SLIM Suite

SLIM Suite

Remembering Larry Putnam, Sr.

Larry Putnam, Sr.QSM is deeply saddened to share that our founder, Larry Putnam, Sr. passed away last week at the age of 91, leaving behind a 40 year legacy in the software estimation and measurement field.

Larry began his illustrious career in the military, graduating from West Point in 1952. He was commissioned in the Armor Branch and went on to serve 26 years on active duty. While in the service, he studied Nuclear Effects Engineering at the Naval Postgraduate School, where he obtained a Masters degree in Physics. 

But it was to be the relatively new field of software development where Larry would ultimately make his mark. He was assigned to manage the Army's computer program budget at the Pentagon in the mid-1970s. After struggling to defend his yearly budget to the Department of Defense (DoD) budget review authority (OSD) because he couldn't justify the staffing levels for one of his systems, he made it his mission to understand software engineering staffing and effort. Starting with the Rayleigh equation as the ideal way to apply people to a design-intensive project, he began collecting Army data to see if it followed the Rayleigh pattern.  Just from comparing the budget data to a group of about 15 systems, he was able to confirm it was a fit.  Using the simple projections of the Rayleigh curves, he was able to get the 50 systems currently in development under financial control.  (He speaks candidly of this experience in Roots Run Deep: The Journey to Software Application Estimation and Risk Management.)

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Estimation QSM News SLIM Suite

There's No Risk in Software Project Planning

I like listening to audiobooks when I go for a morning run. This month it is a David Baldacci thriller about two CIA professional killers pitted against each other who end up working together to save us all from global catastrophe.  Apparently, there is a ton of planning involved in stealthily hunting a target, making the kill, and then getting away unseen.  That’s because there is a lot of risk.  Timing is critical, down to the split second, and the slightest mistake can end your life.  Discussing the highly complex plan to foil an assassination attempt with his partner, one agent says to the other, “There’s no risk in planning. The risk is in the execution.”

That got me thinking about software development and QSM’s SLIM-Suite estimating, tracking, and forecasting tools.  Do I agree with that statement?  Yes and no.  Let’s look at it both activities – project planning and execution.  

Planning

The activity of planning is not risky as far as your personal safety is concerned. You probably aren’t in danger of getting attacked or making a mistake that will cause bodily injury (you may experience emotional trauma or at least endure a minor headache).  It is most definitely risky for software development programs and initiatives, however, because aggressive plans based on poor estimates handicap the delivery team.  Without understanding the dynamics of software development projects or the ability to rapidly compute a range of potential outcomes to identify risky scenarios, planners may inadvertently commit to unrealistic schedule, budget, and staffing goals.  In fact, most plans are “goal based” ― task lists and staffing plans derived to give management or the customer what they want, because there is no solid framework or supporting data to defend against it. 

QSM Releases SLIM-Suite 10.3

We are pleased to anounce the release of SLIM-Suite 10.3, the latest version of our flagship software management tool suite. The pandemic has put enormous pressure on business leaders to utilize resources wisely while juggling development teams in remote locations. With that in mind, our goal with the newest release was to provide several small, yet powerful improvements designed to save time and increase consistency at every step of the project and portfolio planning process.

Improvements to SLIM-Estimate's Skills Breakout configuration make it easier to fine-tune skill categories and labor rates to support better resource demand planning at both the project and portfolio levels.  Additionally, the tool's API now exposes the Sizing and PI (Productivity Index, QSM's proprietary productivity measure) calculators for users who wish to leverage these features directly from a spreadsheet or other external applications.

SLIM-DataManager, QSM's database repository tool, has new functionality designed to make it easier to validate, understand, and analyze your portfolio of projects. Power editing and enhanced keyword management allow quick changes to multiple projects right from the master project list. Power editing makes it easy to add/update descriptive “tags” used to group projects into relevant categories for benchmarking and estimate calibration.

In addition to the new configuration capabilities, SLIM-Suite 10.3 features new agile enhancements, such as an updated SLIM-Estimate agile template. SLIM-Estimate and SLIM-Control now allow users to instantly toggle the display of agile increment lines between sprints, program increments, or both levels of detail.

QSM Releases SLIM-Suite 10.1 with a New Look and Feel

QSM has recently released an update to the feature-rich SLIM-Suite of tools.  For a detailed list of updates, download the SLIM-Suite 10.1 release notes. The 10.1 desktop release updates the look and feel of SLIM-Suite tools with easier-to-read fonts and a cleaner, simpler color palette inspired by modern Business Intelligence and Data Analysis applications. A new, high resolution theme also offers better support for high DPI and high resolution monitors.

Bird's Eye Staffing View

Many of the visual updates are subtle, so this post will cover the high impact features you're likely to notice on upgrading to SLIM-Suite 10.1. In SLIM-Estimate, cross-hatched phase shading on time series charts has been replaced by lighter, transparent curve fills that grow progressively darker for successive phases.  The view below shows staffing over time, not broken out by role, for a project using a traditional lifecycle.

SLIM-Estimate Staffing View

Detailed Staffing View

Agile projects may prefer a more granular view of project staffing by role, with sprints delineated over the project timeline:

Project Staffing by Role

Task-Based Schedule View

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SLIM Suite QSM News

QSM's New Online User Forum

QSM recently launched a new online user forum program specifically for our clients. Hosted monthly, these user forums allow current users of our SLIM-Suite to ask questions and share tips on how they are currently using the tools. The theme of our most recent forum was "More than One Way to Skin an Estimate," which reviewed SLIM-Estimate solution methods and different ways to approach estimating challenges that users might have in their particular project environment. Moderated by Lead Support Representative and Trainer Laura Zuber, Laura started the meeting by revisiting the software production equation, which shows the relationship between size, effort, time, and productivity. By rearranging the equation different ways, the user can solve for what they don't know. This is the basis of our new redesigned solution wizards: Balanced Risk, ROM Estimate, Fixed Resources, Bid Evaluation/Playback, Time-Boxed, and Re-Estimate an In-Flight Project. After Laura gave a live demonstration of these wizards, we received great feedback from users that they found them more intuitive and helpful resources to get the answers they need. 

After the demo, clients were able to ask questions and share helpful tips and tricks that they have discovered in the tools. One user particularly liked analyzing scope creep using the Size Growth Analysis feature, while another recommended using the trend mix feature when estimating a complex project. Laura also took feedback and product feature requests. This is the kind of close feedback we want from our customers to get them the best value possible from our tools.

This user forum was a great success and we look forward to hosting these sessions regularly in the future. If you are SLIM-Suite user and would like to participate, please contact us.

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QSM News SLIM Suite SLIM-Estimate

QSM Database Now Includes More Than 13,000 Completed Projects

QSM is pleased to announce a major update to the QSM Database, the largest continuously-updated software project performance metrics database in the world. With this update, we have validated and added more than 2,500 projects to the database in 9 major application domains (Avionics, IT, Command & Control, Microcode, Process Control, Real Time, Scientific, System Software, and Telecom) and 45 sub-domains, resulting in a current total of more than 13,000 completed projects.

With this update, the number of agile projects in the database increased by 340%, resulting in some changes to the agile trend line. Specifically:

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QSM Database Metrics SLIM Suite

QSM Releases SLIM-Suite 10.0

QSM is pleased to announce the release of SLIM-Suite 10.0, the latest version of our flagship software estimation, tracking, and benchmarking suite of tools.  With new quadrant chart visualization features, the updated version of the SLIM-Suite allows users to gain visibility into multiple projects at once and, as a result, easily identify high-risk projects, improve demand management, and address project feasibility issues early in the process. Additionally, users can now map staff capacity to portfolio demand to ensure that development resources are utilized across projects and available when needed.

In addition to the new visual capabilities, highlights of SLIM-Suite 10.0 include:

  • Updated 2017 industry trends: Estimates now leverage the latest project data from 2017 to provide better metrics for more accurate portfolio planning.  
  • New skills aggregation capabilities: This new feature expands upon the existing functionality to include detailed breakouts of effort, staffing, and cost by skill by month for subsystem tasks beyond Excel to include custom and SLIM-Control tasks in addition to SLIM-Estimate tasks.
  • Better database management features: SLIM-Suite 10.0 allows easier detection of duplicate projects and improved data importing capabilities. 

“We designed SLIM 10.0 to make it easier for project managers to estimate projects, understand which projects are at risk and share this information within their organizations,” said Doug Putnam, Co-CEO for QSM. “SLIM’s new visualization tools make it possible to see an entire project portfolio at a glance, which we believe will lead to improved project success for our customers.”

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Why Should I Care about the Actual Data? The Project Is Complete.

"The game ain't over 'til it's over." - Yogi Berra

Baseball season is here and with apologies to the late Mr. Yogi Berra, “it’s like déjà vu all over again.”

Why would a project team or program management office (PMO) take the time and spend the resources to collect information about a project that was just completed? Isn’t this the time when victory is declared and everyone runs for the hills? In many cases, delving into what happened and what actual costs and durations were incurred can seem like an exercise in self-flagellation.

Historical data is arguably the most valuable input available in the software estimation process. While other inputs such as size and available duration or staffing can be seen as constraints, properly collected historical data moves the activity from the realm of estimating closer to “factimating.”

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Data SLIM Suite

Webinar Replay - What's New in SLIM-Suite 9.0

SLIM-Suite 9.0

A foundation of the SLIM philosophy is to know what your team is capable of producing and never promise to deliver more than those finite limits. Leveraging a history of completed project core metrics enables you to quantify your capabilities, and not only provide a defensible basis of estimation, but support statistical analysis for project benchmarking and identifying performance improvement opportunities.

QSM's newest release of SLIM-Suite, version 9.0, provides a number of enhancements to simplify and organize completed project data in SLIM-DataManager and manage data set definitions and queries in SLIM-Metrics. In this webinar, Laura Zuber demonstrates key new features of both products. You will see how providing project size details, master keyword lists, multiple view layouts, and multi-select variable analysis equip you to expand your historical project repository and increase its use.

Watch the replay!

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Webinars SLIM Suite

Upcoming Webinar - What's New in SLIM-Suite 9.0

On July 14, 2015 at 1:00 PM EDT, QSM's Laura Zuber presented What's New in SLIM-Suite 9.0.

A foundation of the SLIM philosophy is to know what your team is capable of producing and never promise to deliver more than those finite limits. Leveraging a history of completed project core metrics enables you to quantify your capabilities, and not only provide a defensible basis of estimation, but support statistical analysis for project benchmarking and identifying performance improvement opportunities.

QSM's newest release of SLIM-Suite, version 9.0, provides a number of enhancements to simplify and organize completed project data in SLIM-DataManager and manage data sets definitions and queries in SLIM-Metrics. In this webinar, Laura Zuber will demonstrate key new features of both products. You will see how providing project size details, master keyword lists, multiple view layouts, and multi-select variable analysis equip you to expand your historical project repository and increase its use.

Laura Zuber has 20 years of experience in software development consulting and training. She has conducted training and demonstrations for all QSM SLIM Suite Tools and assisted with QSM Support. Laura has managed software development projects, served as a senior software process improvement specialist, performed process assessments, designed and implemented best practices, and co-lead corporate metrics training program.

Watch the replay!

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