SLIM-Collaborate

SLIM-Collaborate

Software Estimation in the World of COVID-19

The onset of COVID-19 has revealed many dependent synergies in the world and their mutual effects on one another.  For example, the decrease in human consumption of fossil fuels, not as many cars on the road nor planes in the air has reduced carbon emissions resulting in cleaner air, at least for the time being. 

Another synergistic COVID-19 result affects the IT world, including estimation of software delivery.  Many organizations wisely instilled a work from home (WFH) policy to mitigate the potential spread of disease.  This new work format introduced a fascinating human experiment – can we be as productive en masse during a WFH situation as opposed to being in the office?  The lack of physical proximity stresses the importance of fluid and effective communication.  During pre-COVID-19 days, estimating software delivery was orchestrated through meetings in hallways and conference rooms to communicate project assumptions, constraints and lobbying for project expectations.  But post-COVID-19, we are reliant on remote/virtual contact, limiting the nuances of physical meetings.  Thankfully, there are capabilities in place to make this a fluid process within our SLIM-Collaborate solution. 

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Estimation SLIM-Collaborate

Using Big Picture Analytics to Power Software Estimation

Imagine a software development process where “Big Picture” estimates can be generated before detailed planning takes place, where the estimates can be accessed on the web, and where only three or four inputs are needed to generate reliable information. This process would include intelligent models that take into account historical data and there would be a back office team that specializes in software customization available to do the heavy lifting. Finally, there would be business analytics and industry data (plenty of both) to help with project target negotiations and risk trade-off analysis.

Thankfully, there are science-based estimation solutions available that include the capabilities mentioned above. These packages can make estimation easier, more transparent, and help manage the uncertainty that can come with early planning. There are technology organizations that are using these types of tools to improve their time to market and the accuracy of their software development estimates.

But there are many organizations that still struggle with estimation. They spend millions of dollars each year developing and delivering software. The planning usually starts with senior management asking tough questions about cost and schedule targets. The project leads then try to come up with effort estimates for each person on the project based on experience and gut feel. These effort numbers are tallied up in spreadsheets to come up with an overall estimate, the numbers are usually negotiated and then a final estimate is born. The problem with this process is that it takes a long time to carry out and the estimates are usually inaccurate. This is because the methods don’t take into account the non-linear relationships, integration, and overhead that we often see in software development.  When the estimates are off, millions of dollars are spent trying to change course. The rest is history. 

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Estimation SLIM-Collaborate

SLIM-Collaborate 3.1 Brings Flexible Risk Management Online

If you've been using SLIM-Collaborate's convenient, web-based project access to keep your stakeholders engaged and informed, you know SLIM-Collaborate offers streamlined, role-based estimation and data collection services designed to complement our feature-rich desktop tools. SLIM-Collaborate's simplicity and ease of use make it easier to promote consistent standards and practices to users across the enterprise, while seamless data exchange with the SLIM desktop tools lets your most experienced users leverage the power of advanced features.

Recently we talked with SLIM-Collaborate users, and one request stood out: they wanted us to bring Contingency planning into SLIM-Collaborate.  Release 3.1 of SLIM-Collaborate does just that, and even adds new risk buffering capabilities to the probability-based risk modelling available in SLIM-Estimate.  Here's how it all works.

Step 1: Create Reusable Contingency Profiles (Back Office)

Part of SLIM-Collaborate's innovative approach lies in letting experienced users (the "Back Office") analyze the business, then design and publish reusable building blocks (templates, trends, filters, dashboards, profiles) that simplify and standardize estimation and data collection for less experienced users. 

SLIM-Collaborate Back Office

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Bringing Transparency into Project Contingency Buffers for Schedule and Cost

The application of contingency buffer, more commonly known as “padding” or “management reserve” is the final step in any project estimation process.  The most common practice is for the estimator to use an intuitive multiplier which is added to base estimate.  Unfortunately, everyone has a different multiplier which is shaped by their own personal bias about risk and it is hidden in their head.  This creates a fundamental problem with transparency and consistency within most organizations.

Fortunately, there's a better way.  One solution is to define and configure agreed upon standards that are matched to specific business risk situations.  These should be collaboratively agreed to by all the stake holders in the organization.  Then they can be codified into a configuration that can be selected at the time when contingencies are typically applied to an estimate.  This helps solve the consistency issue.

Project Risk Buffer

To attack the transparency issue, you can use a technique of overlays to visualize the contingency in comparison to the base estimate. 

Project Risk Buffer

10 Tips for Better Software Project Tracking & Oversight

Software Project Tracking

 

During QSM’s 40 years in business we have often been asked to help with software projects that are out of control and riddled with unrealistic goals and soaring costs. Project managers often ask, "where is the light at the end of the tunnel?" In honor of Larry Putnam, Sr., who started QSM back in 1978, here are 10 tips for better project tracking and oversight.

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QSM Releases SLIM-Collaborate 3.0

QSM is pleased to announce the release of SLIM-Collaborate 3.0, the web-based, software-as-a-service version of our trusted software estimation, tracking and benchmarking suite. With more advanced workflow capabilities, the updated version of SLIM-Collaborate enables more efficient communication between stakeholders throughout the estimation process. Additionally, the demand resource capabilities added in SLIM-Collaborate 3.0 make it easier for users to identify staffing needs and allocate resources to a software project.

Highlights of the new capabilities in SLIM-Collaborate 3.0 include:

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Estimation SLIM-Collaborate QSM News

Where Does IT Project Estimating Fit in an Organization? Wherever You’d Like!

In my daily work life of supporting my clients, I’ve seen the IT project estimating function reside in many different areas of organizations.   Some groups have this function situated in a core group, such as an Estimating Center of Excellence, PMO or Delivery Excellence group.  These teams are responsible for either creating estimates for the organization after being fed some goals/assumptions, or vetting existing estimates born elsewhere to ensure they are in line with the business’ goals without compromising, as best they can, budget, schedule or quality.

Conversely, I’ve worked with organizations in which the project estimation function is supported by organizationally dispersed estimators who are busy with their other tasks.  Decentralized estimators typically serve a sole siloed division with not much interaction outside their team.  Like the bigger shops, these folks are funneled project estimates to be sanity checked and render their analysis with recommendations for adjusting the estimate if it seems out of line. 

Both scenarios above share a common thread – the estimates, regardless of their origin, have an impact on, and are influenced by, a wide breadth of people.  We at QSM call these people stakeholders, contributors, influencers etc.   They all have some kind of investment in the estimate that is important to them.  What if we could involve them in the estimating process?  With more communal agreement on inputs, there won’t be as much rework of the estimate later, when otherwise uninvolved people see their interests aren’t represented.  With everyone feeling they have a say in the estimate, smoother seas are at least more possible.

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Estimation SLIM-Collaborate

How Can We Leverage Summary Level Analytics to Support Enterprise Planning?

What if you could leverage summary level cost, duration, and productivity data to support estimates for future projects, at the release and enterprise level? C-level executives, development managers, and project stakeholders are all involved at some level in project planning. They want quick access to information on a regular basis and they want web-based solutions to make it happen. So how does it all work? There are web-based analytics tools that allow you to create a centralized database for all of your projects. These tools store the data, leverage it to generate project and portfolio estimates, and then provide a communication vehicle throughout the organization to ensure that everyone involved is on the same page. It all starts with having the data in one place. 

Software Project Database

Once you have all of your project data in one place, then you can focus on analyzing the completed projects. You can compare them against industry trends and leverage a 5-star report to show how they rate on performance in the industry. The initial measures to focus on would be size, duration, effort, reliability, and productivity. A project's productivity will be calculated automatically once you have entered the size, duration and effort. We call this measure a Productivity Index. This measure can be compared to industry and used as a benchmark to measure process improvements over time.  These numbers give you a quantitative picture of your current project environment.  

Software Project Closeout

5 Star Report

SLIM-Collaborate 2.0 - What's in a Name?

We're happy to announce the launch of SLIM-Collaborate™ 2.0, the solution formerly known as SLIM-WebServices. The new name better represents how our customers use this "light and lean" version of our trusted software estimation, tracking, and benchmarking suite. 

As technology has become more integrated into every facet of our work and life, the number of stakeholders in software projects has grown. Collaboration among all of these parties is critical in making sure software is designed, developed, and deployed correctly. Not everyone involved needs the detail and power of our SLIM solution, but they all need visibility into project status. SLIM-Collaborate gives that transparency with an easy-to-use interface and dashboards designed with business users in mind. This transparency and involvement of all users improves estimation accuracy and ultimately achieve software project goals on time and on budget.

This update is not just a facelift; we’ve updated more than just the name. The new version includes a number of new features and enhancements that help the entire project management team estimate, implement and track its projects to avoid failure, such as:

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