Category Archives: Webinars

What comes first - estimates or requirements?

We’ve seen many advancements of late in process improvement, better software estimating models, introducing flexibility and agility into software development, formal project management, limiting work-in-progress, etc. – all which incrementally advance projects forward and promise to reduce costly rework.  However, none of these methods addresses one of the most fundamental questions in software development:  what comes first estimates or requirements?

Chicken or Egg?If estimates come first… It seems like putting the cart before the horse if estimate precede requirements, but that is precisely how a good number of software projects go.  To begin with, someone has an idea or a business problem that software can solve but before any work even one dollar can be spent, the work has to go into next year’s budget and get funded.  This means figuring out some sort of estimate of work that has yet to be scoped out.  “Is it going to be bigger than a bread box and smaller than a football field?” is one way of saying – we need a “rough ball park” (guesstimate) that we can use in the budgeting process. Unfortunately this guesstimate process is clearly flawed because it is based on invisible and ether-like requirements. As such, the guesstimate is prone to + or – 500% or more variance once the real requirements are known.

This is like saying – how much will it cost to build a house for my family, just give me a rough estimate so I can go to the bank and arrange a mortgage.  This would be an absurd behavior – especially when one usually doesn’t get a mortgage in advance, and especially because the cost will vary depending on where, how big, how custom, and how the house will be built.  If  one secures a $500K mortgage amount – it gives an upper limit but doesn’t guarantee that a suitable house can actually be done for that amount.  Yet, we engage in this behavior in IT all the time – we guess(timate) for the budget cycle, the amount gets slashed during meetings, and ultimately the fixed price (based on little information) becomes the project budget!

If requirements come first… then in many companies nothing will ever get built and problems will remain the same forever.  Analysis paralysis is common (especially with shifting new business requirements) which gives rise to the support of agile and extreme programming approaches to requirements.  Many companies shifted their support from the arduous front end heavy “waterfall” methods of software development in favor of “progressive requirements elaboration” whereby requirements are discovered along the way. As such, requirements are always evolving with new user stories emerging only after the earlier ones are delivered in software.  So what happens when requirements are needed to build a better estimate (and thereby make sure the project has enough budget) yet an estimate is required before one can begin to scope out the requirements that will fit the budget?  It is a circular situation akin to the chicken and egg conundrum that has plagued humankind for years.

Pathway to cooperative results…One method that proves to work well with this dilemma is scope management – whereby a business “project” (more likely a program of work) is divided into sub-projects, scoped out at the highest level, quality requirements are thought about, and traceable estimates ensue.  More to come on this topic in the next post…

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.

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=======Copyright 2010, Carol Dekkers ALL RIGHTS RESERVED =======

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 =======

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 =======

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 =======

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 =======

Are Webinars THE most effective way to Learn?

In years past, outside conferences, external training, and onsite workshops were the most common means for companies to enrich the skills of their employees – especially technical ones.  It’s no surprise in today’s economy that external travel to conferences or training has been all but eliminated.  The problem is that the need for training is still as prevalent as ever and employees are forced to become more resourceful in acquiring new skills.

One of the most common ways to distribute information (especially about new products or services) is by webinar, which can take various forms including the following:

– Teleconference which is an entirely audio presentation.  Callers dial in to a central phone station and listen to one or more presenters talk about a topic (similar to a radio show);

– Videoconference where there is both an audio and a visual aspect – and the presenter is displayed as if they were presenting in front of a live audience.  The presenter cannot see the audience and there may or may not be powerpoint slides presented;

– Webinar where there is an audio and a visual component. The presenter calls into a central phone center or taps into an internet site such as webex or net meeting (just a couple of proprietary hosting sites) and talks using voice over internet protocol (VOIP) and presents powerpoint slides. Often there are several window “panes” presented to the audience, one of which can include a webcam broadcast of the presenter speaking as the slides are presented. More commonly, the voice of the presenter accompanies the powerpoint slides as they are presented on the screen.

– Online training which is a variation of the above but which usually lasts for a longer duration of time. (The above 3 types run typically from 30 to 90 minutes).

Any of the above types can be presented “live” (as in a realtime presentation while the audience listens) or as pre-recorded content.

What is your experience with webinars?  Are they a useful expenditure of your time? What is the most effective length of time for a webinar?  Are the topics covered suitable for your purposes?  What is missing from webinars today?  Would a webinar series be of interest in your company?

Are webinars THE most effective way to learn new skills today?  If not, what do you think is THE way to learn in today’s world?

Let me know what you think and I’ll publish the results in an upcoming blog posting!

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 =======

The Future of Technology Conferences...

Depending on your age, you may or may not remember when… technology-centric conferences were in their infancy in the late 1970’s. It was a time of abundance and technology was new and exciting – and colleagues would sometimes select the conference for the half-year (two to four conferences a year was the norm) – based on the exotic locale?
Without reference to age, some of us even may remember when… conferences grew larger by the hundreds every year based on positive word of mouth and the location?
Remember when… budget and training dollars were granted when you applied to go to a particular conference, and then additional dollars were authorized when you found another equally “not to be missed” conference after you got back from the first?

Those were the boomtown eighties all right! Ok, I’m old enough to recall attending international specialty workshops, training seminars, and software development conferences with hardly more justification than the conference brochure – and we certainly didn’t need to submit triplicate copies for every lunch and coffee receipts for every day of every trip. Today, things are vastly different and the whole traditional, in-person conference is a big make it or break it expenditure for the corporations and not-for-profit groups alike. And, with the downward trend in attendance, it can take a single poorly attended conference to wipe-out an organization’s assets. What are the challenges that technical conferences are up against these days? Here’s a few of the emerging trends:

1. Increased competition for conference dollars

It is virtually impossible to keep up with the explosion of specialty “international” conferences that pop up almost weekly. It appears that anyone who sees that a buck can be made if you can just “tap the right market at the right time” seems to have gone into the conference business. ABCD (or some other clever 4 letter acronym) springs up and touts itself as “the provider of the premiere conference experience”. Or it is common to read “Ixxxx Institute presents the first ever blahblahblah conference” as a conference headline. Be careful how you allocate your conference dollars before you trust the printed brochure to make sure that value will be delivered. It is good practice (but not a common practice) to call the organizers ahead of time and ask for the names of five of last year’s attendees, then follow-up with them by phone or email to ask what they thought of their conference experience. Be wary if all of the attendees are board members or a member of the conference planning team. Otherwise, if the advice is “skip this one” – you know that you’ve probably saved your company travel money, conference fees, and workshop fees – and have crossed one tenuous conference off the list.

2. Conferences that sound too good to be true probably are.

Watch for fly-by-nights in today’s money hungry economy, there are those who think that any popular topic will pack a conference – and that is partially true. Agile, SOA, Open source and Web2.0 conferences are popular and currently still amassing good turnouts. When we’re talking about the amount of money generated at a well-attended conference (1000 attendees at $1000 per attendee is big bucks!), there are those who may get greedy and put customer satisfaction and value and speaker treatment on the bottom of their list of priorities. Make sure that all of the speakers listed for the conference will be appearing live and in person if you want to meet the speaker as there are conferences today that “beam in” a satellite feed of the speaker at another venue (like on the academy awards with entertainers who couldn’t make the live show!) or sometimes even run a pre-recording of the speaker delivering his/her presentation. Especially watch this at conferences where the speaker lineup appears just too plentiful and illustrious to be true – because it probably is!

3. Webinars and podcasts are the rage today

Remote, small bite sized presentations on a particular (usually highly focused) topic packaged as a low-cost or free webinar seem to increase weekly. While webinars were once limited to high-technology companies seeking to demonstrate their software remotely, the webinar and podcast (usually audio only as opposed to video for webinars) frequency have taken over the mainstream of technology offering topics ranging from coding tips to software development methodology. Why go to a conference if a webinar will deliver the information directly to your desktop?

4. Open universities

Did you know that anyone with an internet connection worldwide can attend classes remotely at MIT and other major universities throughout the world? While a degree is granted only to those paying students, others can watch and learn for no cost by simply accessing the university site and selecting the topic and date for the class and “tuning in” (double clicking on the selected video link). For example, Thomas Friedman’s lecture on his book The World is Flat from May 2005 at MIT can be readily viewed at anytime day or night. Visit MIT open university at http://mitworld.mit.edu/.

What’s the future for technology conferences? If there’s the right combination of location, people, topics, and proven good speakers delivering content rich presentations, then there will always be a market for well attended in-person conferences. However, miss one of the ingredients or have a stale or old school style conference where the same old presenters present the same old stuff at a conference run by the same old not-for-profit board members, and you’re going to see a decline in attendance no matter where you locate the conference.

It’s going to be interesting to see which conferences survive and thrive in 2009, and what conferences simply disappear from the landscape… any guesses from your vantage point?

Have a nice week!

Carol Dekkers
http://www.caroldekkers.com/
http://www.qualityplustech.com/stage/
———–COPYRIGHT 2008 Carol Dekkers ALL RIGHTS RESERVED————————