Practical Software Estimation Measurement

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.

One pain point that comes up from time to time with prospective clients in the software development industry is figuring out how to manage the information gaps in the software estimation process. Organizations implementing agile or SCRUM methodologies are often focused on the duration and budget but sometimes realize late in the game that their software quality is lacking. This late discovery can often create a negative impact on the release date and affect the success of the overall portfolio. 

One of the things that can help fill those gaps is a reliable estimation tool.  Organizations can use an empirically-based tool to measure the impact that software quality has on the overall delivery of the project.

- Keith Ciocco, VP Solutions for Project & Portfolio Forecasting & Metrics, QSM

3. Increase the quality and reliability of your agile program.

The agile methodology has numerous benefits - including faster results, more efficient work processes, and superior solutions - however, these benefits can all be undone without proper estimation and re-estimation throughout the development process. Even in agile programs, teams rely on point estimates and fail to re-estimate them when things change, resulting in poor quality software and unreliable estimates. One way organizations can help increase both software quality and the reliability of their agile program, is by implementing full-scale estimation from the start. Our SLIM Suite of tools helps organizations estimate their defects, take a top down approach and figure out how much functionality they can deliver within a fixed timeframe at an acceptable reliability level - all from the start.

- Doug Putnam, Co-CEO, QSM

4. Create a system for collaborating on project estimates.

A major pain point in software development is finding effective ways to communicate with all stakeholders, from C-suite executives to developers. Corporate executives want a user-friendly, drop-down platform that gives them what they’re looking for with minimal effort. Development teams, however, need a more detailed level of visibility into the platform since they are actually on the front line building the software.

Our SLIM-Collaborate platform helps all team members stay on the same page and access the information that is important to them. SLIM-Collaborate automates intelligence sharing and promotes efficient communication by giving end-users exactly what they need, when they need it, while also seamlessly integrating with the desktop programs the more technical, back office people need. Estimating is no longer limited to the highly trained SME.

- Ethan Avery, Senior Solutions Advisor, QSM

5. Inject data-driven consistency to drive software acquisition accountability.

The need for accountability is increasing across both the public and commercial sector. This is a challenge for a lot of organizations because in order to achieve accountability, you need to have consistent processes and performance measurement. Unfortunately, many organizations don’t have the data-driven processes in place to do equal and consistent comparisons of projects and managers. They’re using outdated approaches and too much ad hoc estimating, and that’s jeopardizing their future accountability goals. 

The good news is that our quantitative, top-down software estimation methods can enable such accountability, by providing organizations with the performance baselines and benchmarks they desire.  I’ve seen that when they employ these data-driven approaches, they’re able to set more realistic expectations for both executive stakeholders and developers. In turn, they are able to reach a level of consistency necessary to credibly achieve their future accountability goals .

- Victor Fuster, Director, Defense and Intelligence Services, QSM

As we continue to move forward in 2018, we hope this advice encourages you to also take a moment and reflect back on the successes and lessons learned from this previous year. If you have any advice or insights for 2018 you’d like to share with your peers, comment below or email us so we can pass them along!

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