Agile Series Part 2: Stakeholder Satisfaction

When learning something new, people often try to relate the new information back to something they already know in order to help make sense of the new concept or idea.  As a psychology major now working in the software world, I’ve found myself relating a lot of what I’m learning back to the psychological theories and concepts I learned in college.  Therefore, it is no surprise that upon reading The Twelve Principles of Agile Software, I’ve discovered that many of their principles map to organizational psych concepts.

Agile development theory approaches software development holistically.  I believe this is one of the reasons Agile projects have become so successful.  Rather than merely focusing on skill development, Agile methods foster leadership skills and teamwork among members of the development team itself, as well as between the development team, the project owner, and the stakeholders.  One avenue for this is to unify the development team and project owner with the common goal of achieving stakeholder satisfaction.

The first principle states, “Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.”  The question I had upon reading this was what do the authors mean by the term satisfaction?  When thinking about satisfaction, most people think of outcome satisfaction, or the ultimate outcome of something, in this case the functionality of the delivered software project.  Process satisfaction on the other hand, refers to the level of satisfaction associated with the method of developing the software, or how much the stakeholders enjoy the software development process.

Data is the New Soil

David McCandless gave a TED talk  in July 2010 that focused on pairing data and design to help visualize patterns.  In his talk, McCandless takes subsets of data (Facebook status updates, spending, global media panic, etc.) and creates diagrams which expose interesting patterns and trends that you wouldn't think would exist.  Although the focus of McCandless' talk was about how to effectively use design to present complex information in a simple way, I was struck by his own claim that data is not the new oil, but rather that data is the new soil.  For QSM, this is certainly true!

QSM maintains a database of over 10,000 projects with which we are able to grow a jungle of ideas, from trend lines to queries about which programming languages result in the highest PIs.  With  the amount of soil that we have, we are able to provide insight into the world of software, just with the data that is graciously provided by our clients.  By collecting your own historical data in SLIM-DataManager, you can create your own trend lines in SLIM-Metrics to use in SLIM-Estimate and SLIM-Control, analyze your own data in SLIM-Metrics, tune your defect category percentages and calculate your own PI based on experience in SLIM-Estimate, and much, much more. 

How do the uncertainty ranges in SLIM-Estimate relate to Control Bounds in SLIM-Control?

I am often asked this question during SLIM Training classes.  I remember wondering about that myself.  It is a logical question since SLIM-Estimate workbooks are often imported into SLIM-Control to create the baseline project plan.  The answer is ‐‐ they are not directly related, because uncertainty ranges, probability curves, and control bounds are designed to perform different tasks.  This post is the first in a series looking at risk associated with an estimate, risk of your project plan, and handling deviations from the plan.

What are we talking about?

The first thing we need to do is define some very important terms that are often misused (I am the first to admit I have been guilty!).  I went to good old and looked up the following:

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Risk Management SLIM-Control SLIM-Estimate

Part III: The Caveats

In Part 1 of How Much Estimation? we noted that there is an optimal amount of time and effort that should be spent in producing an estimate based on the target cost of a project and business practice being supported.

In Part 2: Estimate the Estimate, we saw that the formula to calculate this optimal time (as measured at NASA)  calculates the Cost of Estimate as the Target_Cost raised to the power 0.35 (approximately the cube root of the Target Cost).  The factor that defines the business practice (either by early lifecycle phase or perhaps by the “expected precision” of the estimate) is a linear factor ranging from a value of 24 to a value of 115.

Those Caveats!

I mentioned that there were caveats with the calculation.  Here they are:

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Estimation SLIM-Estimate

Tuning Effort for Best in Class Analysis and Design

After reading Best Projects/Worst Projects in the QSM IT Almanac, a SLIM-Estimate® user noted that the Best in Class Projects expended around 28% of their total project effort in analysis and design (SLIM Phase II) compared to 10% for the Worst in Class Projects. She wanted to know how she could tune her SLIM-Estimate templates to build in the typical best in class standard for Analysis and Design.

In SLIM-Estimate, effort and duration for phases I and II are calculated as a percentage of Phase III time and effort. To create a template for estimating phases II and III that will automatically allocate 28% of total project effort to analysis and design (Phase II), follow these simple steps.

  • From the Estimate menu, select Solution Assumptions.  Make sure the “Include” check boxes for Phases II and III are selected.  Then click on the Phase Tuning tab.
  • Click on the tab for Phase II.  (If you have previously customized the phase names, the default name for Phase II will reflect that).
  • Click on the Manual button under Effort, and enter 28% for the effort percent.

That’s it. Your estimates based on this template will now automatically allocate 28% of total project effort to Analysis and Design (Phase II).

This procedure assumes that your estimates will be for SLIM Phases II and III, which, we have found, is the typical scope for most project estimates. However, if your estimates include Phases I and/or IV, you may have to increase the effort percent a bit to achieve the desired result.

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SLIM-Estimate Tips & Tricks Effort

What If? The Power of the Question

After being away from QSM and the software world for three years, I was blown away by SLIM v8.0's dynamic product integration. I knew it was coming, yet I was still impressed by the simplicity and power of analysis promoted by real-time data and tool links across the SLIM Suite that frees managers to focus on the important program issues.

SLIM-MasterPlan is the center of the SLIM Suite product integration.  It improves upon previously existing program management features of aggregating multiple SLIM-Estimate projects and ancillary tasks with two new capabilities: 

  • Linking SLIM-Control workbooks to provide real-time project tracking and control at the program level 
  • Performing What If analysis at this higher management view to consider a wider range of potential outcomes.

The What If analysis feature is what I want to highlight.

A good personal development coach knows the "power of the question."  Questions lead to discovery, innovation, and action that brings about positive change.  Better questions lead to better answers.  SLIM's power and distinction has always been fast and easy evaluation of the impact of change, and exploring the realm of possible outcomes.  That's what we are doing when we ask ourselves "What If…?" (or our boss asks us - and we better know the answer!).  SLIM's solution logs make it easy to compare estimates, plans, and forecasts to alternative solutions, QSM trends, and your historical project database.

New SLIM Product Tour

We are pleased to announce that QSM has a new SLIM product tour. This online demo shows you how to quickly and easily use SLIM-Estimate to create an estimate validated by industry benchmarks or your own project history. The demo then demonstrates how to negotiate trade-offs and highlights some of the new features of the tool. The product tour also includes SLIM-MasterPlan, which allows you to roll-up multiple estimates and is ideal for iterative and non-iterative developments.

View the new SLIM demo here and tell us what you think!

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Introducing the SLIM-Estimate Certification Program

QSM is pleased to announce the SLIM-Estimate® Certification Program.  Specifically designed to help our customers ensure the technical excellence of their SLIM users, this program increases the business value of our software project estimation tools to your organization. 

How Certification Is Achieved:

In order to be awarded certification, a user must demonstrate competence in the following areas:

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Estimation SLIM-Estimate Training

SLIM Suite 8.0g2 Is Now Available for Download

As our clients expand into new design disciplines, QSM recognizes their need for estimation, tracking, and benchmarking tools for domains outside of just software. Our goal with SLIM 8.0 has been to increase configurability within our tools so our clients can model any type of system quickly and easily. With SLIM Suite 8.0g2, QSM continues to expand our offerings to support different design processes and increase ease of use.

SLIM Suite.  An auto-update notification feature has been added to detect when a newer version of the SLIM Suite exists and is available for download. Enhancements have also been added so Export to PowerPoint now defaults to .pptx file format and Export to Word now defaults to .docx file format where appropriate.

SLIM-Estimate. An "Update My Project Milestones" button has been added to the WBS tab of the Work Breakdown Structure dialog box to give clients the option to replace existing project milestones defined on the Milestones tab of the Project Environment dialog box with milestones defined in the WBS. Two new SEW templates, "Call Center" and "Data Center," have been added, leveraging new Infrastructure trends.

SLIM-Metrics. A new feature has been added to File | Import Workbook Components > Reference Data tab, which allows clients to import a specific reference group (as opposed to importing all reference groups in the source workbook).

If you are a current SLIM Suite client and would like to get the latest upgrade, please contact QSM Support.

Deploying Estimation the Right Way - a SLIM Customer Success Story

Two common questions we receive are “how quickly can we get SLIM deployed within our organization?” and “how accurate will our estimates be?” On the accuracy question, our answer is usually that “it depends”. Like most things, accuracy and success in estimating are directly correlated to the effort put into the task. If you buy a commercial estimating tool and try to use it “out of the box” with no tailoring and calibration, accuracy usually suffers. One of the most efficient ways to achieve both of these goals is to use your own historical data. This was an excellent example of how one of our global systems integration clients was able to get almost immediate value by calibrating SLIM-Estimate to their historical data.

This major integrator wanted to improve estimation at one of their accounts, a large multinational company.  In addition they wanted to use function points as their sizing metric. After evaluating a number of estimation options, including custom built and other internally developed solutions, they decided to use QSM’s SLIM-Estimate, which was being deployed globally across the rest of the organization. They decided to start with a pilot implementation. The estimation pilot lasted a total of 5 months with a staff of 2 people. After the fact they looked at the effort expended on their pilot activities and found that 60% of the total effort went into their calibration activities. The calibration  process included assembling a historical data sample of over 50 projects. As part of their function point deployment, they empirically determined FP/ESLOC gearing factors.

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Estimation SLIM-Estimate User Stories