units of measure for software size, including story points, function points, and source lines of code (SLOC). SLIM-Estimate and SLIM-Collaborate permit any of those units, as well as others, to be used for software sizing. In order to use a sizing unit other than SLOC in the SLIM tools, you must assign a gearing factor.  For function points, gearing factors are discussed here. In this article, QSM's Andy Berner addresses ways of choosing a gearing factor for story points.

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Alternative Sizing Units for Agile Estimation

By Andy Berner ( July 2017 )

This is the fifth article in the QSM Agile Round Table series.  The QSM Agile Round Table was formed to discuss the role of estimation in agile environments.  QSM customers shared their questions, challenges, and experiences on the relevance and benefits of scope-based estimation in an agile environment. This article continues the focus from the previous article on determining size in a consistent enough manner across multiple products, projects, and agile teams so that you have good historical data on which to base an estimate. QSM's Andy Berner looks at other sizing units besides story points, in particular function points and source lines of code. 

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Sizing Agile Projects Consistently

By Andy Berner ( July 2017 )

This is the fourth article in the QSM Agile Round Table series.  The QSM Agile Round Table was formed to discuss the role of estimation in agile environments.  QSM customers shared their questions, challenges, and experiences on the relevance and benefits of scope-based estimation in an agile environment. The previous article in this series, “Big Rock Estimation” written by Aaron Jeutter from Rockwell Automation, addressed the question of how to determine the size of a release absent of a “big upfront requirements phase”, and thus when the requirements are only known at a very high level and subject to refinement and change.  The next three articles will focus on determining size in a consistent enough manner across multiple products, projects, and agile teams so that you have good historical data on which to base an estimate. They will also show how to apply these techniques with the SLIM Suite of products.

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How to Avoid the 3 Top IT Project Risks

By Doug Putnam ( June 2017 )

For a number of years, the federal government has been on a mission to reduce waste and enhance efficiencies across departments, including IT. But according to the CIO Council’s 2017 State of Federal Information Technology report, 43% of the federal government’s $80 billion in IT projects cataloged in September 2016 were listed as over budget or behind schedule. In this article for GCN, Doug Putnam takes a look at some of the common pitfalls that lead to project cost and schedule overruns and how parametric estimation can help government CIOs and their teams avoid these traps.

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Leveraging the Power of Historical Data Through the Use of Trend Lines

By Taylor Putnam ( May 2017 )

Developing software within the DoD presents a unique set of challenges, including but not limited to budget cuts, Congressionally mandated changes, changing software requirements, and so on. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that cost estimators have faced significant challenges when estimating systems in the Defense arena. A recent initiative put forth by the DoD was to improve its estimation process by leveraging historical data collected from forensic analyses of recently completed software development efforts. This article by Taylor Putnam-Majarian and John Staiger, discusses (1) some of the challenges faced throughout this initiative, (2) the data collection process, and (3) how one can leverage data to improve cost estimates. This article was originally published in Crosstalk Magazine.

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Function Point Sampling Holds Promise for Software Metrics

By Carol Dekkers ( April 2017 )

As we embark on 2017, which is also the 30th anniversary of IFPUG Bylaws, there are reports that the software development industry is making progress. The 2015 Standish Group CHAOS report cited that agile projects are, on average, three times more likely to be successful than waterfall projects (based on their survey of over 10,000 projects.) The not-so-good news, however, is that the percent of successful projects (defined as on-time, on-budget, and with a satisfactory result) hasn’t changed much since the first CHAOS report in 1996, and hovers around 40%. The top three success factors in the 2015 report were not technical: 1. Executive Support, 2. Emotional Maturity and 3. User Involvement (agile processes ranked #7.) The need for software sizing measures to support project estimating remains just as critical as it was 30 years ago, yet IFPUG function points are not used as extensively as they could be to support software sizing. Rather than “throwing the baby out with the bathwater,” so to speak, or creating new metrics to solve old problems, Carol Dekkers and Joe Madden suggest a new way to repurpose function points to achieve estimating successes today. This article was originally published in IFPUG's Metric Views.

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How Everyone Can Plan for 2017

By Doug Putnam ( March 2017 )

No one got into software development to budget. Developers love to code and create. If they wanted to create budgets, they’d have become accountants. Still, creating a development plan for 2017 is essential and will inevitably require budgeting and estimating, a process that should be done in partnership with business teams. This will ensure the creation of software that cost-effectively meets their needs. In this article originally published on SD Times, Doug Putnam identifies three strategies for better budgeting and planning in the new year.

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