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Original Post Date: Wednesday, May 18, 2011  Parametrics is more than estimating. It represents the complete process of capturing and utilizing (often with calibration) non-cost drivers, as well as associated programattics and configuration levels. The Wiki definition of systems engineering immediately speaks to project complexity, life cycle management, and logistics. Any question that parametrics and systems engineering are interrelated?  In many of our customer organizations, affordability and cost-benefit analyses have migrated to system engineering functions. How and where does your organization perform these analyses?  As we enhance our capabilities and applications, it’s beneficial for all concerned to understand your adaptation of parametrics within the core ...
Original Post Date: Tuesday, March 29, 2011 Competition seems like a sensible practice on the path to best value.  However, is it possible to create a truly competitive environment? “It is a tradition that we don’t trust our business partners, people don’t have a clear understanding of how sharing information would result in better performance.  The lack of understanding induces fear and skepticism.” Hau Lee, Graduate School of Business at Stanford University There are two behaviors that debunk competition in regards to complex systems wrought with uncertainty: over-optimism and deception.  Government buyers share the dual burden of seeking advanced technologies to meet future ...
Original Post Date: Tuesday, March 29, 2011 “I think we have an obligation to work with industry to ensure that our suppliers do not just remain world class in defence, but aspire to be world-class manufactures that can withstand comparison to other industries.” Chief of Defence Procurement, Sir Robert Walmsley Is this a practical proposition or is it a pipe dream?  The following excerpt from Dale Shermon’s Systems Cost Engineering attempts to make the case that this type of comparison is possible. Many of the statements in proposals and marketing literature stating the superiority of a company are anecdotal or at best qualitative ...
Original Post Date: Wednesday, March 16, 2011 True Planning results have many options, including viewing Costs by Activity. While simple, this view can be quite powerful, especially when exported for re-organization manipulation.  In a recent exercise, the WBS mapping of common objects, estimated by separate multiple scenarios, presented a non-trivial chore in Excel. “Transposition” features work fine for matrices, as do pivot tables. But how does one map object by activity grids into activity lists, similar to MIL-STD 881a, with singular “roll up” instances of all nonzero object costs?  The secret is in how True Planning appends each activity output with the [object] tag. Once exported ...
Original Post Date: Wednesday, March 16, 2011 ...wear the worst shoes. The cobbler was a master at his craft; he was just too tired to practice it when he got home from the shop.  Sound familiar? A disciplined approach to understanding (functional) requirements as well as analogous projects (with actuals) is our not-so-secret sauce. Why run the risk of creeping back up our career learning curve? There’s already enough scope creep to keep us busy. Plus, for you management types charged with prospecting, a consistent approach towards estimation is a great way to connect with people who've felt the pain of being the cobbler's kids. I recently reconnected ...
Original Post Date: Wednesday, March 16, 2011 In Parametrics is Free, I acknowledged receiving (too late) “you should’ve known to ask that” over the years. Quality control after-the-fact is fine; but it’s better and cheaper to take a systematic approach to quality assurance as part of your estimating process. The sheer volume of what we model can often keep us so close to the details that we are unable to step back and put on our QA hat on for a sanity check. Enter Quality! On a very large project, our team has introduced a few regular cross-checks, notwithstanding typical math check-sums.   A round table peer ...
Original Post Date: Tuesday, March 15, 2011 In my blog last week on Work Breakdown Structures, we reviewed the subtleties of using the [object] tag to your advantage in creating different sorts and roll up subtotals. As a followup, I’d like to drill down a bit on the initial step of using the “copy grid” exports. Each row number is unique, thus creating an identifying key for the vlookup function in Excel. Since all object X activity instances are allocated 100% to one of the three phases (with very rare exception), these row keys allow you to sort and re-group outputs while maintaining ...
Original Post Date: Thursday, March 10, 2011 My previous blog discussed a “Should Cost” methodology used by PRICE Systems to complete an analysis. In the article I included a chart depicting calibration results for manufacturing complexities for each weapon system (X-Axis). Manufacturing complexities are a major cost driver within the model. This parameter can be derived from model knowledge tables, generators or from calibration. Many times the calibrated results are simply averaged and used for predicting cost for the new system. This assumes that the new system is very similar in technology and performance as the systems used for calibration. In general this is not the ...
Original Post Date: Friday, March 4, 2011 I consistently run into this idea of data driven estimating.  Yet, there is no clear explanation of this concept.  I am not trying to provide one here, however, I am interested in is what is at the root of this growing movement.  My take is that it is an attempt to scratch an itch.  But what’s the itch? I believe it is related to my early post (Accuracy is Risky Business).  In the struggle to answer the accuracy question people have decided that understanding the data used in the estimating process is key ...
Original Post Date: Tuesday, March 1, 2011 The concept of the fuel cell was first published in 1938 by Christian Friedrich Schonbein.  Based on this publication Sir William Grove invented the precursor of the fuel cell in 1839. The Grove Cell created current by applying two acids to zinc and platinum electrodes separated by a porous ceramic pot.  In 1842 Grove developed the first actual fuel cell which produced electricity with hydrogen and oxygen, much like many fuel cells in use today. Fuel cells remained an intellectual curiosity until the 1960’s when the US space program identified a requirement for ...