Practical Software Estimation Measurement

New Video: SLIM-Control Software Project Tracking & Forecasting Tool

What you measure matters! Your data analysis is only as good as the data you are collecting. As a project manager and process improvement consultant, I was so excited when I first learned about QSM's project tracking software, SLIM-Control®, because product size, quality, and custom metrics are the best metrics to show the true project status.

Mind you, this discovery took place a long time ago when project tracking was primarily limited to data on staff levels, cost, and duration. These measures provided indirect evidence that work was being done, but gave little insight into exactly what work was actually being done and when it would be completed. I remember a large project team at my company that got into hot water because they overran a fixed-priced project by $1 Million!  My process improvement team member said, "You don't overrun by $1 Million overnight!"  There were probably several issues that contributed to this colossal failure, but certainly one was the lack of visibility into the project status or health on a regular basis to help managers and teams identify potential problems and fix them before they became unsurmountable.

Software projects exist to create value, usually in the form of features and functionality needed by the user community or which support an organization's strategic objectives.  Measures of planned versus actual scope, value, or software size, are critical to providing the visibility to navigate today's complex development environment. Tracking costs and tasks completed is not enough. You need to measure the various artifacts or deliverables throughout production construction process, like requirements, design components, and software code. Defect and reliability measures should also be tracked to ensure that products are released only when they meet quality requirements.

Agile methods have greatly improved the project management process by organizing scope into Epics, Features, Stories, or Story Points, but the effectiveness of tracking with these metrics depends on how they are being used.  In our SLIM-Control training class we show how tracking multiple size metrics can show if predecessor product construction metrics fall behind (e.g., decomposing Epics into Features), it is likely that successor artifacts (e.g., Stories) will also be late.  In fact, we have found the different size measures provide interesting and helpful insights into your software process, especially which ones are better predictors of the work remaining.

By tracking size, effort, and duration at a macro level throughout the project lifecycle, SLIM-Control calculates the current efficiency (QSM’s Productivity Index, PI).  This allows you to manage ongoing project expectations because forecast scenarios reflect the project’s current capabilities.  SLIM-Control curve fits the actual data and forecasts estimates to complete throughout the lifecycle.  If project circumstances change, SLIM-Control adapts to those changes and runs a new forecast.  For example, if people move from one project to another or if requirements or features change, SLIM-Control forecasts calculate the resulting project end date using QSM or custom weights on individual metrics.

SLIM-Control's power and flexibility position it as the top software tracking and forecasting tool I have seen.  It is easily customized to your process and to different project types like package implementation, digital transformation, Agile, or Waterfall.  It is the perfect tool tool to provide early warnings when work metrics start to slip, allow you to see how various corrective measures (adding staff, cutting features) will affect the project’s schedule, cost, and quality, and keeping your projects moving in the right direction.

If you’d like to learn more about what top-down software estimation and control tools can do for your organization, check out our SLIM overview or contact us for a customized demo.

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