Category Archives: IT future

What's the (function) point of Measurement?

It’s been more than 30 years since “function point analysis”  emerged in IT and yet most of the industry either: a) has never heard of it; b) has a misguided idea of what function points are; or c) was the victim of a botched software measurement program based on function points.

Today I’d simply like to clear up some common misconceptions about what function points are and what they are NOT. Future postings will get into the nuts and bolts of function points and how to use them, this is simply a first starting point.

What’s a function point?

A “function point” (FP) is a unit of measure that can be used to gauge the functional size of a piece of software.  (I published a primer on function points titled: Managing (the Size of) Your Projects – A Project Management Look at Function Points in the Feb 1999 issue of CrossTalk – the Journal of Defense Software Engineering from which I have excerpted here):

“FPs measure the size of a software project’s work output or work product rather than measure technology-laden features such as lines of code (LOC). FPs evaluate the functional user requirements that are supported or delivered by the software. In simplest terms, FPs measure what the software must do from an external, user perspective, irrespective of how the software is constructed. Similar to the way that a building’s square measurement reflects the floor plan size, FPs reflect the size of the  software’s functional user requirements…

However, to know only the square foot size of a building is insufficient to manage a construction project. Obviously, the construction of a 20,000 square-foot airplane hangar will be different from a 20,000 square-foot office building. In the same manner, to know only the FP size of a system is insufficient to manage a system development project: A 2,000 FP client-server financial project will be quite different from a 2,000 FP aircraft avionics project.”

In short function points are an ISO standardized measure that provides an objective number that reflects the size of what the software will do from an external “user” perspective (user is defined as any person, thing, other application software, hardware, department etc – anything that sends of receives data or uses data from the software).  Function points offer a common denominator for comparing different types of software construction whereby cost per FP and effort hours per FP can be determined.  This is similar to cost per square foot or effort per square foot in construction.  However, it is critical to know that function points are only part of what is needed to do proper performance measurement or project estimating.

To read the full article, click on the title Managing (the Size of) Your Projects – A Project Management Look at Function Points.

To your successful projects!

Carol

Carol Dekkers
email: dekkers@qualityplustech.com
http://www.qualityplustech.com/stage/

Carol Dekkers provides realistic, honest, and transparent approaches to software measurement, software estimating, process improvement and scope management.  Call her office (727 393 6048) or email her (dekkers@qualityplustech.com) for a free initial consultation on how to get started to solve your IT project management and development issues.

For more information on northernSCOPE(TM) visit www.fisma.fi (in English pages) and for upcoming training in Tampa, Florida  — April 26-30, 2010, visit www.qualityplustech.com.

Contact Carol to keynote your upcoming event – her style translates technical matters into digestible soundbites, with straightforward and honest advice that works in the real world!
=======Copyright 2010, Carol Dekkers ALL RIGHTS RESERVED =======

The "Dog Chasing its Tail" Syndrome in Project Estimating

Software estimating is plagued by dysfunction, not the least of which is estimation based on under-reported historical hours from previously completed projects.  See posting IT Performance Measurement… Time Bandits for a discussion about this problem.

BUT, other problems are prevalent when launching a project estimating initiative which I call the “Dog Chasing Its Tail” syndrome.  It symptomizes dysfunctional project behavior that is established and continues to be reinforced to the detriment of the organization. As a result the pattern repeats and process improvement is seldom realized.

What is the Dog Chasing its Tail Syndrome? It’s a noble goal to increase the predictability and reliability of project estimates – when estimating is based on sound principles.  However, estimating is often a misnomer for what should be called “guesstimating” because the data on which estimates are based is sketchy at best.

Here’s the process epitomized in the “Dog Chasing its Tail”:

1. Incomplete (or preliminary) requirements and sketchy quality/performance requirements. While preliminary (no formal requirements or  use cases are known), it is customary for management (customer or supplier or both) to demand a project estimate for budget or planning purposes. Labelled initially as a “ball park estimate” (a rough order of magnitude (ROM) guess of whether the effort is going to be bigger than a breadbox or smaller than a football field), the sketchy requirements are used as the basis to get the ROM.

2. The (Guess)timate becomes the project budget and plan. While management initially understands that an estimate is impossible without knowledge of what is to be done, estimators contribute to the reliance on the guesses by providing them with a feigned level of accuracy (e.g., if requirements span a total of two sentences, the resultant estimate may include hours or dollar figures with the ones digit filled in.  As a result, too often the (guess)timate becomes the approved upper limit budget or effort allowance.  Of course these figures will be proven wrong once the solid requirements are documented and known, but we are now stuck with this project estimate.

3. Changes challenge the status quo budget and schedule. When a change or clarification to requirements emerges (as they always do when human beings are involved), there is often a period of blame where suppliers allege that the item in question is a change (addition) to the original requirements on which the estimate was based, while the customer alleges that it is simply clarifies existing requirements.  Of course, neither one can be proven correct because the requirements on which the estimate was based were sketchy, incomplete and poorly documented. Once the dust settles and it becomes clear that the item will impact the project budget and schedule, the change/clarification is deferred to the next phase (“thrown over the fence” as an enhancement to be done in the next release) where it will be poorly documented but we will estimate it anyways, and so the cycle continues.

Dog chasing its tailIf you’ve ever had a dog – you know that this is similar to a dog-chasing-its-tail whereby the behavior goes on until either the dog gets tired or gets distracted by other things going on (such as food being served).  As smart software engineers we ought to be smarter than dogs!  And, given a scope management approach, we can be!  Break the cycle off dysfunctional estimation and investigate scope management – you and your customers will be glad to move forward rather than facing the insanity of repeating the same process over and over and expecting different results (along the lines of the Einstein quote!)  See www.qualityplustech.com for information on scope management training and resources available to break the “Dog Chasing its Tail” syndrome on your projects

Watch for the upcoming post on the hidden dangers in project hours…

To your successful projects!

Carol

Carol Dekkers
email: dekkers@qualityplustech.com
http://www.qualityplustech.com/stage/

Carol Dekkers provides realistic, honest, and transparent approaches to software measurement, software estimating, process improvement and scope management.  Call her office (727 393 6048) or email her (dekkers@qualityplustech.com) for a free initial consultation on how to get started to solve your IT project management and development issues.

For more information on northernSCOPE(TM) visit www.fisma.fi (in English pages) and for upcoming training in Tampa, Florida  — April 26-30, 2010, visit www.qualityplustech.com.

Contact Carol to keynote your upcoming event – her style translates technical matters into digestible soundbites, with straightforward and honest solutions that work in the real world!
=======Copyright 2010, Carol Dekkers ALL RIGHTS RESERVED =======

IT Performance Measurement - Don't let time bandits prevail...

Here in FL, Sunday is one of my favorite days to sit outside on the deck overlooking the mangroves (yes, spring break weather is FINALLY here!) – and read the bulging Sunday newspaper.  I am always intrigued by the many topics in Sunday’s edition, and there’s always generalist stories that remind me of something that happens with software.  This week was no exception.

I’ve nevTime Banditser seen the syndicated column called “The Ethicist” by Randy Cohen (syndicated from the NY Times Magazine), but today’s column headline:  “Underreporting hours worked puts unrealistic goals on others” caught my eye… just the title reminded me of one of the biggest problems with IT measurement:  project hours in IT are typically under reported because of unrealistic project budgets, overtime rules, accounting practices, etc.  (In my experience with measurement and productivity work – this is part of what I call the “Dog Chasing Its Tail” syndrome but more about that in another post.)

Back to the Matter at hand… In this week’s column, (originally published in NY on March 11, 2010, and in my St. Petersburg Times March 14, 2010), Randy Cohen is presented with an ethical question:
“As a manager at a large company, I work far more than the required 40 hours a week, but report only 40. If I reported my actual hours I could be penalized financially for letting my projects run over budget.  Company policy states… <snip> … is there a problem with simply declining to mention some hours when I did work?”

The crux of Randy’s answer (as it related specifically to IT Performance Measurement for me) was “By underreporting your hours, you create a false sense of your efficiency.  The company now believes that you are able to complete your weekly tasks in 40 hours. But you are not. Your deception thwarts the company’s reasonable interest in assessing your performance”.  To use a Canadian expression Bang On with your response Randy! (to read the entire article by Randy Cohen, click here.)

This is one of the most pervasive problems when tackling software project estimation – using reported project hours as the basis for new project estimates (when the actual hours are much higher). Most people would see the folly of estimating the cost of a new based on the mortgage of a house down the street (you don’t know how much was the down payment!), but overlook the hazards of doing the same thing when estimating a software project based on under reported hours.  Both fall victim to the wrong foundation for estimating.

Before you embark on a process improvement initiative that targets Predictability and IT project Estimating, make sure that you know all the facts before you waste valuable time or energy compounding the existing problems and ignoring the real status quo.  Become knowledgeable about the issues (call or email me if you need a starting point or resources.)

To your successful projects!

Carol

Carol Dekkers
email: dekkers@qualityplustech.com
http://www.qualityplustech.com/stage/

Carol Dekkers provides realistic, honest, and transparent approaches to software measurement, software estimating, process improvement and scope management.  Call her office (727 393 6048) or email her (dekkers@qualityplustech.com) for a free initial consultation on how to get started to solve your IT project management and development issues.

For more information on northernSCOPE(TM) visit www.fisma.fi (in English pages) and for upcoming training in Tampa, Florida  — April 26-30, 2010, visit www.qualityplustech.com.

Contact Carol to keynote your upcoming event – her style translates technical matters into digestible soundbites, with straightforward and honest expertise that works in the real world!
=======Copyright 2010, Carol Dekkers ALL RIGHTS RESERVED =======

Crosstalk article on Scope Management

CrossTalk - The Journal of Defense Software Engineering

CrossTalk Jan/Feb 2010 Scope Management: 12 Steps for ICT Program Recovery

by Carol Dekkers, Quality Plus Technologies, Inc.
Pekka Forselius, 4SUM Partners, Inc.

ABSTRACT:
The information and communications technology (ICT) world is “addicted” to dysfunctional behavior and the problem is spreading globally. The sad truth is that the parties in the ICT relationship (the customer and the supplier) are largely co-dependent on a pattern of dysfunction characterized by ineffective communication, fixed price contracts with changing requirements, and eroding trust. This article focuses specifically on the northernSCOPE TM 12-step process for ICT program recovery.

For more information on northernSCOPE(TM) visit www.fisma.fi (in English pages) and for upcoming training in Tampa, Florida  — April 26-30, 2010, visit www.qualityplustech.com.

To your successful projects!

Carol

Carol Dekkers
email: dekkers@qualityplustech.com
http://www.qualityplustech.com/stage/
Contact Carol to keynote your upcoming event – her style translates technical matters into digestible soundbites, with straightforward and honest expertise that works in the real world!
=======Copyright 2010, Carol Dekkers ALL RIGHTS RESERVED =======

Measuring IT Performance

Quote for those tasked with implementing a sustainable measurement program with positive ROI:

“When we seek generalities we fail.
When we seek specifics it is easier.
When we measure performance, performance increases (Hawthorn effect).
When we measure and record performance, performance accelerates.”

Source: Anonymous.

Where Should one Start when Tackling a Software Measurement Program?

Overheard at a recent IT software conference:

  • “Okay, so I guess the 1st step is to measure function points” (Dekkers’ comment: Sorry, wrong approach. The 1st step is to figure out the Goals that you want to achieve with measurement.  Think of this like going shopping – what do you need to buy – you only make a grocery list of what you need once you know what you want to cook. The same thing goes with software measurement! Deciding your goal (s) is the first step)
  • “It sounds like I need a measurement consultant but how do I choose one and what will it cost?” (Dekkers’ comment: There are more than enough eager software measurement consultants who will tell you their way is the best and only way.  One group touts themselves as the elders of software measurement and holds up their volunteer committee service as their mantra, while many of their consultants are hired guns – that is they are subcontractors who work freelance for the highest bidder.  Make sure to ask for (and check) references and ask those references what their ROI on the consulting group was BEFORE you take the salesman’s word for it!  Buyer beware – there’s some unscrupulous fat cats in the water who will take your money, implement useless difficult measures, and be gone leaving you holding a dashboard that doesn’t match what you wanted to achieve.)
  • “Software metrics sounds easy but the presenters make it sound hard” (Dekkers’ comment:  Software metrics is NOT rocket science or even difficult. Follow Goal-Question-Metrics (GQM) approach, engage a bit of targeted training, and take it one step at a time and you’ll see that you too can be savvy with software metrics and gain performance improvement.  Take a look at the FREE materials on Practical Software and Systems Measurement (PSM) from www.psmsc.com and from CrossTalk (www.hill.af.mil/crosstalk – search for software measurement and from the DACS (www.dacs.com) which are all US taxpayer funded initiatives for a starting point).

Make sure you take advantage of the many free article downloads at www.qualityplustech.com or send me a note at dekkers@qualityplustech.com before you hire a consultant to design a function point or software measurement program you’ll later regret.

To your successful projects!

Carol

For more information on northernSCOPE(TM) visit www.fisma.fi (in English pages) and for upcoming training in Florida, visit www.qualityplustech.com
Carol Dekkers
email: dekkers@qualityplustech.com
http://www.qualityplustech.com/stage/
Contact Carol to keynote your upcoming event – her style translates technical matters into digestible soundbites, with straightforward and honest expertise that works in the real world!
=======Copyright 2010, Carol Dekkers ALL RIGHTS RESERVED =======

Overcome CHAOS with scope management...

“Don’t waste even one heartbeat on things that don’t matter.”  Anonymous

 This quotation should be the mantra of software development – if only we could figure out what “in the customer’s eyes” doesn’t matter!

The Standish Group’s 2009 CHAOS report certainly didn’t bring any celebratory words:  After steady increases from a dismal 17% project success rate in 1996 to the 34% (a doubling!) rate in 2006, this year’s study reported a decrease to a mere 32% of projects being declared a success.

 What’s going on? With 60-99% of defects attributable to poor requirements, and 45% of development effort spent on rework, it is clear that somehow the customer side of the house and the development side are out of whack.  Worldwide, we could declare software development as a problem of epidemic proportions – especially as software pervades every aspect of our daily lives.  If we can casually launch a team of scientists to fix an ailing space station on a moment’s notice, and announce medical breakthroughs, surely the brains in software development should make strides in this area.  Take rework for example, currently hovering at an astounding 40% of software development effort – this means that while we do great work Monday to Wednesday every week, the remaining two working days are spent fixing and redoing the very work we just completed. The old adage – “if you don’t have the time to do it right, when will you find the time to do it over?” —  doesn’t seem to hold much water does it when almost half of every week is spent doing costly rework?

Here’s the crux of the situation – it’s not a matter of incompetence!  It’s a matter of the customers not being able to fully articulate what they actually need – and a matter of the suppliers not being able to deliver to requirements that are as sketchy as clouds.  BUT, there’s a solution that’s been successful in Finland and Australia called Scope Management – and I’ve mentioned this many times in the past… stay tuned for more information in the coming posts. And Scope Management training is coming to Tampa, FL in just a few weeks.  More to come!

For more information on northernSCOPE(TM) visit www.fisma.fi (in English pages) and for upcoming training in Florida, visit www.qualityplustech.com.

To your successful projects!

Carol

Carol Dekkers
email: dekkers@qualityplustech.com
http://www.qualityplustech.com/stage/
Contact Carol to keynote your upcoming event – her style translates technical matters into digestible soundbites, with straightforward and honest expertise that works in the real world!
=======Copyright 2010, Carol Dekkers ALL RIGHTS RESERVED =======

2010 - new year, new advances in software development?

As 2009 draws to a close, we’re left with an “interesting year” where budget cuts in early year gave rise to reduced program deliveries, but by midyear the customer demands for more functionality gave rise to a resurgence of development activity. 2009 saw the CHAOS report (www.standishgroup.com) declare a reduction in the percentage of successful projects, the first year in memory when success rates have decreased – not a good report card for the IT industry!

There’s hope however, and scope management (often the topic of this blog) continues to amass followers and successes in Finland. Yet another government department has embraced scope management processes in their procurement and software development, bringing to almost a dozen the number of federal government departments in the Scandinavian nation for which unit pricing, measurement based progress reporting, and formal change management has become a standard.

For information about the northernSCOPE(TM) approach to scope management on software intensive projects, visit www.fisma.fi and select the English tab.

Workshops will be offered in Q1 2010 for Certified Scope Managers (CSM) including the examination by the European Certificates Association by Quality Plus Technologies (www.qualityplustech.com).

Wishing you success in 2010! What will you do differently to make YOUR project succeed?

To your successful projects!

Carol

Carol Dekkers
email: dekkers@qualityplustech.com
http://www.qualityplustech.com/stage/
http://www.caroldekkers.com
Contact Carol to keynote your upcoming event – her style translates technical matters into digestible soundbites, humorously and forthright. View also Carol Dekkers’ general blog at http://caroldekkers.wordpress.com/ The Dekkers Report
=======Copyright 2009, Carol Dekkers ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Scope Management is the new Green...

Recycling, planning for the future, saving the environment for future generations is all part of the new “green” movement – and it is common sense for our planet and the future.  In a similar manner, scope management is common sense for software development in that it saves time, puts planning and solid communication up front in the lifecycle, and saves time on costly rework down the road.  By following solid scope management principles, both the customer side and the development side agree at the beginning of the software and systems requirements phase exactly what is the unit pricing for each part of the program/project they work on.  As the project progresses, baseline sizing, progress reporting, change management (using documented and agreed upon procedures), and good communication are part of the approach, and once the project is complete, the award fee (in $$$) is paid to the contracted developers based on functionality and quality delivered.  Lessons learned are captured and quantified according to solid project management principles so that future projects can be run even better. 

None of this is rocket science, however, unit pricing, subdivision of programs into projects and subprojects,  unit pricing by type of work, baselining size, tracking and control based on functionality delivered, and change management based on unit pricing,and final delivery payment based on agreed upon requirements are seldom all brought together in a single project – unless scope management has been applied.

For more information on northernSCOPE(TM) visit www.fisma.fi (in English pages) and for upcoming training in Florida, visit www.qualityplustech.com.

To your successful projects!

Carol

Carol Dekkers
email: dekkers@qualityplustech.com
http://www.qualityplustech.com/stage/
http://www.caroldekkers.com

Contact Carol to keynote your upcoming event – her style translates technical matters into digestible soundbites, humorously and forthright. View also Carol Dekkers’ general blog at http://caroldekkers.wordpress.com/ The Dekkers Report
=======Copyright 2009, Carol Dekkers ALL RIGHTS RESERVED =======

ISO/IEC JTC1 SC7 = ISO Software Engineering Standards

Hello from Hyderabad, India, where I’ve attended the ISO/IEC JTC1 SC7 meetings this week – sponsored by NASSCOM of India.

It is refreshing in this year of global economic downturn to see that countries are continuing to think long-term with regard to ISO standards and their evolution.  Here in Hyderabad, NASSCOM officials and TATA consulting executives ensured that our stay was incredibly safe, comfortable, and highly supportive of the intensive work done by SC7 working groups writing the world’s emerging software engineering standards.

In addition to the professional support offered by the attending 60+ Indian professionals attending the meetings on behalf of the Indian national standards organization, the arrangements provided for luxury western-style accommodations and meals, and lavish outpouring of India hospitality. Despite this being my third trip to India (the first two featured Delhi and Bangalore locales), it has definitely been my best and most memorable.

On the standards topic, there are many emerging new work items concerning pressing concerns in the global software and systems industry including IT service management (ITIL), corporate governance, documentation standards (worldwide), benchmarking, software and systems processes, etc.  If you’d like to know more about the standards that may affect YOUR company, contact me at the email address below and I’d be happy to answer them.

Sometimes ISO standards (and ISO/IEC standards) get a bad rap in the industry press as being out-of-date, clumsy, difficult to implement, and theoretical in nature.  As a 15 year representative on behalf of the USA to ISO, I can only say that things are on the mend.  More and more liaisons, fast tracks, and adherence to timelines are imposed – making our writing job a bit more rigorous and fixed, but at the same time, delivering standards to the market in a more streamlined manner.

For further information on the ISO/IEC standards processes or standards themselves, please send me an email.

Have a great week!

Carol

Carol Dekkers
email: dekkers@qualityplustech.com
http://www.qualityplustech.com/stage/
http://www.caroldekkers.com

Contact Carol to keynote your upcoming event – her style translates technical matters into digestible soundbites, humorously and forthright. View also Carol Dekkers’ general blog at http://caroldekkers.wordpress.com/ The Dekkers Report
=======Copyright 2009, Carol Dekkers ALL RIGHTS RESERVED =======