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Benchmarking Survey

Thanks from DCG!

We're collecting information on the use of benchmarking in organizations and we need your help! Please take 2 minutes and answer 5 quick question in our survey:

  • Does your company use benchmarks currently?
  • How often does your company get new benchmarks?
  • What benchmark vendor does your company use (or used previously)?
  • Which department in your company deals with the baseline vendor?
  • Are you familiar with any benchmark vendors? If so, which ones?
  • What are your personal feelings about the use of benchmarks?

If you're interested in the results, we're happy to share! Just email Mike Harris for more information.

Take the survey here.

Written by Default at 05:00

The Qualitative Side of Benchmarking

DavidDate: August 21st, 2014
Time: 12:30pm EST
Presenter: David Herron, Vice President, Software Performance Management

Benchmarking is when an organization establishes a baseline for its software productivity and quality. Once a baseline is established, it can be compared to a future baseline or to an industry baseline.

With this information, an organization can more easily track its progress and determine what is working - and what's not.

Most organizations focus on quantitative benchmarks, but at DCG, we also provide a combination of quantitative and qualitative data for further insight into why certain projects are experiencing lower levels of performance.

Why Should You Care?

It’s important to know how effectively and efficiently you are developing and deploying software, your quantitative levels of performance. It is equally important to understand what the contributing factors are that result in your optimal or sub-optimal level of performance, the qualitative measures.

Join Us for a Webinar

Interested in learning more about how this benchmarking model can work for you? Join David Herron on August 21st for a webinar, where he will provide you with the data you need to improve your software development practices.

Register Now.

Written by Default at 05:00

Beyond Benchmarks 101

I usually find that having a benchmark process is treated much too simplistically.  Suppliers are often forced to sign up to black and white productivity targets by naïve, and sometimes overly aggressive, clients.  A project is delivered and the productivity is measured in terms of cost or effort per output – and then the fighting starts.

The thing is, life is complicated and single data points don’t tell a complete story.

Never Let the Facts Get in the Way of a Good Story

In today’s news-driven, overly simplistic world, single data points are thought to be representative of trends, or worse, are given without context. In late 2013, there was a spate of fatalities amongst cyclists in London – about seven in a month – when in 2012, there were 14 in total. Cue sensation in the press and questions about the safety of cycling by politicians. 

Cooler heads started to dissect the results, and sad though this spate was, the annual rate in 2013 was exactly the same as 2012, while cycle journeys are increasing in London by more than 20 percent annually.  Sure, the causes of these fatalities needs to be analysed and lessons learned, but there is no need to panic.

In other words, hot spots do happen in random distributions, and hot spots don’t indicate long-term trends.

I really like the approach taken by the BBC programme, “More or Less.” There, professional statisticians dissect news stories and put the results in proper context – do go and download the podcasts. It is so refreshing to listen to, and it is the approach I have had to fight for throughout my career in software processes.

Using the Facts to Shape Thinking

But, back to software, let me give you an example of intelligent use of data.

We have a client who is keen to reduce software production costs – which client isn’t, right? Some time ago, this client had asked us, “Where will the next big savings come from?” Our response was, “Collect the data and we can discuss it with you.”

Our preliminary work focused on assessing the accuracy of estimates and measuring the results against those estimates.

As one might expect, the experienced teams were pretty good at estimating and when benchmarked, the balance between defined speed of delivery and cost was close to industry average.

Then we started to assess the data. Speed of delivery was faster than optimal for the size of delivery, a good thing on some eyes, but the cost per function point was higher because the team size had to be higher to create the software in the time.

Comparison of size of completed projects, delivered over a year, against industry trends indicated that two options were open – reduce scope or increase duration. Reducing scope by 25 percent from 200fp to 150fp suggests that savings of up to 30 percent in cost per function point were available. Increasing the development part of the lifecycle by three weeks indicates that savings of up to a startling 60 percent were available. 

The facts tell a good story and the reaction when we presented the results was truly wonderful to see. 

This is preliminary work, and life will get in the way, but it shows that intelligent use of benchmarks can be a positive experience for all concerned. Try it, it works.

 

Alan Cameron
Managing Director, DCG-SMS

Written by Alan Cameron at 04:00
Categories :

CIOs: How to Innovate

MikeA lot of articles I’ve read lately have focused on the need for CIOs to innovate – it’s clearly an industry hot topic right now and hopefully a warning for all CIOs who want to keep their jobs. The time to innovate is now, more than ever.

Chris Curran, in the recent CIO magazine article, “To Innovate, CIOs Must Unlearn,” contends that innovation requires a change in the way CIOs are used to doing things. As he puts it, CIOs need to “unlearn” a lot of what they consider to be standard – innovation requires a new way of thinking.

Some of his suggestions include:

  • Anticipating what customers want before they want it – then deliver it before anyone else
  • Emphasizing what you don’t know instead of what you do
  • Embracing the notion that you don’t need to have all the answers
  • Thinking of yourself as a strategic counselor, not a technology distributor
  • Utilizing data from outside the organization, not just data that you create
  • Bringing software engineering work back in-house; this will allow you to test ideas and see results faster than before
  • Forging relationships outside of the IT department, particularly with business managers


As I’ve mentioned before, the CIOs who will most succeed with this shift in their job description, are those who see it as an exciting opportunity, rather than a burden.  Focus on what changes you can make and utilize benchmarks to see if those changes are actually having a positive impact on the department.

Do you have any tips for CIOs to drive innovation?


Mike Harris
DCG President

Written by Michael D. Harris at 08:00
Categories :

Benchmarks and What They Tell Us

As ever, when I start to think about benchmarks, I like to remind myself of the definition. The Oxford English Dictionary states that a benchmark is:

  1. A standard or point of reference against which things may be compared or assessed.
  2. A surveyor's mark cut in a wall, pillar, or building and used as a reference point in measuring altitudes.

Synonyms include “norm, touchstone, criterion, specification, model, exemplar.”

Now, this leads us to ask what benchmarks show us? They give us a picture, an image of the current performance of an organization. The temptation is to see the result as a simple statement of fact uncluttered by its surroundings.

Fishing 
 I came across this notice on a trip in the States and, on the face of it, it’s a perfectly reasonable request, but when you step back and take in the whole structure you start to think again.

Fishing2
 Here’s the bridge – and that drop is 1,000 feet! The notice is clearly a joke, but taken at face value it’s a strong prohibition. That’s why our benchmarking service is designed to help clients see the whole picture.

Our aim is to help clients to understand not only where they are, but how they are progressing toward their goals. Single snapshots give us an indication of where we are in relation to the industry – today. An effective picture takes time and a number of data-points to fill in the missing corners.

Benchmarks should influence discussions on productivity and cost per output; they should not simply drive the conversation. The big picture is multi-facetted; productivity is affected by so many things: size, timescale, quality, process maturity, resource skills and availability, to name but a few, and any benchmark service should take that into account when engaging with clients.  

We have recently set up an agreement with Quantimetrics, an established independent benchmarking company, because we believe that the depth and breadth of data held by Quantimetrics enables us to bring even more to the benchmarking party. With our partners on board we bring a global, non-U.S. database to add to our U.S. data, plus many years of experience in data analysis.

Going back to our fishing notice, once we have the full picture, we can see that trying to fish from there is pointless. In short, the 1,000 foot view doesn’t work – let’s get down to the river and try again.

By making use of extra data and by monitoring progress over time we enable clients to progress on a journey towards better value for software development. We enable them to catch the big fish and throw back the small fry. We look forward to helping you on this journey.

What other benefits do you think bechmarking holds?


Alan Cameron
Director, DCG-SMS

Written by Alan Cameron at 08:12
Categories :

"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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