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If you’ve taken my Software Training class, you’ve heard me use the analogy of “taking someone else’s spreadsheet and adding your own logic” to distinguish between modifications, adapted code and glue code.  But let’s take a step back to make sure we’re all in agreement {if not, blame me not the product!} #1.) To be clear, COTS is shrink-wrapped, ready-to-go with near-zero modification to core functionality.  Generally, we really prefer to see COTS modification no more than 10%. #2.) If this latter core functionality needs modification, then we recommend using the SW Component object with Adapted code, as well as Reused ...
This June, I presented at the “Government Contract Pricing Summit”. The topic of the presentation was the integration of TruePlanning and ProPricer. The participants of the summit were generally long time ProPricer users, but not familiar with TruePlanning, so it was a great opportunity to be able to meet new pepole in the price/costing world. When talking with long time ProPricer users the question I would ask them was: “Where do the hours come from?”  ProPricer is an industry leading software for the management and production of bids. ProPricer allows users to setup and maintain costing and burdening data, ...
Introduction As part of PRICE’s commitment to meeting its customers’ needs, PRICE will occasionally release beta versions of its software in order to provide an urgently needed fix or enhancement for a customer or enlist the help of customers in performing final testing. TrueMapper receives frequent enhancements and customers frequently use beta versions. This blog will describe how to download, and install beta versions of TrueMapper as well as manage having multiple versions of TrueMapper on a single computer. Downloading Beta versions of TrueMapper will be made available through links on our Amazon server. Links will look something like: https://s3.amazonaws.com/CompanionApps/2014SR2/TrueMapper_14.2.5582.16609.zip To use ...
Original Post Date: Wednesday, May 12, 2010 From my perspective as a cost researcher, the calibration tool is one of the most powerful analysis capabilities built into the TruePlanning cost management software . One way I can use this tool is to go back to an old estimate for a project that is now completed, and analyze the correctness of the previously entered input values. With this analysis, I can find ways to improve our methods of soliciting input values from the user to ensure the best values are entered the next time. This way, the TruePlanning models keep getting “smarter” as new information ...
Original Post Date: Friday, June 4, 2010 One of the great features of the TruePlanning cost management software is the fact that it makes it easy to handle complications of inflation and estimating projects performed in different countries and currencies. The costs associated with doing work in different countries, and the relative value of different currencies is constantly changing. To address this, the cost research team at PRICE does an annual economic update performed by the cost research team, and this blog will introduce some of basic concepts and research that goes into maintaining this feature every year. The price of goods and ...
Original Post Date: Friday, May 21, 2010 Last month I blogged about the importance of cost realism, its roots and how as estimators we must always reflect the truth, no matter how unpopular. This month I want to share with you a recent experience on a Source Selection. As part of the Source Selection team, my role was to conduct a Cost Realism estimate on each of the performers submitting bids. I want to share with you a few insights from that experience. One of the first rules I always follow is to never ask engineers to provide data that ...
Original Post Date: Wednesday, November 10, 2010 I was recently struck by Ash Carter’s (Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology & Logistics) Memorandum for Acquisition Professionals, Better Buying Power: Guidance for Obtaining Greater Efficiency and Productivity in Defense Spending (14 September 2010). Within this broad sweeping memo, Ash Carter outlines 23 principal actions in five major areas aimed at increasing efficiency in Defense acquisition.  The first major area covered is “Target Affordability and Control Cost Growth”. Within this major area, program managers must treat affordability as a requirement before milestone authority is granted to proceed (starting with Milestone A). This ...
Original Post Date: Friday, December 17, 2010 In last month’s blog I wrote about Ash Carter’s (Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology & Logistics) Memorandum for Acquisition Professionals, Better Buying Power: Guidance for Obtaining Greater Efficiency and Productivity in Defense Spending (14 September 2010). I concluded the TruePlanning unified framework and comprehensive cost models, is a tool very well suited to provide the types of analysis outlined in the memorandum. In terms of Should Cost and Independent Cost Estimates (ICE), TruePlanning estimation software provides the industry standard capability to conduct Should Cost and calibration (actual program history) for ICE. Most ...
Original Post Date: Monday, December 6, 2010  In his August blog-entry here, Zach Jasnoff outlined typical client perspectives for the different types of analyses that TruePlanning can accommodate. Working on a large project, we’ve experienced situations that, realistically, can happen where the initial intent and model structuring later have the boundaries of model appropriateness stretched. An Analysis of Alternatives (AoA), for example, is meant to measure deltas between baseline and its alternatives. If common costs “wash” then they can be excluded… which becomes an issue when treated as a Rough Order Magnitude for customer budgeting.  Likewise, if a ROM or Independent Cost Estimate ...
Original Post Date: Tuesday, August 24, 2010 Over the past several weeks several users have inquired about the best way to estimate costs associated with porting existing software to a new hardware environment. Normally for this situation some of the existing software will require some amount of adaptation to operate on a new server. However, a large portion of the existing software will only require integration into the new environment.   Estimating software costs associated with the above will require the use of several cost objects: - Systems cost object if program management, Quality Assurance, configuration, and    documentation costs are to be included in ...
Original Post Date: Monday, September 20, 2010 I have been fortunate in my career to have been associated with some great mentors. Each individual has provided me a bit of a golden nugget to carry with me as I tried to navigate my way through the professional waters. My first “civilian” manager, after I left the service and joined industry, provided me a list of the Laws of Analysis (I had just started a position as an operations research analyst). He explained that this list was a mix of serious and tongue in cheek snippets of wisdom. I looked at ...
Original Post Date: Thursday, July 17, 2014 Introduction Parametric cost estimates provide high quality, defendable estimates early in a project’s life cycle. This makes them ideal when producing bid and proposals. The nature of parametric cost estimates, however, requires the results of the estimate to be framed in terms of specific CERs and Activities and Resources. It is common for an organization to have a more granular set of Resources than the ones used to support the CERs. One approach to resolving this issue would be to use the TrueMapper application from PRICE Systems to map TruePlanning Resources to a more ...
Original Post Date: Tuesday, July 1, 2014 Whether you’re doing a software cost estimate to support a Bid and Proposal effort, a software valuation, should cost analysis, or to develop a detailed project plan, it is vitally important to understand the ‘size’ of the software you are estimating.  The problem with software size is that it tends to fall into the intangible realm of reality.  If you tell me you are building a widget that weighs 13 pounds, I can really start to get my head around the task at hand.  If I’m chatting about this with my European colleagues, ...
Original Post Date: Monday, December 30, 2013 Unless you live under a rock, you are aware of the healthcare.gov rollout disaster.  While similar IT failures are regularly in the news, the high profile of healthcare.gov has really mainstreamed awareness of the fragility of many IT projects.  Check out this article entitled ‘The Worst IT project disasters of 2013’.  It details IT project failures such as:  IBM’s failure to deliver on a payroll system project that could potentially cost taxpayers up to $1.1 Billion dollars US.    SAP’s failure to deliver satisfactorily on requirements for ...
Original Post Date: Wednesday, September 25, 2013 We may all agree that risk analysis is a necessary, vital part of any valid/defensible cost estimate.  We may not agree as much on the best approach to take to quantify risk in an estimate.  All estimates contain risk.  In the words of a wise cost estimator I know, “That’s why they’re called estimates, and not exactimates!”  We must quantify and manage levels of risk.  Why?  One vital part of a successful program is the ability to build a budget based on reliable cost projections.  Reliability increases when we can analyze inherent risk, ...
Original Post Date: Wednesday, September 25, 2013 A lot of clients have been expressing interest in modeling ASICs, FPGAs, and various other electronic modules inside TruePlanning® (TP). In the release of TruePlanning® 2014 there will now be the capability to model all these products inside our framework. Not only will you be able to model these products but you will of course be able to model the integration cost of these electronic components with Hardware and Software components. In addition you would be able to add and estimate the program management of your total project through our integrated framework. TruePlanning Microcircuits ...
Original Post Date: Wednesday, September 25, 2013 “Integration Factors – What Makes TruePlanning™ Stand Out in the Crowd” In today’s world, system integration is becoming more and more important. The government has started asking for designs that have additional capabilities, which allow connectivity both with systems under construction and systems already in use and deployed. The reason systems integration is important is because it adds value to the system by adding abilities that are now possible because of new interactions between subsystems. In a recently posted article on “The True Costs of Integration” the writer defined the costs of a typical integration ...
Original Post Date: Wednesday, September 25, 2013 During a recent Analysis of Alternatives (“AoA”) consulting project, our customer asked that we provide more insight into TruePlanning’s System and Assembly objects, which in our AoA context we termed Systems Engineering/ Program Management (SE/PM) and Alternative Integration/ Test, respectively. The customer’s challenge was understanding our parametric model’s treatment of principally hardware-COTS objects, combined with other cost, purchased service and training objects.Our Chief Scientist, Arlene Minkiewicz, provided us with insights that I’d like to share with you, as well as my views on how we at PRICE systems have consistently used these parent ...
Original Post Date: Wednesday, September 25, 2013 It is impossible to find a news website or magazine that is not full of articles on the effects of Sequestration.  As a cost estimator, I find the topic very interesting (and troublesome).  The immediate effects of Sequestration are widely discussed.  However, I do not see quite as much news coverage on the second and third order effects of this extremely complex policy decision. The Department of Defense (DoD) has a specific target that must be removed from the budget over the next 10 years.  Some analysts claim a doomsday scenario.  Others claim it ...
Original Post Date: Wednesday, September 25, 2013 “On 29 July 2003, the Acting Under Secretary of Defense (Acquisition, Technology and Logistics) signed a policy memorandum entitled “Policy for Unique Identification (UID) of Tangible Items – New Equipment, Major Modifications, and Reprocurements of Equipment and Spares”. This Policy made UID a mandatory DoD requirement on all new equipment and materiel delivered pursuant to solicitations issued on or after January 1, 2004. USD(AT&L) issued verbal guidance that tangible assets manufactured by DoD’s organic depots were to be considered “new” items which fall under UID marking policy, beginning 1 January, 2005. An item is considered “significant”, and will be uniquely ...
Original Post Date: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 A frequent question from students and consulting clients is how to estimate software size when either: detailed functional requirements descriptions are not yet documented or, even if the latter do exist, the resources necessary (in cost and time) for detailed function point (“FP”) counting are prohibitive. If appropriate analogies or detailed use cases are not available, fast function point counting can be a non-starter, without nominal understanding of pre-design software transactions and data functions.  Hence, the challenge is to find an estimating basis for functional measure (i.e., ...
Original Post Date: Tuesday, October 2, 2012 We’re building a tool that quickly and easily allows you to map costs in your TruePlanning(R) projects to any custom Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), including templates for the MIL-STD-881C.  By mapping TruePlanning costs to fit your point of view, you can make use of your organization’s existing research, and ensure that your cost estimates are complete, realistic, and can be easily compared to other projects apples-to-apples.  This is great for AoAs and analyzing where and why costs differ between various solutions (not to mention 881C mapping is a required deliverable for major ...
Original Post Date: Monday, September 24, 2012 The purpose of this blog is to describe the role Value Engineering plays within the affordability process. The blog is not a step by step “How To Conduct or Execute” Value Engineering (VE) but, it is a discussion of the context, input, setup, execution hints, and output of Value Engineering in support of conducting affordability analysis and management. As such, it is important to understand the concept of affordability within the Systems Engineering paradigm. This blog is designed to provide insights, lessons learned, and suggestions for using Value Engineering in the affordability process. In ...
Original Post Date: Friday, September 7, 2012 So, what goes on out here in the corn fields, anyway?  Did you know Dayton, Ohio is home to the Air Force Materiel Command?  Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC), headquartered at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, “develops, acquires and sustains the aerospace power needed to defend the United States and its interests for today and tomorrow. This is accomplished through management, research, acquisition, development, testing and maintenance of existing and future weapons systems and their components” (afmc.af.mil).   In response to future budget uncertainty and a challenge by Congress to operate more efficiently, AFMC recently ...
Original Post Date: Monday, March 26, 2012 In my research on project management and cost estimation, I often come across three different “breakdown structures” which are useful in dissecting a project from various points of view.  The work breakdown structure (WBS) is oriented around project deliverables; it breaks a system down into subsystems, components, tasks and work packages.  The organization breakdown structure (OBS) shows the structure of the organizations involved in the project, including how these organizations break down into sites, divisions, teams, etc.  Finally, the cost breakdown structure (CBS) examines a project in terms of useful cost categories, ...
Original Post Date: Friday, June 10, 2011 I’m on my way home from the ISPA/SCEA (International Society of Parametric Analysts, Society of Cost Estimating and Analysis) Conference held in Albuquerque this week.  Attendance was very good (2nd best in the conferences history) and as the content seemed especially good this week.  I attended lots of good talks on topics ranging from SEPM (System Engineering, Project Management) cost estimating, Joint Confidence Levels, Software Estimating, Affordability,  Agile software development and estimating for Enterprise Resource Planning Systems.   Of course, just because the topics are good and well presented doesn’t mean I have ...
Original Post Date: Thursday, May 19, 2011 I was recently asked by a client to provide a synopsis of what TruePlanning offers in response to the Ashton Carter Memorandum – Implementation of Will-Cost and Should-Cost Management. In the memo, the Undersecretary of Defense AT&L listed “Selected Ingredients of Should Cost Management”. It was interesting to note how much capability is provided by TruePlanning to effectively support efficient should cost management. In this month’s blog, I will share with my response to our client with you. ...
Original Post Date: Tuesday, April 5, 2011  In 1961 at the MIT Centennial, John McCarthy opined “if computers of the kind I have advocated become the computers of the future, then computing may someday be organized as a public utility just as the telephone system is a public utility…. the computer utility could become the basis of a new and important industry”  [1].  In 2006, Amazon Web Services was launched providing computing on a utility basis.  Since that time the notion of cloud computing has been emerging and evolving. Cloud computing is a paradigm that makes the notion of utility ...
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: 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, February 11, 2011 The DoD Cost Analysis Symposium (DODCAS 2011) is next week, Feb 15-18.  I’ll be there along with several of my colleagues at PRICE Systems.  This conference consistently provides an excellent source of information and shared experiences for the acquisition community and I am anxious to attend again this year.  Last year the conference occurred shortly after Congress passed the Weapons System Acquisition Reform Act of 2009 (WSARA) - and the majority of the sessions were focused on discussions about how the services, contractors and the government leadership planned on dealing with this new law.  From ...
Original Post Date: Tuesday, January 11, 2011 Last week I gave a webinar which detailed the PRICE perspective on Should Cost & Will Cost Management. The responses I have received have been very positive and also informing. For those of you who could not attend you can view the recorded version of that webinar here. Below is a brief summation of that presentation and some key takeaways. The Under Secretary of Defense issued a memo late last year. The thrust of the memo was the current need for greater efficiency and productivity in defense spending. His guidance contained 23 principal actions for improving the ...
Original Post Date: Thursday, January 6, 2011 Today, PRICE Systems, Senior Research Analyst, Bob Koury, will be presenting on Will Cost/Should Cost management. The presentation will focus on two main requirements mandated in the Ash Carter memo (mentioned here several times): Developing Should Cost/Will Cost targets and establishing Affordability as a requirement.  An example will be provided of how parametric estimating models were used to establish “Should Cost” targets and how they can be used by a budget authority (government or Industry) to be an informed consumer of contractor or sub-contractor bids. The demonstration portion of this webinar will focus on ...
Original Post Date: Monday, November 15, 2010 Last week I attended the 25th International Forum on COCOMO and Systems/Software Cost Modeling.  I attended for several reasons.  First of all, I was invited to participate on a panel whose topic was “25 years of Software Estimation: Lessons Learned, Challenges and Opportunities”.  Secondly, I have attended in the past and while it’s generally a small group, as such conferences go, I always come away impressed by the fact that so many smart people end up in one room and this year was no different.   But I digress; I really wanted to share ...
Original Post Date: Thursday, September 23, 2010 You need 3 things for your software estimates to be successful. And I will add a fourth one in after I talk about the first 3. 1. You need qualified and experienced people to generate the estimates. They have to know how to estimate and they have to understand what the problem is that the project is going to solve…..at least well enough to estimate it. This can be one person or many depending on the difficulty of the business area. The harder it is, the better having more brains look at the problem. But not to the point ...
Original Post Date: Friday, April 30, 2010 I have been frequently asked to do crosschecks on other people’s software cost estimates which are potentially done in a variety of tools from spreadsheets to SLIM. One of the common operator errors I see from other users is not understanding what activities and resources are included in the outputs of the particular tool that they are estimating with. This is akin to deciding between two cars and not knowing if both come with the same sets of features (stereo, AC, heated seats).   With software estimation tools you need to know what work is getting estimated ...
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: Thursday, April 2, 2009 I have to say that my foray into blogging has been an interesting one.  By definition, the Chief Scientist should be a nerdy sort of geek too high brow to pontificate on topics in such a pedestrian format.  Actually I kind of like it.  In part because I enjoy writing and I'm not picky about what I write - technical documents are OK but pontification works as well.  And in part because I know that in order to be a good writer in a particular genre one must read extensively from that ...
Original Post Date: Monday, March 23, 2009 Here’s a great article I happened upon while doing research for a paper I’m writing.  “Lessons Learned: IT’s Biggest Project Failures”  In this article we are treated to stories of IT projects that “first make people laugh and then” (hopefully) “make them think.”  As a long time student of the failed software project, I was neither surprise nor disappointed with the projects relayed.  The projects noted failed for reasons such as: Failure to perform a should-cost analysis before selecting a supplier Failure to recognize an unhealthy project before it ...
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: Thursday, January 22, 2009  Like many others, I was astonished last Thursday by the images on my browser of those 155 extremely lucky people standing in the Hudson River.  And they certainly were very lucky last Thursday.  If you’re destined to fly on a flight bound for collision with birds, you want it to be piloted by a hero like Captain Sullenberger.  The incident made me think about what a hero is and how we all have the opportunities to be heroic in our chosen professions. According to Wikipedia, a hero refers to a character that, in ...
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 ...
Wednesday, December 10, 2008 by Anthony DeMarco Technology readiness is a critical cost driver of development programs.  Many high technology programs fail because initial cost and schedule expectations were based on the assumption that the technologies employed were proven,  when actually they were not. Space programs have the most dubious history in this regard.  I once listened to a Lockheed Martin executive explain how the X33 space shuttle was a great vehicle, but was canceled because it was, "two inventions short of meeting the requirements". Canceled after over one billion dollars were spent. Starting development projects that have constrained budgets and ...
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: Tuesday, October 7, 2008  Jacob has a great comment to my recent post on getting it "right the first time".  He notes that requirements are often fuzzy and that estimates rely on peoples' opinion of cost and duration - and that the are often wrong.  He asked what silver bullet we have. Our silver bullet is a proven discipline that makes people better estimators and sheds light on fuzzy requirements. It starts with the people. Becoming an accurate estimator requires the same step-by-step approach as any learned skill such as golf or tennis or swimming (things I ...
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 10, 2008 Martin Woodward ‘s comparison of software development to Sudoku does an excellent job of explaining why software cost estimation is hard.  We constantly hear about software development projects that are unsuccessful because they have violated one or more aspects of the Project Management Triangle  - they are either delivered late, delivered over budget or fail to deliver the capability that users require. And while I firmly believe that software development is an engineering discipline, software project estimation is often more complicated than estimation for other engineering disciplines because software project output is not nearly ...
Original Post Date: Wednesday, September 10, 2008 A good point is made in a comment to my last post, Chris Carter says, "As estimators I think it is our duty to tell our customer (management) what we assess the possible range of outcomes to be so that they can make use of this information ".  I agree that we should always deliver an indication of accuracy every estimate.  Uncertainty and risk analysis is an integral feature of TruePlanning and we educate our clients on the value of estimate ranges to optimizing project and portfolio performance. The uncertainty-based probabilistic confidence-level of an estimate that ...