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A Customized Sizing Model

We work with a lot of clients, and they vary in size, industry, and location. They also, of course, vary in the reason they come to us for help. Sometimes they're in need of training, sometimes they're looking for help in one specific area, and sometimes they need help identifying what their actual problem even is. The common theme between all of our engagements is that our focus is on value: What value can we provide to our clients that will truly impact their organization, beyond even IT?

In a recent engagement, a business came to us with a problem. They were bidding on a Navy contract. The contract required the use of function points. Their experience with sizing was minimal. Could we help?

Yes.

But, we believed that the company needed more than just one simple size for the entire project. The value we provided was in leveraging our experience to build a customized, flexible sizing model to most effectively meet the needs of the client - and for less than the cost of our competitors.

Read the case study to find out more about the engagement.

Download.

 

 

 

Written by Default at 05:00

How to Sell Function Points To Your Manager

DavidAs one of the premier consulting companies offering function point sizing services, the consultants at David Consulting Group are all too familiar with the variety of challenges of “selling” function points to an organization. A common scenario involves a client or prospect who is reasonably well informed about function points, has a defined need, but who has yet to obtain management buy-in and funding.  So, the challenge becomes figuring out how to sell function points to the management team – or in your case, to your manager.

Don’t worry, I’m here to help! Here are my five tips for helping you to establish the value proposition of using function points.

Step 1. Know What You Are Selling  

Assuming that you are familiar with the function point method and are comfortable/confident with discussing the topic, your first thought may be to prepare a presentation on function points as an initial step in your quest to sell your manager on the idea. That would be ill advised.  Function Point Analysis is not an easy sell.

I advise you to present a case for sizing your software as opposed to a discussion on function point counting your software. Trying to understand the function point method takes time and distracts from the conversation you really want to be having. But sizing (which is what function points is all about) is a term or a word that everyone can readily understand and relate to. Simply stating that size is the key to successfully managing software deliverables will most likely ring true with your manager, allowing you to carry on with making your case for sizing (via function points).

Step 2. Know Why Sizing is Important  

Size is important in so many ways. You need to be able to convey these reasons to your manager, so that he too understands the value that sizing offers. Sizing is important because:

  • It offers a basis for comparison among various software deliverables.
  • It is a key input parameter for estimating.
  • It is a normalizing factor for productivity and quality measures.
  • It is a critical measure of software process effectiveness.
  • It offers the ability to compare your software to industry benchmarks.
  • It allows for the proper setting of end user expectations regarding the anticipated size of the software deliverable.

This step is where you begin to lay the groundwork for introducing sizing into the organization. For each of the activities noted above (and many others), size plays a key role. Without a proper sizing technique, you cannot effectively measure performance or accurately estimate a project delivery schedule.

Step 3. Provide Proper Context  

Using the information noted above, or from some similar perspective, discuss sizing in the context of an issue that is important to your manager and to the organization. Whether it is improved estimating, benchmarking performance or managing vendor deliverables, make your case for sizing in the context of what your manager considers to be important. Talk about the challenges and solutions that will resonate with your management team. The conversation does not necessarily need to center around sizing techniques per se. If there is an important initiative that can benefit from the effective deployment of a sizing measure, then that is where you should lead the conversation.

Step 4. Know Your Audience 

You are selling the idea of sizing to someone who most likely has a different agenda than you do. You need to make sure that you are presenting to your manager a potential solution to what he considers to be his challenges, not yours. This may take several conversations as you listen to what your management team considers to be its challenges, goals and objectives. The most common hurdle will be one of limited resources, including budgeted dollars. This may necessitate making a business case as part of your sizing proposal.

Step 5. Understand That It Is Always About the Business  

At the end of the day, a decision to move forward with anything new comes down to determining what impact it will have on the bottom line. That is a key reason as to why a conversation about function points will not go as far as a conversation, for example,  about improving project delivery through improved estimating techniques and being able to more accurately predict delivery dates and satisfy customer expectations. Always consider and speak to how this change can benefit the business.

Following these five steps will not guarantee success each and every time, but they will help you to better position your case for function point sizing. If you still get a “no,” you will most likely have a better understanding of what needs to change in the future in order to secure a “yes.”


David Herron
Vice President, Software Performance Management

Written by David Herron at 05:00
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David Herron Reflects on the Software Industry

DCG 1994 Logo 2C

This is the first post in a series that will offer our management team's reflections on DCG's 20th anniversary and the state of the software industry.

This year, DCG celebrates its 20 year anniversary – all 20 of which I’ve spent with the company! As such, it is an opportune time to look back on the software industry and reflect on where we have been and where we are today.

Software: A Changing Landscape

Probably everyone would agree that the business of developing and deploying software is in constant flux. New practices, techniques and tools are continuously being introduced to the development environment with varying degrees of success and sustainability – we’ve seen it time and time again over the past 20 years.

These changes are often influenced by the evolving needs of the business. Cost has always been a business driver, but over the past several years companies have become increasingly focused on software quality and speed (time to market) – and how software performance data can be used to drive strategic decisions.

To address this newfound concern, more and more of our clients are turning to a tried and trusted solution: the use of quantitative and qualitative measurement data to govern software development practices and outcomes – one of DCG’s core offerings.

For example, twenty years ago we saw the rise of the outsourcing mega-deal. In hopes of lowering costs, companies looked to offshore sourcing alternatives with third party suppliers. These mega-deal, multi-year outsourcing arrangements required service level agreements and measures to be established in order to monitor and manage risks. What we learned from these early outsourcing initiatives was that they did not always result in the cost savings that had been anticipated. 

Of course, outsourcing is still very much part of the norm in today’s software development environment, but organizations have developed the ability to make better decisions as to which portions of their development and maintenance activities they choose to outsource. Through the use of now accepted industry performance measures, IT departments are deploying quantitative benchmarks and qualitative assessments to help them better understand levels of productivity and quality performance. Using this information, they are better able to evaluate and select potential cost-saving sourcing strategies.

To that end, the use of software sizing techniques, such as Function Point Analysis, have become a key factor in the effective measurement and management of software, as IT departments and C-level management have increasingly required sound, quantitative data that can measure the value contribution of IT.

Of Course, Some Things Remain the Same

But while proven solutions are being used to address newer business concerns, some issues have continued to plague software over the years. The most costly of these issues occur at the frontend of a software development lifecycle, specifically, the lack of proper requirements development, ineffective cost estimating and ignoring the need to properly set customer expectations. 

Issues associated with these shortcomings have long been recognized by most organizations, and yet proven solutions to these problems have been slow in gaining ground. There seems to be a continued reluctance to make the proper investment necessary to correct these issues. One major reason that these frontend issues are not aggressively addressed is that organizations aren’t typically aware of what these frontend issues are costing them on the backend! For example, poorly defined requirements and taking shortcuts to reduce costs and speed up delivery can have a devastating impact on the quality of the software deliverable, resulting in extended maintenance activities and costs.

We routinely have organizations come to us seeking help in addressing these issues. Our solution involves both some of our standard techniques (sizing), as well as newer ones that have developed over the past 20 years (Agile).

From a sizing perspective, we know that a key measure is to determine the size and complexity of the software problem domain. Using that information we are able to help our clients improve requirements clarity, more effectively estimate project costs and ultimately properly set customer expectations. Proving the old adage, “You can’t properly manage what you don’t measure.”

Similar to sizing, Agile practices have been around for the past twenty years. But, it seems like only recently that IT organizations have come to the realization that by using Agile practices and technologies, they can gain the advantage of working more closely with their business partner to establish the prioritized requirements and incrementally deliver value.

Even though these issues described seem to continually plague software, there are solutions – both old and new – that exist to mediate them, if an organization wishes to do so. In this respect, it’s time for software organizations to step out of the past and move into the future.

On the whole, software will never stop evolving. It’s fun – and sometimes necessary – to talk about and play with new tools and techniques that have come about. But on the whole, while the priorities of IT – and the business – may change, it’s always worthwhile to consider how trusted solutions can be of value.


David Herron
Vice President, Software Performance Management

Written by David Herron at 05:00

The Estimation Center of Excellence: A Case Study

A global financial solutions provider was struggling with its limited capability to accurately predict and successfully manage its software delivery schedule. Based on DCG’s reputation in the field of software metrics, the company reached out for help.

DCG proposed the creation of an internal sizing and estimating Center of Excellence (CoE) following its Build, Operate, Transfer (BOT) approach. This approach starts with the creation of the CoE under the operation of DCG, with ownership transferred to the company over time.

To learn more about this engagement and the BOT approach, read our case study: DCG Establishes Estimation Center of Excellence for Global Financial Solutions Provider, Resulting in Increased Project Oversight and Improved Vendor Management.

The engagement is currently running successfully and the company has reported an improved ability to evaluate third party vendor bids based on software development efforts.

Questions? Leave them in the comments - we're happy to answer them!

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Written by Default 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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