Practical Software Estimation Measurement

The 2014 QSM Software Almanac: Seven Insights that Matter

It is no coincidence that this year’s release of the 2014 QSM Software Almanac has been coined the Research Edition. The data, research, insights, analysis and trends packed into the 200+ page book truly make it the ultimate resource for software development and estimation. That said, I thought I’d share just a few of the highlights from this year’s Almanac as a little teaser to what you’ll find when you download the full (and free) resource.

  1. Project failure is more common than you think.  In the QSM database of 10,000 projects, 26% of reporting projects were more than 20% over budget and 32% were more than 20% over schedule.  Interested in why – and what to do about it?  Read Kate Armel’s article on “Data Driven Estimation” (page 25).
  2. Time spent in analysis and design is a sound investment. Don’t undercut the time spent on project planning. Projects that spend over 20% of the total effort in Analysis and Design complete sooner, cost less (use less effort) and have fewer defects. For more, read Don Beckett’s article on Function Point Trends (page 59).
  3. Team size correlates with project success. Conventional wisdom has long maintained that smaller teams deliver more productive projects with fewer defects. However, did you know that on small projects (5,000 or fewer new and modified source lines of code) large teams achieved an average schedule reduction of 24% (slightly over a month), but project effort/cost tripled and defect density more than doubled? The negative impact of using large teams on large projects was even more pronounced. Read “Small Teams Deliver Lower Cost, Higher Quality” (page 73) for a more comprehensive look at the research data on team size.
  4. Phase overlap is one of eight factors that impact schedule performance. Phase overlaps occur, generally, because project and program mangers are attempting to shorten the overall project duration by having concurrent phases (such as Functional Design and Main Build). Unfortunately, this approach usually has the opposite effect. For the other seven tips, take a look at Paul Below’s article on “Optimal Schedule Performance: Project/Environment Factors with Most Impact on Schedule Performance” (page 77).
  5. Velocity is team and release dependent. Velocity (the speed with which a project is completed) is hard to predict, which can impact the overall accuracy of a software development estimate. For a better understanding of velocity, read Andy Berner’s article entitled, “Constant Velocity is a Myth” (page 129).
  6. Projects are almost always larger than they seem. This truism is just one of seven things that business leaders need to understand to create a successful project development environment. Don Beckett explores all seven factors in his article, “Set the Stage for Success” (page 149).
  7. Development projects are shrinking. On average, today’s developers deliver about one-fourth as much new and modified code per project as they did 30 years ago. This is due to factors such as code reuse, more efficient programming languages and methods and new lifecycle methodologies like Agile and RUP. For all the long-term trends related to programming languages, productivity, size and scope, read Katie Costantini’s article, “A View from Above,” which explores how the software development industry has evolved from 1980 to the present (page 167).

As I mentioned earlier, the 2014 Almanac is a free resource for the community – this data is just too important not to share with the industry. I hope you’ll take this opportunity to download it and review some great articles, research, data and analysis to help you succeed with your next software development projects. I look forward to your feedback.

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