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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Better software estimation

I wrote earlier about the importance of Software estimation procedure. I would like to highlight the latest research on software estimation and share few tips in this post. Jorgensen, M. published an interesting article titled
"What We Do and Don't Know about Software Development Effort Estimation" in IEEE Software, March-April 2014 issue, where he reviewed the software effort estimation and suggested  the following guidelines
Which one is larger? Relative estimation can introduce biases

  1. Develop and use simple estimation models tailored to local contexts in combination with expert estimation.
  2. Use historical estimation error to set minimum-maximum effort intervals.
  3. Avoid exposure to misleading and irrelevant estimation information.
  4. Use checklists tailored to own organization.
  5. Use structured, group-based estimation processes where independence of estimates are assured.
  6. Avoid early estimates based on highly incomplete information."
Most of us resort to expert judgment as the method for estimation. In a related research titled "Relative Estimation of Software Development Effort: It Matters with What and How You Compare" (pay walled), he identified the common pitfalls in relative estimation and provided the following guidance.

  1. Make Comparisons to Similar Projects and Use Work Hours
  2. Attend to Unique Properties of the Reference Project
  3. Attend to Estimation Sequences
  4. Avoid Using Small User Stories as References
  5. Attend to Request Formats
  6. Use Combinations of Independent Estimates"

Going through the above checklists can help you identify areas of improvement.  Make a beginning by reviewing  your recent experience of project estimation against the above guidelines and share your experiences/challenges.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Revisting project success criteria

We are nearing the end of the year. It is a great time to reflect what worked and what did not work. It is time to revise the goals, metrics to prepare for the future. In this context, I  would like to  share findings from  current research and few ideas on revising the project success criteria.

Many project managers have been trained on the idea of the iron traingle of project success, that is delivering the project scope within the agreed  time and cost budgets. We also understand that real project success as understood by the stake holders from the benefit provided to them, is much more than meeting the iron triangle. There have been several studies over the years in relating the project performance to project success. Pedro Serrador and Rodney Turner in their paper "The Relationship Between Project Success and Project Efficiency"  (paywalled) surveyed 1386 projects and concluded project efficiency(meaning the project scope, time and cost goals) correlates moderately strongly  to overall project success with a correlation of 0.6. So there is a need to consider  other project success factors and also monitor project success metric from the point of view of the various stakeholders.

Most organizations measure project metrics like quality, predictability, productivity and customer satisfaction on a monthly basis. They may also have an yearly survey with customers to get their satisfaction levels with past projects and identify potential future business. This may not be specifically mapped to the past projects and used for improvement.  The measure of satisfaction from team, customer/sponsor and organization preparedness for future at periodic intervals and relating them to the past projects can make the organizations better at managing  project portfolios. Trying to measure these could be difficult as the  what, when, who and how need to be defined.  Initially the measurement may not be complete. Once the measurement is started, the results may be useful at a higher hierarchy of the organization at first and overtime, the benefit may be felt at the various levels. So the best time is to start now.

If you  already have a better project success metric, I appreciate if you can  share your experience.

Happy holidays and new year...

Friday, November 13, 2015

Evidence driven Project Management competency improvement

In Large and medium organizations, the competency improvement needs are identified using a top down approach.  This approach  helps in taking the organization to the next set of competencies, based on the process/product/technology road maps and assessment of the current competencies.  The needs so identified  are addressed  through the competency improvement of the individual employee, while addressing his/her career preferences. While this is usually helpful as a first step and results in a set of trainings, this  may not help address the deficiencies fully.  I take project management as an example and present an approach for assessing the competency gaps and tailoring an improvement solution that can be driven by Project Management Office (PMO) or equivalent role.

As we know when a  software projects is challenged, root causes are identified and a solution to address the same is implemented. This is more likely to be adhoc and may fail to address  deficiencies holistically. PMOs can  follow the structured approach below as a better alternative.

1) In the recent review period( last month/quarter/year), identify the challenges faced  by each project,  assigning one or more of  the 22  anti patterns (examples: Detailitis plan, Road to Nowhere, Micro management) compiled and  analysed by Pedro Silva, "Software Project Management Learning from Our Mistakes", IEEE Software, May/June 2015 pp 40-43.  This could be tailored as appropriate.

2) Perform a statistical analysis on the anti patterns to identify the top  anti patterns.

3) Identify the impacted roles and root causes.

4) Based on the above, identify the solution from one or more of the suggested solution types (process/role/technology/training).

5) Work with internal/external solution providers to implement the corrective actions spanning process redesign/training/coaching  etc.

6) Repeat the above steps to see whether  the solution  has yielded results.

In my extensive experience in industry, the first and last steps are  not given due importance with the result that the competency improvement remains weak at best. Do you agree? Share your views.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Compounded Annual Growth Rate of Software

Last week, I attended Software Experts Summit 2014 organized by IEEE Software in Bangalore. Having seen the videos of the previous summit, I thought it is worth investing to understand the advances in Software.  There were several speakers from India and the world who covered various topics like Analytics, Big data, Need for Innovation and Speed, Architecture of Watson. In this blog post I would like to share with you a new metric that I learned. It is called Compounded Annual Growth Rate(CAGR) and was coined by Michiel van Genuchten and Les Hatton, based on the analysis of various software industry reports over the past four years.
Based on
Credit:Adapted from Pictofigo , Commons

IEEE Software is a bimonthly publication of IEEE Computer Society. Apart from several articles from academics, this also has a column called  Impact, which features industry reports  highlighting the software  challenges with focus on software growth as reflected in two metrics, namely the Lines of code(LOC) and volume of  units sold. In 2012, based on 10 data points such as Tokyo railway system, Mars Discovery, Higgs Boson discovery, oil and gas simulation, Michiel and Les came up with a "Compounded Annual Growth rate"(CAGR) metric. Based on the LOC metrics provided for the early phase of the application and the recent release, the team computed the CAGR. Median CAGR was found to be 16%. In July 2013 magazine article (paywalled), they recomputed the metric including the additional data from application domains such as Oracle, Airbus, Mars lander. The metric was determined as 17%.

The metric was found to be useful for  determining the hardware platforms of the future to support the future software. It can also be used to determine the health of the organisation as the metric will be low, when the organisation is dealing with bug fixes or addressing technical debt rather than new feature development. So far the metric has proved to be relevant irrespective of the complexity of the application and domain.

Have you tried using this metric or any other innovative metrics? Look forward to hearing from you.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Reading professional magazines on 7" Tablet

 A magazine on Moon+ Epub reader

All through my career, I have been a regular reader of professional magazines. During my student life, I  used to wait for 3-4 months for IEEE Spectrum to arrive by ship from USA.  About 7 years back, the society improved its delivery mechanism to enable Indian readers to receive their copies by the end of the month in  which the magazine is published   or the first week of the following month. Meanwhile digital revolution and increasing access  of high speed  Internet has enabled instant access to the magazine from any part of the world. Professional Societies also have introduced digital subscription at reduced rates. I was reluctant to take them up, till the rupee depreciated a lot, thereby  increasing the cost of my membership fees.

Initial digital versions were in PDF format. Reading these on Desktop PC/laptop has its fair share of problems, as the magazines are printed in multicolumn format. The typical 14" display does not have the resolution to make the entire page readable. The reader has to use zoom function and repeated scrolling to read an article or take a paper print out for comfortable reading at leisure. Though PDF readers have introduced reflow mechanism so that the multi column format is rendered in single column, the physical magazine layout styles such as bigger first letter or boxed items are not laid out properly when the text is reflowed, making the experience not  so pleasant.

Nowadays many  magazines are offered in  digital versions and some of them  are available in Epub format as well. I wanted to buy a tablet to be able to read with the same kind of experience as physical magazines.  I wanted to have 10" tablet, so that a typical magazine in PDF format can be read with ease.  I was lucky to  receive a  7" tablet in a recent conference that I attended.  I tried to read the Epub format on this device. I am pleasantly surprised by the nice display of the magazine and facilities available for searching, making notes and smooth scroll.

There were emails from some professional societies asking the readers to switch to  digital magazine instead of physical one. I would be happy to switch if they can make the Epub edition available.  Going by the pace of change in digital publishing, I am sure that day is not far off.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Zotero - Useful research tool

All netizens  process enormous quantities of  information in our daily lives. We try to recollect the previously processed information and usually try to rely on Google for search. If it is some thing that is on our computer hard disk, we may use search tools available for the operating system.  But these are inadequate, if you need to manage the public information resources  that you come across during your work.
Zotero icon(Credit:Zotero)

As people use multiple devices like desktop/laptop/tablet, the need for access to our files  has  led to popularization  of cloud storage sharing tools like Dropbox and also cloud applications like Google apps. However for research purposes Zotero is a special  free add-on to Firefox and other browsers, that helps to maintain your own card catalogue , have it portable through cloud and also lets  you stories copies of the important articles for offline use.

I became aware of this tool recently through Shyamal, an avid wikipedia contributor  who trained a batch of young wikipedians, on how they can take its help to improve Wikipedia citations.  I started using it  and It has become an essential tool for me. Do give it a try, if you have not tried this category of applications that can simplify you research/study work.

Monday, November 11, 2013

PMI ‌‌‌‌Bangalore Chapter's Footprints 7th Anniversary

I attended PMI ‌Bangalore Chapters' 7th Anniversary session of PM Footprints at Hotel Atria on 9 Nov 2013.  The event included a session titled  Agile development: Cultural Nuances by Sivan Menon, CTO - SW, GE Healthcare India, John F Welch Technology Center and  another one titled Meandering Musings by Siva Vajjhala, CEO & MD Advanced Business &Healthcare Solutions India.  It is a wonder that a program of this nature where a speaker presents on a topic  every two weeks  had recorded a total of 213 sessions without missing a beat over seven years.  The speakers who contributed to making this happen during 2012-13  were also recognized with a certificate and a small gift on the occasion.  I also felt  happy to have been a speaker for the session on Risk management few months back.
PM Footprints Logo

The event  provided an occasion to get to know Murali Santhanam and Vijay C Paul, who have taken over as President, Secretary respectively of PMI Bangalore Center.  BG Jayaram, past President thanked Amar Bhaskar for the program initiation and wished that it would evolve  to support virtual sessions and failure stories which will be of great help for professionals. The "Recognition of Excellence" award received by PMI Bangalore Chapter from PMI was presented to the audience by Vijay Paul. 

Sivan explained how Software development evolved over the years towards  Agile development with the Internet era. He explained that  human resource processes needed to change to support this transformation. He said that simple techniques like  empowering the teams to participate in selecting new team members or using 360 degree feedback for  appraisals are helpful in the cultural change. He spoke  about how he has seen Agile work even in a well regulated domain like medical products, by engaging more with customer has been beneficial and how these can be extended to other industries.

Siva focused on more down to earth matters like the common pit falls in pre-sales processes and use of human intelligence and triangulation to identify potential problems in early stages can be helpful based on his experiences at Mindtree. He also talked about  group dynamics and introduced the dangers of group think and group shift and how they can be avoided by  simple techniques like step ladder technique where individual group recommendations are combined  in a sequential manner with those from other groups.

During the Q&A session, T. R. Anand, Management Consultant & Advisor  opined that organizations need to develop skills to handle unstated scope, which may lead to risks/opportunities.

Rakesh who served as the anchor for the program and other speakers made the entire evening entertaining by humorous remarks.