Estimation Methods, Maturity and Functional Metrics - Webinar Series

Nothing kills IT credibility like not making a promised date. For example, this blog post was to be written and provided two days ago and I missed the deadline. Does missing a deadline matter? It depends. Some deadlines are non-negotiable, others are simply aspirational goals. But, if you are consistently overpromising and under-delivering on your IT projects, your credibility dies the death of a thousand cuts. And it's not just your credibility at stake, it's that other people rely on your work to be done well and on time - in many IT cases, a deadline is a necessity.

In a recent InformationWeek article, Why IT Has a Credibility Problem, Jonathan Feldman reviews the issue of credibility in IT, and the expectation that IT can and will deliver on-budget and on-time. His findings confirm much of DCG's experience with clients, where clients often issue estimates at the start of a project that aren't reasonable, laying the foundation for future disappointment - and a loss of credibility.

In our webinar series, Estimation Methods, Maturity and Functional Metrics, we will review, for an IT practitioner involved in software projects, the characteristics of mature organizations that have learned how to create estimates based on data and not opinion, facts and not fantasy. Afterwards, you will be able to see the value of an estimate, and how properly managing estimates, can create momentum to improve credibility and customer/coworker satisfaction. 

Sign up now! If you have any questions, please leave a comment and we will be sure to get back to you.  

Tony Timbol
Vice President, Sales and Marketing

Written by Michael D. Harris at 07:10

Understanding Software Development Productivity - Parametric Productivity Drivers

On what basis can we compare two or more projects to decide if the productivity is better or worse in one than the others?  I have had the same conversation with several different clients over the past couple of months, so maybe it is worth sharing here. There are a number of different characteristics of a project that will tend to drive its productivity.  Examples include the programming language used (Java versus COBOL versus machine code), the technology architecture (mainframe versus client server versus web), the experience of the developers with this application and/or environment and so on.  We call these parametric productivity drivers. It is reasonable to expect that with all the parametric productivity drivers equal, two projects with the same functional size will exhibit the same productivity.  Again, with all the parametric productivity drivers the same, we would expect a project with half the functional size to exhibit higher productivity. However, in the past couple of months, I have come across several organizations who are attempting to measure and compare productivity without recording or taking into account differences in the parametric productivity drivers.  Without details on the parametric productivity drivers, it might be possible to say that Team A is more productive than Team B over a set of projects, but the fact that this is an expected outcome because Team A is using Java and Team B is using COBOL is lost.  Indeed, the questions of whether Team A is as "more productive" as they should be does not even get addressed. The logical extreme of this is calculating a single productivity metric for a whole release of even a whole year, and then using that to compare to other releases or years with, presumably, very different mixes of projects, as characterized by their parametric productivity drivers. In short, if you are measuring productivity, make sure you gather information about parametric productivity drivers! Do you agree? Or, can you offer any examples of your own?   Mike Harris DCG President

Written by Michael D. Harris at 20:13

How Extensively Do Companies Use Function Points?

This is the second in a series of of three posts reviewing some metrics from DCG's function point counting activities in 2011. I recommend that you review the first post ("What types of companies use function points today?" ) to get a little background. The third post will examine the question, "What do companies use function points for?" Today, I want to talk a little about the scale of some of clients' use of functions points by considering, "How extensively do companies use function points?" First, a reminder - 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 only our most active clients, we have limited the view even further. Now, to answer the question, "How extensively do companies use function points?" we looked at how many applications and projects our major clients had us count in 2011. [caption id="attachment_774" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Function Point Counts for a selection of DCG Clients 2011"][/caption] These are long-standing clients, so the data in the chart represents a steady-state or operational perspective rather than a start-up situation. So, as expected, we see relatively limited counting of new applications. Indeed, the average size of the applications counted is an indicator that, for those companies, "applications" are defined to be any standalone functionality. The key lesson from the chart is that there is wide variation in how extensively companies use function point analysis (FPA); although, to be fair, this may simply be a reflection of how much they use DCG for FPA!  Perhaps a broad conclusion is that about half of the companies in our survey use FPA for less than 20 projects per month (240 in 2011) and half use FPA for more than 20 projects per month. Something else of notice is the variation in the average size of projects from one client to another. If projects from all clients were broadly the same average size - not an unreasonable expectation with this respectably large sample - then all of the "project" points would lie on or close to the same line. That is far from true, which suggests that there may be something about the functionality in software projects that is industry-dependent.  Remember that the use of function points for sizing removes any project size dependencies on platforms or programming languages or effort. What are your thoughts - how extensively do you think companies use function points?   Mike Harris DCG President  

Written by Michael D. Harris at 15:25

What Types of Companies Use Function Points Today?

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.  


Mike Harris
DCG President  

Written by Michael D. Harris at 09:57

Getting more value out of IT Budgets ... and how IT-CMF can help!

Come and find out at the ITFMA Conference in San Francisco April 16-20, 2012. I'll be there talking about the Financial Management Critical Capabilities of IT-CMF at 10:00 a.m. on Friday, April 20. I'd love to meet you either inside or outside the conference while I am in San Francisco, so please leave a comment below if you'd like to set something up!

As part of our continuing effort to find ways to get more value out of IT budgets, last year I came across the IT Financial Management Association (ITFMA,) and this year we joined. Why? Because, in my experience, the first step in getting value out of the IT budget is getting the IT budget under control. That means taking a professional approach to managing money by having professionals with financial management training doing the recording and analysis of IT spending.

Frankly, I hadn't heard of the ITFMA before last year, but it is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. Who knew? There are certainly some significant corporations who have been members for over ten years, covering a diverse range of organizations:

  • American Express
  • Anheuser-Busch, Inc.
  • Bank of America
  • Coca-Cola Company
  • Honda of America
  • McDonald's Corporation
  • MIT
  • State of Kansas
  • State of Wyoming
  • The Hartford

What sort of topics do ITFMA members care about? Probably some of the same topics that you do. Here is a sample of the presentations at the San Francisco conference:

  • Best Predictive Budgeting Models
  • 25 Years of Chargeback Experiences and Best Practices
  • Asset Management Best Practices
  • Success for Today's IT Finance
  • ITIL Trends and Experiences
  • Benchmark IT Spending and Staffing Ratios Best Practices
  • Checklist for Cutting IT Costs
  • IT Infrastructure Pricing
  • Mobile Device Cost Control
  • Capital Budgeting Best Practices
  • Improving Cost Model Accuracy
  • Cloud Economics Best Practices
  • Trends in Software Spending
  • IT Consumption Cost Analysis
  • IT Transparency Best Practices
  • 21st Century IT Budgeting
  • Measuring Business Value of IT
  • Best Practrices for RFP Projects

If you are interested in signing up for the conference, you can register here. Hope to see you there!  

Mike Harris
DCG President

Written by Michael D. Harris at 11:23

"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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