Practical Software Estimation Measurement

An In-Depth Look at the QSM Database

The QSM Database is the cornerstone of our tools and services, so our clients and prospects often ask for more information regarding the data and types of projects represented. This blog post addresses some frequently asked questions about the QSM Database.

Sources of Data

Since 1978, QSM has collected completed project data from licensed SLIM-Suite® users and trained QSM consulting staff. Consulting data is also collected by permission during productivity assessment, benchmark, software estimation, project audit, and cost-to-complete engagements. Many projects in our database are subject to non-disclosure agreements but regardless of whether formal agreements are in place, it is our policy to guard the confidentiality and identity of clients who contribute project data. For this reason, QSM releases industry data in summary form to preclude identification of individual projects/companies or disclosure of sensitive business information.

Data Metrics

Our basic metric set focuses on size, time, effort, and defects (SEI Core Metrics) for the Feasibility, Requirements/Design, Code/Test, and Maintenance phases. These core measurements are supplemented by nearly 300 other quantitative and qualitative metrics. Approximately 98% of our projects have time and effort data for the Code and Test phase and 70% have time/effort data for both the R&D and C&T phases.

Productivity is captured via the following metrics:

QSM Productivity Index (PI)
Cost per SLOC or Function Point
SLOC or Function Points per month
SLOC or Function Points per Effort Unit (Months, Hours, Days, Weeks, Years)

Quality data is captured via the following metrics:

Total Errors (System Integration test – Delivery)
Errors/Effort Unit (various)
Errors/KESLOC or Function Point
Post release defects at 1, 3, 6, 9, 12, and 18 months

Data Usage

Data from our database is used to:

Keep our tools and algorithms in sync with the latest industry practices and technologies
Create the nearly 600 industry trend lines included with SLIM-Suite applications
Support our basic measurement, benchmarking, estimate validation and verification and other consulting services
Conduct ongoing research available via books, papers, articles and blog posts offered on our web site

Data Availability

To protect our clients, we release project data in summary form only. QSM consulting and tools clients may receive graphs and summaries that allow them to compare their projects against industry trend lines and actual projects that are similar in size, application type, and complexity. Summary statistics and information about the Putnam Model are also available in books like Five Core Metrics, Measures for Excellence and Industrial Strength Software, webinars, QSM IT Almanacs, blog posts, technical reports and whitepapers, conference presentations, the QSM function point language table, QSM performance benchmarking table, and journal articles.

Kinds of Data

Individual project duration, effort, size, productivity, and quality data is available for projects ranging from 2-57,000 function points and 100 - over 10 million SLOC. Our core metric set is supported by nearly 300 other quantitative and qualitative measures.

Volume of Data

About 10,000 projects from 1978 through the present. To facilitate longitudinal studies of the industry, older project data is retained.

Industry Data

QSM data is stratified into 9 major application domains (Avionics, IT, Command & Control, Microcode, Process Control, Real Time, Scientific, System Software, and Telecom) and 45 sub-domains. Software projects predominate, but we have a growing number of hardware and infrastructure (non-software call center) projects as well.

Data contributors include DoD; civilian commercial firms; and national, state, and local government entities. In addition to domain complexity bins, our data is also broken out by major industry and industry sector. Major industries include the financial sector, banking, insurance, manufacturing, telecommunications, systems integration, medical, aerospace, utilities, defense, and government.

Methodology Data

The QSM database includes a variety of lifecycle and development methodologies (Incremental, Agile, RUP, Spiral, Waterfall, Object Oriented) and standards (CMM/CMMI, DoD, ISO).

Language Data

Approximately 600 languages are represented with most projects recording multiple languages. Common primary languages are JAVA, COBOL, C, C++, C#, VISUAL BASIC, .NET, IEF / COOLGEN, PL/1, ABAP, SQL, ORACLE, POWERBUILDER, SABRETALK, JAVA SCRIPT, DATASTAGE, HTML. Frequently used secondary languages include JCL, SQL, JAVA, COBOL, ASSEMBLER, C++, HTML, VISUAL BASIC, XML, ASP.NET, and JSP.

Country Data

QSM has collected and analyzed software projects from North America, Europe, Asia, Australia, and Africa. About 50% of our data is from the U.S. Another 35-40% is from India, Japan, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and other major European countries.

Future Data

We are currently expanding our data collection to include non-software and hardware projects as well as institutional or portfolio level performance measures.


As pioneers and innovators in the software estimation field since 1978, Quantitative Software Management is more than just a company name; it's the philosophy that defines everything we do. Our goal is to help our clients become world-class software developers so they can deliver world-class software projects. For over 30 years we’ve provided superior estimation products and consulting services that enable our clients to estimate, track and benchmark projects with confidence. Our tools and methods can help you negotiate achievable goals, set realistic expectations and communicate more effectively with your colleagues and customers.

At the helm of QSM is Larry Putnam, who founded the company in 1978. Larry possesses more than 30 years of experience as a software management consultant and has worked on more than 400 client engagements. Considered to be among the top problem solvers in the software estimation and measurement field, Larry has authored four books and hundreds of articles. He is sought internationally as a speaker and management consultant.

Headquartered in Washington, DC, QSM also has regional distributors in Massachusetts, England, and the Netherlands. QSM has established itself as the leading total solution provider of choice for software developers in high-performance, mission-critical environments.

Does your firm have a need for custom industry benchmarks? QSM offers a broad array of consulting services - contact us today to see how we can help!

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