Is Function Point Analysis Valuable in an Agile Environment?

Tony MannoMany organizations are embracing Agile as their development framework of choice. The Agile project team, consisting of a Product Owner, Scrum Master and developers, creates and prioritizes user stories, which describe the functionality to be delivered by completion of the task/story. The team plans and executes in sprints to develop and implement functionality for each user story, and updates and reprioritizes the backlog of user stories (backlog grooming) for each subsequent sprint. By working in this way, Agile provides faster realization of value through incremental delivery of functionality, prioritizing the deliverables that will have the most impact. It involves the user in the development process, reduces risk by identifying issues earlier in the project lifecycle and embraces change throughout the project. It’s easy to understand why it’s become such a popular framework!

As in traditional waterfall, Agile project teams have a responsibility to the business to deliver on time and within budget. An estimate of the overall project spend and schedule can be done at the beginning of the Agile project and modified throughout the lifecycle to ensure accuracy as project requirements change. Project metrics can be derived at the end of the project and compared within the company portfolio or to industry benchmarks. But, the question is how to do this.

The answer, of course, is Function Point Analysis. Function Point Analysis is a standardized method for measuring the functionality delivered to a user, independent of technology. It works well for Agile and traditional waterfall projects. Function Point Analysis can be used at the beginning of an Agile project, once the user stories have been defined. Cost and duration estimates can be derived for the overall project from the function point counts using well defined, industry proven models and software. At the end of the project, metrics such as productivity, defect density and time-to-market are valuable in the Agile environment as within waterfall. These metrics allow measurement for internal improvement initiatives, contract compliance and comparison to industry benchmarks.

Estimation and project metrics based on functional sizing are good practices, regardless of the delivery framework used. They allow the project team to provide the business with realistic expectations of project cost and duration and to measure themselves against improvement goals and the industry.

For more insight on the use of function points in an Agile environment, check out the July 2015 DCG Trusted Advisor report, “Story Points or Function Points or Both?”

Tony Manno
Vice President, Outsourced Services

Written by Tony Manno at 09:46
Categories :

Top Blog Posts of 2015

David Consulting Group BlogEvery year we like to share the most-read blog posts on our site for that period of time. It's a great way for our readers to catch up if they've missed a particular post, and it also highlights what other readers are finding interesting or compelling on our site.

So, without further adieu, here are the top 5 blog posts from 2015:

  1. Estimating Software Maintenance - A post from David Herron discussing an interesting article he read that presents a unique and proven approach for estimating maintenance and support activities using a new type of "sizing" model.
  2. Scaling Agile Testing Using the TMMi - This post from Tom Cagley invited readers to register for his webinar on the topic. Obviously the webinar itself is over, but you can read the post and then access the recording of the webinar here.
  3. Agile Transformation of the Organization - This post from Mike Harris discusses how to successfully implement enterprise Agile.
  4. The Value Visualization Framework - This post provides an overview of the Value Visualization Framework (VVF), developed by Mike Harris to address the fact that most software initiatives are driven by technology and time-to-completion rather than economic value.
  5. How To: Manage Vendor Performance - Another post from David Herron! This time David dives into third-party vendors, addressing the questions: How do we measure value delivered to the business? How do we equate cost to value? How can we ensure that we are getting a good price for the value being delivered?

As you can see, our readers are interested in a fairly wide variety of topics! Did one of your favorite posts not make the cut? Leave a comment letting us know!

We look forward to sharing more posts in 2016!

Written by Default at 05:00

Top Publications of 2015

Our goal here at DCG is to always provide value to our readers, our clients and those in the software industry. As such, we share a lot of content that addresses a variety of software-related topics and provides information that we hope will facilitate problem solving or just provoke a thought or two.

With so much content, it's easy to miss an article now and again. With that, we'd like to share our top publications of 2015, based on traffic as well as feedback we've received.

First, we'd be remiss not to share our template for contracting for Agile. It was not written or published in 2015, but its popularity and usefulness is undeniable!

And now, for the top 5 publications of 2015:

  1. An Introduction to the Scaled Agile Framework - This article is an overview of the framework and why (and when) you would want to use it in your organization.
  2. Five Problems that Impact Testing Effectiveness and Efficiency - This article outlines five typical causes of testing issues and how to combat them.
  3. The Average Size of a Project - We did some rough calculations to determine the average size of our software development projects. In thie article, we share our data!
  4. 6 Steps to An Estimation CoE - This article outlines the steps to establish a robust Estimation Center of Excellence.
  5. Finding the Right Service-Level Measure in a Changing Outsourcing Landscape - Establishing a contract for outsourcing is tough. This article discusses how to create service-level agreements that measure both cost and value.

Of course, those are just the top 5! There are plenty more to be found in our Publications Library - and there will be more to look forward to in 2016!

Written by Default at 05:00

Enterprise Agile: ‘Water – Agile – Fall’ Makes a Splash in New Forrester Report

Tony TimbolIt's safe to say that for Agile practitioners who are working with clients, the recent findings about enterprise Agile in Forrester's "The 2015 State of Agile Development Report” are not all that surprising. For Agile purists the findings may seem discouraging, but in my view, the report shows that Agile’s benefits are so clear, that it is driving change regardless of barriers to adoption.

This quote about enterprise teams struck me specifically, "The teams know how to integrate Agile development with waterfall practices in an overall enterprise governance framework. When done well, Forrester calls this Water-Agile-Fall. 'Done well' means upfront planning and an understanding of very high-level product requirements (water), then sprints kick off with further user stories of refinement, design, development, testing, and integration (Agile), and, lastly, release packaging and deployment (fall).”

The words "upfront planning" and "high-level product requirements" indicate that enterprises are trying to fit Agile into existing organizational lines of command-and-control, as opposed to decentralizing decision making. Change is hard - these types of allowances are expected.

This chart from the report underscores the challenges organizations are facing in full Agile adoption:

Forrester State of Agile 

What's the big takeaway here? Do not underestimate the challenge in moving from a functional line-of-business model to a product/value stream structure, which aligns better with Agile and lean software engineering. This transition brings many organizational, personnel, and financial issues to the forefront that are not so easily addressed.

Even as solid as the SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework) approach is to scaling Agile, enterprises should move deliberately and carefully and understand that scaling is less about technique and more about effective change management.

You can download a copy of the report here.

Tony Timbol
VP of Business Development & SAFe Program Consultant


Written by Tony Timbol at 05:00
Categories :

The Costly Cost Obsession

Alan CameronThe obsession with cost control rather than value delivered, in both government and companies, is driving me mad – because it’s so 20th century and backward-looking. It’s time to put the customer or citizen first.

Cost-Cutting Now Won't Balance the Books

Recently I heard on the radio that suicides amongst UK young offenders remain at unacceptable levels, and we understand too that recidivism is high amongst offenders in this age group. The Prison Service, like so many others, is being asked to make cuts so that the government can balance its budget, but that means that prisoners aren’t adequately supervised, nor is their criminal behaviour addressed.

The lack of systems thinking is, I don’t hesitate to say, criminal. The result of cost-cutting leads to no change in recidivism and the long-term effect is an increase in our already high prison population, and an increase in costs. In turn, this spreads supervision more thinly and suicide rates don’t fall.

At a small and large society level, unnecessary deaths are tragic failures of management, and failing to turn young offenders into useful citizens not only increases the costs of continuing to incarcerate them, it loses the economic value of having these people usefully employed.

The value of the positive is ignored in the downward spiral of cost cutting that actually leads to an increase in costs in the medium- to long-term while, negatively affecting productive income generation. There is obviously a balance to be drawn – crime will always be there – but, like a successful fraud investigation system, success can be measured in a reduction in convictions as compliance improves and longer-term savings are generated.

A value-driven spiral needs to be primed, but the result is positive. As recidivism is reduced, staff are freed up to provide better supervision of and guidance to those with potential suicide risks, repeat offenders behaviour is changed and they start to add to society. Costs go down and tax generated from employment goes up. Instead we “cut” costs and build more prisons.

Short-Termism Damages Share Value

Let’s turn to industry. When profits don’t meet targets, the dead hand of hierarchical management and finance tends to decree, “No training,” or “No travel,” or “No process improvements.” You choose, and then let’s look for “Efficiency Savings.”

Examples abound. One company I know of provides support for purchasing for customers. 60% of these orders are single line items, and so the support is being removed from everyone. However, a small piece of analysis shows that the largest clients with the biggest global spread make up much of the other 40%. Some of their orders may be 100 line items, but the support has been removed so the end operatives have to take longer to complete orders for the highest value clients. So costs have been cut to help now, but some global clients simply won’t renew their contracts if deliveries of products are delayed.

The company looks only at costs and not at the value of the complex clients. Great for this quarter, but not so good in a few years. Revenue and profit will fall, but by then all the executives will have changed, and the next lot will start another round of frantic cost-cutting.

Similarly, a potential client, which is supposed to be Agile in all it does, has had to postpone a value-add process improvement in order that costs can be controlled. The hierarchical management is driven by 20th century share value behaviours at the expense of stable, predictable projects, delighted clients and future growth.

Contrast that with another client who can see that spending a few thousand pounds on a robust estimating service can assist with the control of projects worth millions. They see the value of what’s traditionally seen as an overhead, i.e. discretionary spending.

Shifting the Mindset

As Steve Denning pointed out in his keynote speech to the Agile Business Conference in London, cost-cutting is an inward looking view of what matters most to organisations, and as such, the only people ever satisfied are the inner circle who take the short-term gains it delivers. Executives paid in share options and politicians, wanting to make themselves look good, cling to the view that the customer/citizen doesn’t matter.

Contrast that with a customer-centric view where delighting the client matters most, where the value of actions is thought through and implemented. Self -organising teams manage their training to ensure that skills are optimised, and process improvements are continuous and focused on delivery for the client. Finance takes a client-centric view with a greater appreciation of how development teams deliver value and they support those activities.

In government, local control is real and targets are based on outcomes and not cost alone. Teams are multi-disciplinary and the silo boundaries between departments are porous. Vulnerable adults in prison are assessed to see if that is an appropriate place for them to be. Prison is not seen as primarily a place of punishment, but rather one where success comes from reducing re-offending and making released prisoners valuable to society. Teams address basic issues such as illiteracy, and social interactions to break cycles of behaviour. The cost is balanced against the value and not the need to cut for the sake of someone’s ego.

We firmly believe that the most successful software development comes from Agile teams focussed on adding value to clients. It is demonstrably true there and also in government.

It’s time to leave the 20th century and to put the customer/ citizen in the middle of all our thinking and to only do something if it adds value to those people. If you can’t answer the “What’s the value of this?” question, then don’t do it.

Written by Alan Cameron at 05:00

"It's frustrating that there are so many failed software projects when I know from personal experience that it's possible to do so much better - and we can help." 
- Mike Harris, DCG Owner

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