Estimation

Estimation

Data Analytics for Project and Portfolio Estimates

We live in a multi-dimensional world.  We see in three dimensions.  Our brains’ ability to process spatial relations of height, width, and depth are essential for navigating everywhere we go and every task we perform.  The scientific world has used computers and data to generate 3D graphics for years, because it is the only way to understand complex phenomenon and ideas.  I remember the first 3D color seismic map of rock formations underground I saw.  The image told a story the numbers alone could not.  The business world has caught on in recent years.  The wave began with data warehousing and business intelligence and has grown to include data analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning.

QSM has brought a scientific approach to software development project estimation and management for over 40 years.  Our SLIM-Suite of tools contain statistics on the largest repository of completed software projects that enable you to model software projects to predict potential outcomes and assess the reasonableness of your estimates and project goals.  They have always provided four common types of Data Analytics1 – Descriptive, Diagnostic, Predictive, and Prescriptive.  SLIM tools now provide more in-depth data analytics using quadrant charts.

Software Project Risk Trend Variance Analysis

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Estimation Data

Webinar Replay: Demystifying Cloud Migration Using Estimation

Demystifying Cloud Migration Using Estimation

If you were unable to attend our recent webinar, "Demystifying Cloud Migration Using Estimation," a replay and slides are now available.

Technology organizations spend millions of dollars each year implementing cloud-related programs. Whether the programs are in-house or vendor-related, early planning can be a major stress factor in the management of these programs. Organizations often lose big money and time while trying to carry out cost and schedule targets that were unrealistic to begin with.

Join Kate Armel and Keith Ciocco for this PDU-approved webinar as they show the value of using empirically-based software estimation tools to help mitigate risk and improve early planning and negotiation capabilities when migrating to the Cloud.

Watch the replay!

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Estimation webinar cloud

Upcoming Webinar: Demystifying Cloud Migration Using Estimation

Technology organizations spend millions of dollars each year implementing cloud-related programs. Whether the programs are in-house or vendor-related, early planning can be a major stress factor in the management of these programs. Organizations often lose big money and time while trying to carry out cost and schedule targets that were unrealistic to begin with.

Join Kate Armel and Keith Ciocco for this PDU-approved webinar on January 22 at 1:00 PM EDT as they show the value of using empirically-based software estimation tools to help mitigate risk and improve early planning and negotiation capabilities when migrating to the Cloud.

Register now!

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Estimation webinar cloud

Top 5 Resources for Increasing Software Development Predictability in 2020

Top 5 Software Estimation Resources in 2019
As we enter a new decade, it's important to take a look back at where we've been. The past 10 years saw the introduction of the Ipad, Microsoft Azure, Uber, 4G networks, and Instagram. Some might look back and call this the era of cloud computing and artificial intelligence with increased connectivity and efficiency in technology like never before. But software development goals have remained largely the same: to reduce cost and time to market, increase quality and maintainability, and allocate resources more efficiently. I'm willing to bet those goals will not change in the coming decade. At QSM, we have always believed that the only way to combat the unknown is with practical measurement and metrics grounded in data from our past. As we look to 2020, let's take a look at our top 5 resources from 2019, featuring the most current insights from our industry experts on the state of software estimation and project management and development trends. 

What better way to get a bird's eye view of software development's history than with a look at long-term trends? Leveraging QSM's industry database of over 13,000+ completed projects, Katie Costantini's "Long Term Trends from 40 Years of Completed Software Project Data" took a high-level look at changes to software schedules, effort/cost, productivity, size, and reliability metrics from 1980 to 2019. The study compared insights to similar studies QSM has completed at regular intervals over the past four decades and answered questions like, 'what is the "typical" project over time?' and 'why are projects "shrinking?"

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Metrics Estimation QSM Database

Introducing an Estimating Tool to your Process Isn’t all that Scary

Software Estimation Tool

Many organizations have a need and interest in introducing tools for estimating their IT development efforts, but are reticent due to the perceived disruption, or all out difficulty of execution.  Estimating touches many parts and processes of the organization, so implementation can seem daunting. However, many organizations I work with are surprised by the relative ease of the integration and how the results pay off in spades.

While a process may have been in place for years, or merely months, any good estimating tool should be able to adapt and be woven into that process.  This includes aligning the estimating tool to the nomenclature of the environment and customizing the tool to an organization’s project types such as Cloud, Agile, ERP, Waterfall etc.  Even a seemingly small step of branding the tool itself to the corporate identity, via company logo placement, can help.  Once a tool has your environmental language and “feel” embedded, it starts to belong.  Initially, all of this can be accomplished at a very centralized level – one or two projects with no need for disrupting the work of the project staff.   

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Estimation

Webinar Replay: Is Software Estimation Needed When Cost and Schedule Are Fixed?

Fixed Cost and Schedule Estimation Webinar

If you were unable to attend our recent webinar, a replay is now available.

In many agile and even non-agile development environments, the budget, team size, and schedule are fixed based on an organization’s predetermined targets. This leads many project managers to question how they should proceed with target negotiations and some even wonder if they should estimate at all. The problem is, without a reliable estimate, the amount of functionality promised within the time and money constraints could be difficult to achieve. This could cause the product delivery to be short on features, or late and over budget.

Join Keith Ciocco for this webinar as he demonstrates the role of scope-level estimation tools in evaluating if targets are reasonable and in determining how much functionality can be delivered. This crucial analysis helps set customer expectations and provides data-driven leverage for negotiations.

Watch the replay!

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Agile Webinars Estimation

New Resource: QSM Software Almanac: 2019 Edition

QSM Software Almanac: 2019 Edition

We are pleased to announce the release of the QSM Software Almanac: 2019 Edition, an essential resource for anyone involved in the planning, management, or budgeting of software and systems projects and portfolios. This year's almanac focuses on agile development and the continued relevance and application of estimation and metrics.

The 2019 Almanac presents 18 articles from several perspectives, including both private and public. These articles show that there is indeed a compelling need to apply the basic principles of software estimation to projects, regardless of the methodology used, and that traditional metrics – even sizing metrics – can and should be applied to agile projects. Over the course of this book, the authors examine agile sizing approaches, effort and productivity, estimation best practices, as well as project and portfolio management best practices. All the articles offer research and insights into the foundational skills associated with parametric estimation and adapting those existing skills to account for changing conditions.    

Much of the content in the 2019 QSM Software Almanac is derived from the QSM Metrics Database, drawing data from over 13,000 completed software projects from North and South America, Australia, Europe, Africa, and Asia, representing over 1.2 billion lines of code, 600+ development languages, and 120 million person hours of effort.

We invite you to download the full, complimentary version of the 2019 QSM Almanac below.

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Articles QSM News QSM Database Agile Estimation

How Machine Learning Algorithms Can Dramatically Improve your Estimation Predictions

At QSM, we have been on the leading edge of software estimation technology for 40 years.  One of our recent innovations is to incorporate machine learning into our SLIM-Suite of estimation and measurement tools.  If you are not familiar, the whole concept of machine learning is to “train” your algorithms with data to improve the accuracy of their predictions.  Simple in concept, but the devil is in the details.  In software project estimation, we are always asked to provide timely decision-making predictions based on skimpy information.  Depending on the situation, our analysis will typically focus on one or several of the following criteria:

  1. Schedule (Time to market)
  2. Effort (Cost to develop)
  3. Staffing and Resources Required
  4. Required Reliability at Delivery
  5. Minimum-Maximum Capability or Functionality Tradeoffs

We start the training process by utilizing data from completed projects using these five core metrics.  The data usually resides in tools like Jira or PPM products. Once obtained, we run statistical analysis on the data to determine typical behaviors and variability.

Estimation Machine Learning
Figure 1. Project data used in SLIM Machine Learning Training Process.  Triangles represent completed projects.  Lines are curve fits of the average behavior and statistical variation in the positive and negative directions.  These charts show how time, effort and staffing change depending on the size of the product to be developed. 

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Estimation

The Balancing Point between Project Cost and Schedule

In all production environments, there exists a tension between competing outcomes.  Four variables come to mind:

  • Cost/Effort
  • Schedule
  • Quality
  • Productivity

These do not exist independently of one another.  Emphasizing any one impacts the others.  For example, to compress a project’s schedule, additional staff is typically added which increases the cost.  Larger team size also increases communication complexity within a project which leads to more defects (lower quality).  The development of software  presents a unique issue that may not be present or is at least more muted in manufacturing:  non-linearity.  Key examples of this are the relationships between cost/effort and schedule and the one between schedule and quality. 

Let’s look at some examples.  In the charts below, regression trend lines for schedule and effort vs. size were developed from the QSM software project database.  The darker center lines represent average schedule and effort outcomes as delivered product size grows.  The lighter lines are plus and minus 1 standard deviation.  Roughly 2/3 of the projects in the database fall between the standard deviation lines.  Note the scale on the axes, which is log-log.  This is because the relationship between the amount of software developed and schedule duration or effort is non-linear. 

Software Project Solution
6.5 Month Solution

Software Project Solution
5.85 Month Solution

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Estimation Schedule Effort

Can Estimation & Analytics Improve Vendor Client Relations?

It happens time and time again. Clients look to their vendors to provide software development or configuration services and both sides are often left with big questions. Is the price fair? Can we really get the project done within our duration and resource goals? How can we negotiate for a successful outcome?

There are estimation solutions available that can help. The good ones will leverage empirically-based models, historical data, and industry analytics to uncover which proposals are feasible and which ones are risky.

In the first view below, there are two columns: the “Desired Outcome,” which is one vendor’s proposal and the second column, which is the data-driven “Recommended Estimate.”  The vendor is promising to complete the work in 3 months with a $750,000 price tag. You can see that this proposal is “Risky” and that the vendor will probably finish late and will either have to ask for more money or lose money in the long run.  The charts in the view provide a graphical representation.

Vendor Bid

In the second view for the same project, you see a second vendor’s proposal compared to the “Recommended Estimate.” The vendor’s bid is for 8 months with a $1,000,000 price tag and there is a “Moderately Conservative” rating. In other words, this vendor has a much better chance of achieving what they are promising. 

Vendor Bid

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Vendor Management Estimation