I often talk to companies who are struggling to understand why they have such differences in performance for their projects. The discussion usually starts with any symptoms they can describe and their own ideas for the solutions. At some point, we talk about how they compare metrics across projects and that leads to (among other things) a discussion of project size.
I had one such conversation a couple of weeks ago and the team I was talking to were quick converts to the use of function points over their largely discredited, but still used, internal proxy metric for size. However, though they are convinced, they are having a hard time convincing management to invest extensively in this apparent "black art." Quite reasonably, I was asked if I could produce some metrics of my own:
- What types of companies use function points today?
- How extensively do companies use function points?
- What do companies use function points for?
Hmmm! Well, this was a challenge that called for actual data rather than the usual industry summary we provide, so I asked my colleagues at DCG to try to come up with some data based on our own function point counting efforts for clients in 2011. Of course, this is a little like peering at the industry through a keyhole - while DCG is the largest independent provider of outsourced function point analysis (FPA) in the world, ours is a necessarily limited view of all the FPA being done in the world, and by picking our most active seven clients, we have limited the view even further.
Over a series of blog posts, I will share some data for each of these three questions starting here with "What types of companies use function points today?" The chart below shows the distribution of DCG's counts across industry sectors:
Of course, to a large extent, "Information Services" represents the category "other," but nonetheless the fact that most of the counts fit into this category is something of a surprise. Certainly a few years ago I would have expected most of our counts to fall into the "Telecoms" category because that sector has been, and continues to be, a major user of size metrics to manage their software development. Also of note is that health care is a growing user of function points to implement more mature software development in response to the opportunities and challenges being presented in this sector in the United States in coming years. The second chart shows the distribution of counted function points across sectors:
Interestingly, when we look at numbers of function points counted, the traditional users of function points reassert themselves. Frankly, I think this is reflective of the maturity, and hence, scope, of function point counting in these sectors. Function points are used for a larger swathe of the software development being done. An alternative explanation that bears some consideration is that "projects" could be generally larger in the traditional sectors than in information services. I'm not sure why that might be but I'm open to suggestions. Feel free to leave yours in the comments below! My next post will cover how extensively companies use function points.
If you have an additional function point topic that you'd like me to discuss, please leave a comment as well, and I will address it.