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Original Post Date: Thursday, August 13, 2009 Let’s start with a simple test. Which is greater: the number of six-letter English words that have "n" as the fifth letter or the number of six-letter words ending in "ing"? If you are like most people you’re thinking the correct answer is six-letter words ending in "ing". But most people are wrong. And the reason is simple, people rely on what they can easily recall. Since it’s much easier to think of 6-letter words ending in "ing" the fact that people come to that conclusion isn't surprising. Psychologists refer to this as availability bias. ...
Original Post Date: Friday, March 6, 2009 Barak Obama's 2010 U.S. Federal Budget proposal promises a "New Era of Responsibility", and in the introduction he says,  "...we must begin the process of making the tough choices necessary to restore fiscal discipline, cut the deficit in half by the end of my first term in office, and put our Nation on sound fiscal footing." Tough choices indeed. Therein lies the greatest challenge.  With the best intentions, our government tries to do good things, but always starts more projects than it can afford.  And often the expected "value" of an initiative is never fully vetted before a project is ...
Original Post Date: Tuesday, January 20, 2009 Today, change is in the air.  As I write this, Barack Obama is about to be sworn in as our new U.S. President and the space community, among others, should be braced for change.  A recent LA times article reported that of the 74 questions asked of NASA by the Obama transition team, over half were on basic spending issues, including cost overruns. The Obama team and the NASA Administrator Michael Griffin clearly do not see eye-to-eye.  Monday, it was announced that Mr. Griffin will step down from the post.  Griffin characterizes himself as an ...
Original Post Date: Wednesday, December 17, 2008 This was a fun and gratifying week at PRICE Systems. In our Mt. Laurel, NJ headquarters we had our annual holiday gift wrapping of presents we donated for needy children and families in the area.  The PRICE team gathered in our classroom and the wrapping began with no pre-instruction or guidance - but much merriment.  What a study in production process and learning!  Wrapping that first present was awkward.  It had been a while since I wrapped last.  How to measure the paper?  Where to cut?  How to keep the cut straight?  Which way do ...
Original Post Date: Thursday, October 30, 2008  Software cost estimation is hard.  I have learned this the hard way – as a software developer and later as the manager of software development projects. Today, as a builder of cost estimating software, I learn something everyday about software development that reinforces the fact that software cost estimation is hard. I attend a lot of trade shows and I talk to a lot of software people about how they estimate software costs.  Many of them have no formal process, many don’t collect data as projects progress, many of them perform estimates off the ...
Original Post Date: Wednesday, October 1, 2008  As I prepare my remarks for the first PRICE Systems International Symposium and User Group Meeting in Asia hosted by the PRIGENT corporation, I am astounded by the recent globalization of the Defense Industry.  Worldwide weapon systems acquisition has been permanently changed by:  the merger of US defense contractors in the 1990's, the entry of European contractors into the US Defense Industry (EADS, BAE) in the 2000's, and the entry of Korea into the global market happening now. Today, BAE Systems ...
Original Post Date: Thursday, September 18, 2008 While many at Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, and AIG are staggering from the Wall Street financial crisis, others on the acquisition side are contemplating the fate of redundant operations created by the these consolidations.  This reminds me of the rapid consolidation of the global Aerospace and Defense (A&D) during the 90's after the fall of the Berlin Wall.  Granted, this consolidation is happening at a much faster pace, but it would be wise for decision-makers to do a little performance measurement before they slash and burn redundant operations.  During the A&D consolidation, the General Electric Corporation called ...
 Original Post Date: Wednesday, September 3, 2008 Productivity refers to measures of output from production processes, per unit of input. The labor and materials that go into a project are the input, and the final delivered product represents the output. Your estimated project budget determines the planned productivity, and decomposes to a planned productivity for each individual and each unit of material.  The dynamics of the Project Management Triangle tell us that for a fixed cost (input) and schedule, if I underestimate the scope (output), then I have planned for a lower than optimal productivity.  And Parkinson's Law law tells us that ...
Original Post Date: Wednesday, August 27, 2008 While working with clients who operate under fixed budgets I often hear, "Cost is not an issue when we plan and budget, so why is estimating important?".  I quickly stress that estimating is not just about cost.  It about balancing project scope, cost, time, benefits and risks. If your estimates are not accurate, your projects and portfolios are not optimized – and you are wasting money. Projects are planned and managed within scope, time, and cost constraints. These constraints are referred to as the Project Management Triangle.  Each side represents a constraint.  One side ...
Original Post Date: Tuesday, August 12, 2008 I frequently attend trade shows and conferences focused on software development and/or cost estimating.  These shows provide a great opportunity for me to perform informal, unscientific surveys of the state of the software estimating discipline.  When queried on software estimating practices, more than half of those surveyed indicate a method that significantly resembles some attraction at a local carnival.  To the follow up question of “How’s that working for you?” the reply is almost always as expected – “Not too well”. As an industry we have failed pretty miserably at institutionalizing software estimating ...