SLIM Suite

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!

Blog Post Categories 
Webinars SLIM Suite

Extending SLIM Tools with Extension Menu Items

Extension menu items are one of the best new features in SLIM-Suite 8.2.  You don’t have to be a programmer (or even pretend to be one online) to create customizable menu items that perform tasks like these right from the menu of any SLIM-Suite application:

  • Call external applications like Excel, Word, or PowerPoint
  • Run SLIM-Suite utilities or APIs
  • Open external references or process guides
  • Launch the Windows Snipping Tool to capture screen settings or data and email them to your team.

Once you get the hang of it, creating your own custom menu items is easy: if you can unzip files and use Notepad, trust me – you can do this!

The Extension Menu Item feature is documented in its own chapter in each SLIM-Suite user guide, but if you’re like me you could probably use a few real life examples and some sample configuration settings to jump start the process.  In a fairly short period of time, I was easily able to create the following menu items in SLIM-DataManager:

  • Bring up the API documentation
  • Bring up an internal data validation guide
  • Launch Excel, Word, PowerPoint and OneNote
  • Launch the Windows Snipping tool.

The menu items I created fell into several categories: launching an external application, launching a SLIM-Suite utility/API, pointing to an external process guide, launching a Windows utility. I’ll cover each one, providing sample configuration text for each.


Blog Post Categories 
SLIM Suite Tips & Tricks

Data-Less Decision Making

I rather enjoyed the Google Analytics April Fools prank earlier this month, Welcome to Data-Less Decision Making on Analytics Academy.  Though satirical, this video brings to light an important reason why individuals have such trouble making decisions in a business environment: they don’t have data.

I’ll agree that without data it’s really appealing to turn to the coin flip method and be done with it.  After all, 50/50 odds really aren’t terrible, right?  But project management software such as SLIM-Estimate make empirically-based business decisions possible, even when company data isn’t immediately available.

Leveraging our database that contains over 10,000 projects, QSM has developed and regularly updates 17 distinct industry trends.  When creating an estimate or benchmarking a past performance, simply select the QSM industry trend that most closely reflects the type of system being built.  This will serve as a reference point.

If historical data is available but you’re unsure of which metrics to collect, SLIM-SmartSheets is a new downloadable feature in SLIM version 8.2 that mimics the look and feel of SLIM-DataManager and allows users to collect project data, even when they’re not on a network computer.  Each project can then be pulled into one SLIM-DataManager file using the API.  


SLIM Suite 8.2: The New Look

The new look and feel of the default workbooks in SLIM Suite are based around infographic and dashboard design principles.  Information Dashboard Design by Stephen Few served as an excellent resource for updating the views and color schemes in SLIM Suite 8.2.  Our goal in updating the look and feel of SLIM-Suite 8.2 was to highlight the pertinent inputs and outputs in bright, bold colors and to allow other view elements like gridlines or historic data to fade into the background by using more muted colors, allowing you to focus on the important metrics when making key management decisions. 

New views in SLIM-Estimate

New views in SLIM-Estimate

As you step through the default workbook in SLIM-Estimate, you'll notice that the default folders and view names have changed.  Views have been reorganized into folders with descriptive, functional names to make it easier to find the right views, charts, and reports and give users a more effective dashboard for evaluating solutions, adjusting them and reviewing logged solutions.

SLIM Suite 8.2 comes with four themes to choose from, plus two placeholders for your own custom themes.

White Background (Default)

White background

Blog Post Categories 
SLIM Suite Tips & Tricks

Announcing SLIM 8.2 for Resource Demand Management and Capacity Planning

QSM is pleased to announce the release of SLIM Suite 8.2, which, for the first time, provides the ability to perform enhanced top-down estimation for capacity planning. Unlike other resource demand management tools that rely on bottom-up estimates, QSM is the first in the industry to provide detailed resource breakdowns, utilizing a more accurate top-down approach. Top-down estimation accounts for even the unpredictable aspects of IT project implementation that a bottom-up approach does not, such as unrealistic project goals, miscommunication among team members and rework, which may account for up to 60% of the total effort on a project. With this information, project managers can more confidently choose the project team and assign the detailed tasks to the team at hand, improving accuracy for planning and executing successful IT projects while fully utilizing existing resources for individual projects, as well as longer term resource capacity planning. New APIs for this resource information allow organizations to integrate SLIM with the enterprise resource management (PPM) tools that they are currently using. 

In addition to top-down resource demand, other new features introduced with the 8.2 release include:

A Year in Review

As 2013 begins to wind down and everyone begins making plans for 2014, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on all the projects we’ve worked on this year.  Despite our relatively small company size, we’ve managed to accomplish quite a bit over the last year.  Below, I’ll recap everything we’ve been up to and also highlight some of our great resources and publications in case you missed them earlier:

How to Use Big Data to Improve Your Software Projects

In the recent Washington Post article How the Obama Campaign Won the Race for Voter Data, Joel Kowsky writes about how the 2012 Obama campaign used analytics to improve their campaign strategy, and to ultimately secure the presidential victory.  

Regardless of where you stand on the political spectrum, it’s hard to argue that Barack Obama’s campaign strategy was anything short of impressive.  As soon as Obama took office in 2009, his team began preparing for his 2012 campaign.  From the start there was a strong emphasis on measuring the campaign’s progress.  Jim Messina, Obama’s 2012 campaign manager, stated 

“There’s always been two campaigns since the Internet was invented, the campaign online and the campaign on the doors.  What I wanted was, I didn’t care where you organized, what time you organized, how you organized, as long as I could track it, I can measure it, and I can encourage you to do more of it.”

The team began by conducting a postmortem study on their 2008 campaign where they analyzed the number of homes visited, phone calls placed, and voters registered by each field organizer and volunteer.  The result was a 500 page report which highlighted areas of improvement for the 2012 campaign.  

The suggestions led the Obama campaign to invest in building customized software that would integrate all the data the campaign had collected on voters, donors, and volunteers and link to individual voter profile.  This software analyzed previously collected data to calculate the likelihood of candidate support, the likelihood of election day turnout, and the degree of persuasion for each voter.  

Agile's Focus on Disciplined Discovery Aligns with SLIM Suite

As more of our clients adopt Agile methods, they often wonder how SLIM-Estimate fits into the Agile planning process? It’s not uncommon for teams to claim that Agile makes estimation obsolete. But regardless of which features end up in a particular release, businesses still need to know how much functionality can be delivered within a given schedule and budget. Because I have been working with more customers to estimate Agile projects, the first Agile planning and analysis practice suggested by Ellen Gottesdiener & Mary Gorman got my attention ‒ Use Three Planning Horizons: Now-View, Pre-View, and Big-View. Simply stated, each level of the view hierarchy represents more fine-grained planning and analysis:

  • Big-View – general idea; how the product will fit in with other products
  • Pre-View – enough detail to start planning the next release
  • Now-View – delivery team analyzes and estimate activities needed

Their statement, "we don’t think of agile as a methodology per se. Rather, it’s a disciplined discovery and delivery framework (emphasis added)" is consistent with QSM's approach to estimating Agile projects. Macro estimation techniques allow the business to allocate resources to product development efforts by identifying the number of releases to be built during the next budget cycle, which corresponds to the Big-View horizon. More detailed release planning is performed later in the process, using the prioritized product backlog to determine delivery goals for each iteration.

Blog Post Categories 
Agile SLIM Suite

SLIM Note Panel Simplifies Reports, Documentation, and Guidelines

SLIM Suite default workbooks contain pre-defined views you can customize to fit your reporting needs.  The Navigation Panel on the left side of the user interface displays the list of views, organized into sections or folders.  Each SLIM tool contains multiple views to facilitate presentation and analysis of the unique metrics it employs.

Navigation Panel
Figure 1: Navigation Panel

One of the most valuable and flexible objects to include in a view is the Note Panel.  Just as it sounds, it is simply a note pad where you can include descriptive text about estimation assumptions, findings, questions, instructions to SLIM users.... the possibilities are numerous.  QSM uses the Note Panel to provide instructions, tips, and easily customizable project and executive summary reports.  The view below shows the Section Purpose & Operating Procedures view, which describes other views in the folder, along with suggestions for tailoring subsequent charts and reports. 

Note Panel View
Figure 2: Note Panel View

You can use notes to document the estimation procedure you want others in your organization to follow.  Use notes to document the special background information that explains why the recommended solution meets the most important project goals and constraints.

Blog Post Categories 
SLIM Suite Tips & Tricks

Webinar: Successful Estimating Processes Using the SLIM API

On April 12, 2012 at 1:00 PM EDT, QSM will host a webinar focused on two successful implementations of the SLIM API presented by IBM's Carl Engel, State Street's Scott Lancaster, and QSM's Larry Putnam, Jr

How do best in class development organizations achieve maximum return on investment from their estimation programs? By leveraging the SLIM API for integrations between estimation tools and detail-oriented products, development teams are able to simplify estimation processes and broaden the estimation program user base. Presented by Carl Engel of IBM Global Services, Scott Lancaster of State Street, and Larry Putnam, Jr. of QSM, this webinar explores two successful implementations of the SLIM API between third party tools and the SLIM Suite. 

Carl Engel is the Estimating Program Manager for IBM's Global Business Services responsible for the development and deployment of performance benchmarking and estimating process, methods and tools including the support for nearly 1,000 SLIM Suite users. Carl has been with IBM for 12 years as an Associate Partner and has had previous roles as the program manager for IBM's project management methodology and tools. He is an IBM certified Executive Project Manager, PMP with over 30 years of program and project management experience primarily in very large scale efforts in the nuclear industry and U.S. National Laboratories.

Blog Post Categories 
Webinars SLIM Suite