Larry Putnam Sr.'s blog

Larry Putnam Sr.'s blog

Roots Run Deep: The Journey to Software Application Estimation and Risk Management

The story of QSM and software application estimation begins during my time in the Army. I was assigned to Sandia Base, NM to research methods for protecting soldiers from the effects of nuclear explosions.  I had to do several calculations to determine the impact of an explosion (blast calculations) on soldiers using a slide rule, which was very tedious.  Sandia National Laboratory was next door to my office, and they had just gotten the biggest and best engineering computer available at the time.  They offered computer time for anyone needing it and even offered to teach me programming, so I decided to take a course in FORTRAN programming over my lunch hour so I could do my blast calculations quicker. These lessons aided me in completing my work at Sandia and followed me to my future assignment at the Pentagon. 

For my tour at the Pentagon in the 1970s, there was not a lot of need for my nuclear experience so I was assigned to the Army’s computer program. We had to defend our program budget to the Department of Defense (DoD) budget review authority (OSD). One system, SIDPERS, the Army enterprise personnel system, had been in development for five years and after having a peak staff of 110, we were projecting 93 people for the next five years. The analyst looking at the budget asked what should have been a simple question, “What are these people going to do?” I did not have a good answer, and later, going back to the project team, neither did they. Because of this we lost $10M in our budget.

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Estimation Risk Management

Remembering Ware Myers

Ware Myers died at home peacefully on Friday afternoon July 22, 2011 after a very short period of increasing frailty.

Many of you do not know Ware Myers.  He and I collaborated on four books and many articles about software measurement, estimating and control.  Most of these writings included both our bylines.

Our collaboration begain in 1980 with a tutorial book for the IEEE Computer Society, Software Cost Estimating and Life-Cycle Control: Getting the Software Numbers.   I wrote the text and pulled together pertinent articles from the field.  Ware, on behalf of the IEEE,  put it together, edited it and made it into a handout book for the COMPSAC 1980 tutorial I presented in Chicago October, 1980.  He then suggested that we do a regular book together because he had become very interested in software estimating and management and was trying to get his Ware Myers Writing Service launched.  

The result of this effort was Measures for Excellence: Reliable Software On Time, Within Budget.  Tom DeMarco wrote the Foreword to this book.  I’d like to quote a little of what he had to say:

“ . . . In the sixties and seventies we were metric novices. We would occasionally gush enthusiasm over the possibility of measuring productivity as lines of code per programmer-day.  And then we would come face to face with any of the absurdities that this definition of productivity led us to “Arrghhhh . . . this stuff is harder than it looks.”

In the eighties, we went back over the same ground, but more carefully. We introduced new metrics and new approaches, specifically some project simulation modeling. We used computers and statistical tools to manage these increasingly large data bases of historical data.

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Ware Myers