QSM would like to thank our fantastic presenters and all that attended our virtual conference. More than just one-dimensional presentations, each session included interactive Q&As with active participation from our audience. It was great to hear such a wide variety of presentations covering project management success in many different areas, including the return on investment from estimating agile projects, the application of the SLIM tools to government outsourcing programs, and the benefits of leveraging flexible sizing techniques and QSM estimation methods. If you were unable to attend last week, you can find replays of all of the presentations below. We encourage you to reach out with any additional questions or feedback.
Elisabeth Pendergrass's blog
QSM turns 40 this September! To celebrate this milestone, we will be hosting a free, all-day virtual conference on September 19th for current clients and those looking to learn more about software estimation best practices. The conference will feature presentations from IBM, Microsoft, Progressive Insurance, Rockwell Automation, and KPMG, as well as new developments in QSM research and tools. Below you will find a list of speakers and presentations.
"Our Evolution Around Estimation" - Lenny Fenster, Microsoft Services
"Strengthening Estimation Governance in a Large-Scale Organization with SLIM-Collaborate" - Christophe Guillou and Angelo Moore, IBM Global Services
"Using Project History to Produce Estimates" - Daniel Horvath, Progressive Insurance
"Big Rock Estimation with SLIM Estimate" - Aaron Jeutter, Rockwell Automation
"Five Core Metrics to Reduce Outsourced Software Project Failure" - Joseph Madden, KPMG
"Understanding the Physics of Software Development" - Larry Putnam, Jr., QSM
"The Evolution of SLIM-Suite Tools" - Kate Armel and Laura Zuber, QSM
No one starts a software project thinking that it is doomed to fail, but many projects end up falling far short of expectations. A recent PMI report shows that a significant number of companies are still underperforming expectations - failing to deliver software that functions as intended and drives positive business results. PMI’s report breaks out project development teams into two distinct camps: “overachievers” and “underachievers,” where the former are delivering projects on time and on budget, while the later is not. In this article for Project Manager Today, Larry Putnam, Jr. identifies five traps that the "overachieving" organizations are successfully avoiding, and better strategies that can be used in their place.
Why do projects fail? There are a multitude of reasons from lack of up-front planning to failing to make necessary adjustments as requirements change to overstaffing when the project is running late. Whatever the reason, there are steps you can take to avoid these common traps. In this article for Software Executive Magazine, Larry Putnam, Jr. explains how focusing on scope-based estimates, agile forecasting, and smaller teams will help your development team deliver products on time and according to budget.
In a world trending away from traditional waterfall and toward agile development methodologies, it would be understandable to assume that there is no longer a need for software project estimation. Many agile practitioners feel there’s no value in estimation, since they are already working with smaller increments and sprints and grooming their backlogs.
However, that assumption would be wrong.
In a recent interview, Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland, the founders of Scrum, were asked about the #NoEstimate movement. Schwaber believes a more appropriate term may be #NoMeaningfulCommitments. He feels that people often confuse estimation with commitments and that, in fact, estimates should be used in making commitments. Sutherland mentioned a recent Rally (now CA) survey that asked members of 70,000 scrum teams about the estimation techniques they used and then correlated those techniques with speed of delivery. They found that those that eschewed estimates altogether yielded some of the slowest delivery times, while those that employed scope-based estimation delivered the fastest results.
Larry Putnam, Jr.'s latest article for InfoQ explains why estimation is still a very valuable practice, even in organizations that are dependent upon agile development methodologies. He outlines several best practices that stakeholders can use to get their software estimation processes back on track toward adding value to their organizations. Software estimation does not have to be difficult, onerous, or ineffective. Done right, it can be a highly effective tool that can help project managers provide value to their organizations.
QSM is pleased to announce the release of SLIM-Collaborate 3.0, the web-based, software-as-a-service version of our trusted software estimation, tracking and benchmarking suite. With more advanced workflow capabilities, the updated version of SLIM-Collaborate enables more efficient communication between stakeholders throughout the estimation process. Additionally, the demand resource capabilities added in SLIM-Collaborate 3.0 make it easier for users to identify staffing needs and allocate resources to a software project.
Highlights of the new capabilities in SLIM-Collaborate 3.0 include:
Larry Putnam, Jr. was recently quoted in 'Framework and Standards Are the "Essence" of Agile at Scale,' an article published in SD Times. The article consulted other industry experts such as Ivar Jacobson, Matt Schenck, Dean Leffingwell, and Ken France on best practices for implementing agile at scale. Larry's advice below.
Agile estimation is the key to a successful SAFe implementation
With all of the benefits of SAFe, getting it right is key. Using agile estimation can help.
“For organizations that are implementing SAFe, they’re really trying to coordinate a lot of different stakeholders within the organization and the real benefit they’re looking to get out of it is a much more nimble delivery,” said Larry Putnam Jr., co-CEO of QSM. “To be able to do that, we’ve got all these different stakeholders that we have to coordinate. That becomes really complicated and estimation is kind of the communication vehicle for these different stakeholders.”
Putnam explains that the highest level of an organization is the business and its stakeholders. The stakeholders or senior managers within an organization need to ask in what direction the business needs to go and how software will support that. These needs are usually articulated at a high level, said Putnam.
“Those are going to get apportioned across different value streams, and they’re really looking at the whole portfolio of what’s going on within the enterprise,” Putnam said. “In order to implement all those capabilities the business wants, you’ve got all these different cross-functional teams that are working on different pieces of the system.”
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.
In 1990, former General Electric CEO Jack Welch wrote a prophetic passage in the company’s annual report. “Our dream for the 1990’s is a boundaryless company…where we knock down the walls that separate us from each other on the inside.” However, large enterprises who have attempted to live by Welch’s dream remain hampered by set hierarchies: development teams and product owners exist on one level, business management and system engineers on another, while enterprise architects and portfolio managers reside atop the organizational food chain. Employing a top-down estimation approach to project management can help organizations overcome boundaries and satisfy the three V’s of corporate success – vision, value, and velocity. This article, originally published in ISV Insights, takes a closer look at how this approach can work for software companies, particularly larger organizations, to help them improve project management, team collaboration, and development practices.
Large-scale IT infrastructure projects require an enormous amount of planning, design, configuration and testing to ensure that everything is working correctly and properly transitioned once the work is done. This takes time and resources. Like their software counterparts, IT infrastructure projects are more likely to be successful — more efficient, secure, and reliable — when accompanied by robust estimation and planning processes. In this article for ProjectManagement.com, Larry Putnam, Jr. and Joe Madden identify best practices for applying parametric estimation to IT infrastructure projects.