QSM Resources

Forty years of research – in one convenient place.

Articles and Whitepapers

In the interest of supporting the software development industry, the following resources are available free of charge.

Up Your Game: 7 Capabilities for Better Software Project Portfolio Management (PPM)

By Laura Zuber ( May 2023 )

QSM’s Software Lifecycle Management (SLIM) suite of software tools is sometimes confused with Project Portfolio Management (PPM) applications. SLIM-Suite doesn’t compete with PPM solutions - they complement them, supporting Project Management Institute (PMI) project and portfolio planning and management standards several ways.

QSM’s Software Lifecycle Management (SLIM) suite of software tools is sometimes confused with Project Portfolio Management (PPM) applications. SLIM-Suite doesn’t compete with PPM solutions - they complement them, supporting Project Management Institute (PMI) project and portfolio planning and management standards several ways.

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The Problems with Software Development as Seen by Professional Estimators

By Donald Beckett ( April 2022 )


When a project goes over schedule, costs too much money, or doesn’t deliver the desired functionality, business leaders may wonder what could have been done differently. Why not ask a professional estimator? Often, these are the people holding the crystal ball - those charged with planning and assessing the project before it even gets off the ground. We recently polled our own seasoned estimation experts at QSM to find out their thoughts. With many years of forecasting, tracking, and benchmarking software projects under their collective belts, everyone from our consultants to our support and sales teams chimed in to compile a list of what estimators consider to be the most critical software development management issues. In this article, Don Beckett shares these lessons learned (and methods to solve them), which are invaluable to both project managers and C-level business leaders alike.

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How Estimation Tools Bring Agility, Predictability to Cloud Migration

By Kate Armel ( April 2020 )

Cloud computing is revolutionizing the way firms host software applications, store and access data, and manage IT infrastructure.  Like any quantum leap in technology, the move to the Cloud brings both opportunities and challenges. A recent public Cloud adoption survey found that only 43% of respondents considered their most recent public Cloud migration an overall success. IT departments moving to the Cloud have a thousand decisions to make. All of them require good data and a solid grasp of business goals, current capabilities, and resources. They also need a simple, practical way to predict future staffing and skills gaps, present options to stakeholders and management, build support, and adjust plans when conditions and priorities change. In this white paper, Kate Armel explains where general purpose estimation tools can help you quickly create and revise estimates, establish repeatable estimation processes, sanity check plans against proven performance, and mitigate known – and hidden - migration risks.

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Long Term Trends from 40 Years of Completed Software Project Data

By Katie Costantini ( August 2019 )

Although the software industry is known for growth and change, one thing has remained constant: the struggle to reduce cost, improve time to market, increase quality and maintainability, and allocate resources most efficiently. So how can we combat future challenges in a world where everything is software, from the systems in your car to the thermostat in your home to the small computer in your pocket? By using practical measurement and metrics, we can get a bird's-eye view of where we've been and where we could go, while keeping us grounded in data. Leveraging QSM's industry database of over 13,000+ completed projects, Katie Costantini takes a high-level look at changes to software schedules, effort/cost, productivity, size, and reliability metrics from 1980 to 2019. The current study compares insights to similar studies QSM has completed at regular intervals over the past four decades and answers questions like, 'what is the "typical" project over time?' and 'why are projects "shrinking?"'

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Good Planning – Not Development Methodology – Is the Key to Successful Software Project Delivery

By Doug Putnam ( December 2018 )

Agile is all the rage today and companies are investing lots of capital to work within agile frameworks. Are these new methods the key to reducing project failure? When projects get behind schedule, a common reaction is still to add more people. Doug Putnam recently examined 390 contemporary applications of the same size, a significant portion of which used agile methods and tools, to see what matters more - staffing decisions or methodology. He discovered that while the additional staff reduced the schedule by approximately 30%, the project cost increased by 350%. The additional staff also created 500% more defects that had to be fixed during testing. Over the past 15 years, QSM has performed this same study in five-year increments and has found the same results -- staffing decisions have more of an impact on project success than any development methodology. In this article, Doug Putnam identifies a staffing "sweet spot" and outlines a step-by-step planning process  that uses predictive analysis and early estimation to more accurately account for staffing needs.

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Five Traps that Lead to Project Failure (and How to Avoid Them)

By Larry Putnam, Jr. ( July 2018 )

No one starts a software project thinking that it is doomed to fail, but many projects end up falling far short of expectations. A recent PMI report shows that a significant number of companies are still underperforming expectations - failing to deliver software that functions as intended and drives positive business results. PMI’s report breaks out project development teams into two distinct camps: “overachievers” and “underachievers,” where the former are delivering projects on time and on budget, while the later is not. In this article for Project Manager Today, Larry Putnam, Jr. identifies five traps that the "overachieving" organizations are successfully avoiding, and better strategies that can be used in their place.

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The Three Software Project Development Traps (And How to Avoid Them)

By Larry Putnam, Jr. ( June 2018 )

Why do projects fail? There are a multitude of reasons from lack of up-front planning to failing to make necessary adjustments as requirements change to overstaffing when the project is running late. Whatever the reason, there are steps you can take to avoid these common traps. In this article for Software Executive Magazine, Larry Putnam, Jr. explains how focusing on scope-based estimates, agile forecasting, and smaller teams will help your development team deliver products on time and according to budget.

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Top-Down Estimation Can Drive Efficient And Boundaryless Software Development

By Larry Putnam, Jr. ( January 2018 )

In 1990, former General Electric CEO Jack Welch wrote a prophetic passage in the company’s annual report. “Our dream for the 1990’s is a boundaryless company…where we knock down the walls that separate us from each other on the inside.” However, large enterprises who have attempted to live by Welch’s dream remain hampered by set hierarchies: development teams and product owners exist on one level, business management and system engineers on another, while enterprise architects and portfolio managers reside atop the organizational food chain. Employing a top-down estimation approach to project management can help organizations overcome boundaries and satisfy the three V’s of corporate success – vision, value, and velocity. This article, originally published in ISV Insights, takes a closer look at how this approach can work for software companies, particularly larger organizations, to help them improve project management, team collaboration, and development practices.

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Using Parametric Estimation for Large-Scale IT Infrastructure Projects

By Larry Putnam, Jr. ( December 2017 )

Large-scale IT infrastructure projects require an enormous amount of planning, design, configuration and testing to ensure that everything is working correctly and properly transitioned once the work is done. This takes time and resources. Like their software counterparts, IT infrastructure projects are more likely to be successful — more efficient, secure, and reliable — when accompanied by robust estimation and planning processes. In this article for ProjectManagement.com, Larry Putnam, Jr. and Joe Madden identify best practices for applying parametric estimation to IT infrastructure projects.

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