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 never 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 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) for a free initial consultation on how to get started to solve your IT project management and development issues.
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!
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