Project Management

Project Management

New Article: Set the Stage for Software Project Success

Set the Stage for Software Project Success

Management decisions made before a software project is underway are a significant factor in determining whether it succeeds or fails. In a recent article for Projects at Work, QSM's Don Beckett identifies seven principles, based on comprehensive studies, that leaders must support and uphold to help create an environment in which projects can succeed. Ignoring them practically guarantees failure.

Don Beckett has 18 years of experience in software project estimation, measurement, and analysis. His responsibilities at QSM include research, consulting, and customer support. Don was an analyst/co-author of the 2006 QSM Software Almanac and has contributed articles to Crosstalk and Software Tech News.

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Articles Project Management

How to Build Better Software

The problems of software projects are concentrated in three areas: schedule, cost, and quality.  These problems have accompanied software development from the beginning, so they are not new.  Nor have they been ignored.  Huge amounts of thought and effort have been focused on them with unfortunately modest results.  Improvement efforts have been concentrated on management technique (think PMO), process improvement (CMMI, for example), and better tools.  These are all good things, and I can’t imagine embarking on a development activity of any magnitude without them.  However, they have not significantly reduced the incidence of schedule, budget, and quality problems.  Since the problems remain, obviously these remedies have not effectively addressed the root causes of schedule and cost overruns and poor quality.

How to Build Better Software

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Project Management

The Cinderella Stories of Software Development

After enduring the longest winter I can remember, I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of spring, and what better way to do that than to participate in QSM’s annual March Madness Tournament?  For those of you not familiar with our March Madness pool, it’s kind of a big deal.  The top finisher receives a portion of the winnings as well as bragging rights for the following year, and in the process gains immunity from being subject to ridicule by our Commish.  This year the steaks are especially high, as Warren Buffet has offered $1 billion to the person who can guess the perfect bracket.

I will admit that while my standings in last year’s tournament were not as high as I had hoped, I am determined to turn that around this year.  I’ve abandoned my mascot battle strategy and instead will be implementing some techniques used by some of the best software estimators in the field.  I will be using history to determine my picks 

Taylor's Bracket

Instead of spending a lot of time laboriously filling in each line, I had Yahoo Sports auto-fill my bracket based on the teams’ historical standings this season.  To come up with my final score, I averaged the scores of the previous 10 national championship games.  It pains me to predict that some of my favorite teams will be eliminated in the second and third rounds in this bracket, but in the interest of becoming a self-made billionaire I cannot afford to make any emotionally-driven decisions that ignore the stats. 

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Project Management

When Bad News Isn't So Bad

I think it’s safe to say that nobody really enjoys hearing bad news.  It’s especially hard if you’re the person who has to deliver the bad news, particularly to a superior.  How will your boss react?  Will you be the one held responsible (unfairly) for the project failure?  These are all reasons for keeping the ‘bad news’ to yourself and letting those in charge find out on their own.  

I’ll share a story about one of the first jobs I ever held, as an assistant manager at a summer swimming pool.  My supervisor had a very hands-off approach to management and would often rely on me and the other assistant managers to handle the day-to-day operations of the pool.  Whenever I would deliver less-than-favorable news to him, such as our pool vacuum breaking, or a health inspector dropping by to schedule a visit, my supervisor would literally stick his fingers in his ears and say “La la la la la, I can’t hear you.  Taylor, you know how I feel about bad news.  Fix the problem.”  This put me in a very awkward situation, because as a high school student, I didn’t necessarily have the training or the authority to fix every problem myself, in order to shield him from the ‘bad news.’  

Unfortunately, this type of management exists beyond the pool house and can frequently be found in the corporate world as well.  In an environment where your reputation can mean everything, stakeholders can be very reluctant to receive bad news about the status of their project.  The silver lining in this is that receiving ‘bad news’ isn’t necessarily always a bad thing.  Allow me to explain.

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Estimation Schedule Project Management

New Article: Project Clairvoyance

Software Project Clairvoyance Article

Can advances in data-driven estimation turn software project failure into a distant memory? Well, if learning from experience is the key to success, imagine what you could do with real-time access to three decades of research, thousands of projects and more than 600 industry trends. In this article, originally published on Projects at Work, QSM's Larry Putnam, Jr. identifies key benefits of employing estimation best practices for project success.

As Co-CEO for QSM, Larry Putnam, Jr.'s has more than 25 years of experience in software measurement, estimating and project control. He joined QSM in 1987 and has worked in every aspect of the business, including business development, customer support, professional services and now executive management.

Read the full article!

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Estimation Articles Project Management

How to Improve Your Software Project at the Foundation

Now that it’s officially summer I’ve been feeling the pressure to do some of the home improvement projects that I’ve been putting off since winter.  I figured watching one of those cable shows about flipping houses would inspire me to get started.  But instead, I started thinking about all the parallels between the show and software projects.

In our training classes, we often make the analogy that software projects are like construction projects.  When you start a project, you need to determine its scope.  That would include how big it is and how much functionality it will have.  You need to determine what resources are available to you.  This includes what tools you have to build your project, the number of people available, their skill levels, and your budget.  You also need to determine how much time you have to complete this project and the level of quality you’re willing to accept.

This particular episode began as most home improvement shows do.  A team of overly ambitious stakeholders with limited construction knowledge decide that they are going to flip a house because it’s all the rage this year.  They do some calculations based on the costs of acquiring, renovating, and maintaining the property, which determines that the house needs to sell in 60 days or else they will lose money.  Already, we’re looking at a high risk project.  

They hire a team of carpenters and contractors to start the work, but during the initial survey of the property they discover that the scope of the project is not possible given the allotted schedule or budget.  The team then engages in a series of spirited discussions about which features they can cut without compromising the overall quality of the house.  The remainder of the episode is then spent watching the team rush to finish the project on time.  

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Process Improvement Project Management

Let's Get Serious About Productivity

Recently I conducted a study on projects sized in function points that covers projects put into production from 1990 to the present, with a focus on ones completed since 2000. For an analyst like myself, one of the fun things about a study like this is that you can identify trends and then consider possible explanations for why they are occurring. A notable trend from this study of over 2000 projects is that productivity, whether measured in function points per person month (FP/PM) or hours per function point, is about half of what it was in the 1990 to 1994 time frame.

Median Productivity

Size (FP)394167205144


Part of this decline can be attributed to a sustained decrease in average project size over time. The overhead on small projects just doesn’t scale to their size, thus they are inherently less productive. Technology has changed, too. But, aren’t the tools and software languages of today more powerful than they were 25 years ago?

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Productivity Project Management

Ditch the Madness: SLIM Your Brackets

Monday morning I received an email that read:

Hi All,
You can set your clocks to it: the birds flying north for spring, daylight savings time, and this email being sent on the Sunday before the tournament begins.  That's right, March Madness is upon us my friends, and we’ve officially made it through winter. 

The message continued with details about how to participate, but as you can see, it’s time for QSM’s annual March Madness tournament.  So how do I justify spending company time filling out brackets?  By blogging about how this is actually related to project management.  As I went through the exercise of predicting the course of this tournament, I realized that many of the thoughts I had also go through the minds of project managers.

Before I reveal my picks I want to give some background information.  I’m new to this whole March Madness tournament thing.  I’m not familiar with the teams.  I don’t know the players’ strengths and weaknesses.  I didn’t watch their games earlier in the season, so I don’t know their stats.  All I know is that my significant other went to Ohio State so I want them to win.

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SLIM-Estimate Project Management