Practical Software Estimation Measurement

The 2016 Software Almanac: A Look Back at 35 Years of Predictive Analytics for Business Intelligence

QSM Software Almanac: 2016 Edition

Let’s face it -- times have changed since the initial principles of predictive analytics and software estimation were established. Today more than ever, we live in a time where there is an incredible dependence on software – it is the cornerstone of almost every business. Risk management and cyber vulnerabilities are now major concerns that weren’t even on the radar decades ago. 

The 2016 version of the QSM Almanac, released earlier this week, takes a truly unique look at the last 35 years of predictive analytics and estimation for business intelligence to determine if its previously developed principles are still applicable today, and, if so, how those principles apply to the current state of software projects. The results are somewhat incredible, and I thought I could share a few of the highlights from this year’s resource as a preface to the full (and free) Almanac, which can be downloaded here:

Previous Truths.  Here at QSM we are lucky enough to have access to my father, Larry Putnam, Sr., who helped develop the principles and truths surrounding predictive analytics with repect to software projects.  He provided the foreword for the 2016 winter edition of the Almanac, which discusses his “then and now” journey in the industry to include how he got into software, his solution which includes “The Rayleigh Equation,” and, ultimately, a conclusion as to whether or not his methods are still relevant. Spoiler alert! You’ll find they are still very applicable with adjustments. 

The Five Core Metrics.  There are five core metrics that provide the insight needed to properly and accurately collect project data and create viable estimates for business intelligence: Software sizing methods, productivity vs. size and staff, establishing a baseline, modifying code vs. new code, and sample sizes and trend line creation. All of these are examined closely within the Almanac, which contains the following conclusions:

  • SLOC with all its flaws and challenges being useful for early project estimation, remains the one of most universally applicable of all software sizing measures at project completion. See page 3 in the Almanac for further information  
  • When it comes to productivity vs. size and staff, simple productivity tends to be higher on larger software development projects and smaller team sizes tend to have higher productivity.  These two things are not mutually exclusive, however, as larger teams become more productive as project size increases, but productivity increases even further as team size decreases. See page 9 for sample data sets. 
  • Establishing a baseline will eliminate much of the up-front uncertainty and will provide detailed recommendations based on quantifiable data.  See page 15 for more.
  • For most uses of the size metric in software development, new and modified code should be weighted equally in calculating software size. This is especially true in the absence of any more detailed knowledge. See page 21 for the full story.
  • Deciding whether or not to group projects is important in creating effective benchmarks. See page 29 for tips.

Understanding Projects.  From a project management perspective, it is important to understand the reasons that lead to a software project’s success or failure.  The 2016 Almanac dives deep into the following topics to help project managers take control of their projects, increasing their chances of success while decreasing the potential for failure:

  • The Problem of Prolific Process: Balancing the Quantity and Quality of Documented Process (pg. 41)
  • Philosophy of Analysis (pg. 47)
  • The Most Common Reasons Software Projects Fail (pg. 51)
  • Combining Soft Skills and Hard Tools for Better Software Estimates (pg. 57)
  • The Shape of the Work When Estimating Agile Releases (pg. 63)

Best Practices.  We felt like it is simply not enough tell you that the same basic principles of predictive analytics and software project estimation from 35 years ago still apply today with some minor modifications and not provide substantial insight to best practices for producing exceptional business intelligence. Therefore, in the final section of the Almanac, there are five articles that focus on topics such as vendor management, software security, staffing, demand management, and choosing the right tools to help ensure your software projects are bug-free, dependable, and reliable. 

All of this and more can be found in the 2016 QSM Almanac. Download your complementary copy today. And, for those who are visually inclined, be sure to check out our Infographic: Software Size Matters

Happy Estimating.

- Doug Putnam 

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