• Predictive Analytics for Improved Cost Management  



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Adoption of our Space Missions Catalog has been strong this year.  But many of you have asked if and when the TruePlanning for Hardware Catalog could be enhanced for unmanned space applications, both earth-orbiting & planetary missions.  You asked, we are very soon delivering! For 2016, we will soon roll out an extensive listing of MCPLXSs and MCPLXEs, likely implemented in the Equipment Type input.  This new table of manufacturing complexities was developed specifically for use with the TruePlanning for Hardware catalog.  A combination of three sources of data were utilized:          I.            The PRICE Knowledge Network (KN),       II.            ...
While there was a time in my life when I was not a huge baseball fan – it was fun for a few innings but once I had my fill of hot dogs, peanuts and soda – I was ready to go home.  This changed the day my husband informed me that it was time to sign our four year old up for T-ball.  At least the transformation started that day.  As a mother of two up and coming little leaguers, I spent a lot of time watching baseball games.  And rather than be one of those mothers that ...
In 2015, the Systems Engineering Research Center (SERC) published the Software Cost Estimation Metrics Manual for Defense Systems. This manual presents the results of research conducted by SERC Researchers Ray Madachy and Brad Clark, who with the help of Barry Boehm, have documented the core metric definitions along with relevant and useful cost estimating relationships for software intensive defense systems. The e-book is available for download at the following link… http://cdn.sercuarc.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Software-Cost-Estimation-Metrics-Manual-for-Defense-Systems.pdf What’s great about this manual is that it covers best practices specific to software systems in the areas of measurement, data collection, normalization, analysis, benchmarking, and CER development.  The ...
Last week I had the pleasure of attending the 30th annual COCOMO Forum in Arlington, VA.  As always it was an informative and enjoyable exchange of software and system estimating topics and challenges with some of the brightest practitioners in the industry.  Topics ranged from technical debt and software maintenance, early phase effort and schedule estimation, COSMIC function points and various data analytics topics.  In addition to the presentations there were several lively workshop panels discussing and debating future directions for the COCOMO and CoSysmo models (contemplating the 3.0 versions of each of these models. While all the talks were ...
For all you legacy PRICE-H users, your requests were heard loud & clear regarding estimation of multiple production lots, to include the option of specifying gaps between lot runs. The new Multi-Lot solution is controlled at the system-level via a Production Learning Gap Loss Factor  input.  It’s set at the top-folder object, under the Detailed Estimate input #62.  This input serves as a linear multiplier to adjust or eliminate the setback (gap) between lots of a multiple lot production run. This control hence allows you to account for more or less "loss of learning" during the gap.  Setback can be ...
We presented the results of an independent study last month at NASA’s annual Cost Symposium.  For those of you unable to attend, we thought it only fair to publish the highlights.  As background, the TruePlanning for Space Missions Catalog (“TPSM”) has been well-received since its official launch at last year’s Symposium by our Chief Scientist.  Since then, we’ve done Space-related webinars and multiple blogs, all available on this website.  However, what was impressed upon us by a longtime NASA customer, at the recent ICEEA annual conference, was that our users would highly benefit from a validation study that they could ...
We’ve wrapped up our first phase of research on the cost implications of Additive Manufacturing (AM), also known as 3D printing, and we have just begun phase two.  We teamed up with Additive Manufacturing groups in academia and industry, developed a research approach and estimating structure with the guidance of experts, and began collecting cost and technical data.  So far, we have gathered 648 datapoints from 3 organizations, which mainly includes data from 6 different printers.  The data are mostly for stereolithography (SLA) and direct metal laser sintering (DMLS) processes.  For our first cut at the data analysis, the ...
Original Post date: October 14, 2015 A few weeks ago I encountered a question from some users modeling an aircraft project with some prototypes and a number of production units.  They wanted to make sure that they accounted for the cost of upgrading the Prototypes to Flight/Production units, while using a fairly detailed product breakdown structure.  So the Prototypes would be built up with an initial design, and then certain parts would be upgraded after the design was refined to become full flight units.  Here are a few different ways to approach this issue: 1.       Additional Prototypes – The most simplified ...
Original Post Date: October 8, 2015 Excel is easily the most common and widely used tool in the Cost Estimation universe. It can be used as a scratch pad, report generator, import/export vehicle, data repository as well as countless other applications. The Excel / TruePlanning interface is one of the first topics new users want to dive into. Currently TruePlanning can export and import Excel files directly, create reports in Excel and has two Excel based solutions for working with TruePlanning directly in Excel. The ‘big gun’ of the Excel interfaces is the “Excel Solution”. It is a macro enabled ...
Original Post Date: October 8, 2015 Over the last couple of months PRICE has received a number of support calls related to an inability to import or export *.tpprj files from TruePlanning. When an import or export is attempted users are receiving an error indicating a “bad parameter or missing node”. The cause of this error has been a case of a missing XML library known as the MSXML4 library. MSXML4 had been installed as part of Windows operating systems by default for years, but newer versions of XML libraries have been created and are now used exclusively so new installations ...
Original Post Date: October 8, 2015 The TruePlanning’s plug-in to Model Center has had an update to fix some issues that were found with the plug-in. - Removed extra elements that had been appearing the Model Center’s Model tree. Users were finding that as they worked with the TruePlanning plug-in, elements from the selected TruePlanning project were appearing in the Model tree with zero values. - The error displayed when the plug-in is used with a TruePlanning database with no projects saved was updated to clearly indicate that there were no projects in the database. - Links created between the TruePlanning plug-in elements ...
Original Post Date: September 30, 2015 ‘It’s crazy to think that you’ll be good at estimating things that haven’t happened yet, if you can’t even accurately say how long things that have happened took.”  This quote from the blog post “5 Ways Software Developers Can Become Better at Estimation” (http://www.javacodegeeks.com/2014/10/5-ways-software-developers-can-become-better-at-estimation.html)  speaks volumes.  The current mantra – at least in the Aerospace and Defense communities is data driven estimation.  Estimates without solid project history data to back them up are consistently rejected or approved with substantial risk assigned.  Data collection in the world of estimation is no longer a nice to ...
Original Post date: September 30, 2015 I recently read an interesting article in IEEE Spectrum “The 2015 Top Ten Programming Languages” (http://spectrum.ieee.org/computing/software/the-2015-top-ten-programming-languages).  The article fairly states that popularity of a programming language is clearly subjective – depending on what the goals of the end user are but they tried to adjust their weightings based on their perception of the interests of the members of IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers). Many of the results of their ranking were expected and not particularly interesting.  Java, C, C++, C# and Python continue to be the top 5 programming languages that developers ...
Original Post Date: September 30, 2015 The Internet of Things (IoT) is a network of things (people, objects, animals, etc) that can share data without human to human or human to machine interactions.  A ‘thing’ in the IoT represents any object that can be assigned an IP address and can transfer data over a network.  Examples of such objects include an animal with a microchip embedded in its collar to monitor health or for easy location, a person wearing an activity tracker, a person with a medical implant that communicates health conditions to a hospital or health care professional, a ...
Original Post Date: September 30, 2015 I was asked recently to provide insight on where & how some of customer organizations utilize PRICE in instituting a “Center of Excellence” using our software toolsets.  Of course, I’ll keep the names generic as you hopefully learn more from two instances where we are quite proud of their progress incorporating our tools into their workflows and business practices.  Below are two examples. A major military/commercial aerospace company has relied upon PRICE software as its primary estimating toolset for over 25 years.  Its Affordability Analysis group is recognized and utilized as the company’s lead in parametric ...
Original Post Date: September 30, 2015 One of our larger commercial customers asked for the ability to estimate the “learned out” Nth unit.   As always, we are here to hear you and your immediate needs.  Still in beta-test, the following is our pending new solution.  But we’d like to hear from you too here. On the "Metrics" tab, there will be an output called "Cost of Nth Unit".  This new value represents the theoretical cost of the Nth production unit, based on learning curve calculations— unless you override with your own curve values.  You will see this learned-out unit cost at ...
Original Post Date: September 30, 2015 If you’ve ever taken one of my classes, you know how much the Find & Replace function “is my friend.”  Well, it just got a lot more flexible and powerful.  Thanks to your requests (especially by NASA), we’ve added a number of new features and utility functions within the tool.   o Easy Access:   You can now access F&R from any of the input sheets, as well as from the attributes tab and within editing a worksheet set.  Simply right click an item’s Value cell and select the F&R option. o  Multiple F&R:  You can ...
Original Post Date: June 29, 2015 I read an article this week, called “7 Questions to Answer when making bid/no bid decisions” by Bob Lohfeld on WashingtonTechnology.com, and it really hit home with my past experiences estimating on the contractor side of things.  He talks about why some companies have higher win rates than others, and how it’s really all related to the decision making process.  Why do organizations choose to bid on projects, and why would they choose not to bid?  In some cases, choosing not to bid on a risky project will save tons of time and energy ...
Original Post Date: June 2, 2015 At PRICE Systems, we always tout that calibration of past actual cost and schedule data is the best way to get to an accurate, data-driven estimate.  I received a call recently to see if we have a set of best practices for calibration, but in reality the calibration process itself is a fairly simple process, it’s the data collection and normalization that happens before the calibration step that is really important.  This is partly because the assumptions you make when collecting the data and building the calibration file should drive how you use the ...
Original Post Date: 05/15/2015 The Space Missions Catalog for TruePlanning has been out in the field now for over 6 months now, and as estimators get to understand these new cost objects, many questions arise.  As you may know, the Space Missions Catalog was designed to estimate the total cost (or price) of NASA Robotic Earth and Space Science Missions, and while it is very valuable to understand the total expected cost of a mission, you always want more details.  In the case of Space Missions, one often heard question is, “How much of this is associated with the NASA ...
Original Post Date: July 2, 2015 One topic we’re focusing on for the next version of TruePlanning is supporting a variety of methods for estimating an activity.  For example, we currently have sophisticated algorithms supporting our estimation of spare units/modules/parts, which depend on characteristics of the item, as well as the operating and support (O&S) scenario described.  However, there are often good reasons for wanting to use a different method to estimate these costs, and we’d like to give users the ability to pick from a variety of methods. Many users want to be able to estimate initial spares costs before ...
Original Post Date: July 1, 2015   Introduction The latest version of PRICE’s “Large Project Engine” allows users to update the values in calculators through Excel. While calculators are designed to be easy to use and user friendly, there are times when it is convenient to update the data in a calculator in Excel. The following blog will provide details on how to do this. This blog assumes users have installed the “LPE”. The LPE’s installation files are available on the TruePlanning installation media. The LPE is an Excel plug-in which means it will create a menu in Excel which is always ...
Original Post Date: July 1, 2015   Introduction A new version of PRICE’s Excel Add-in for TruePlanning, the Large Project Engine (LPE) has been created that allows users to select TruePlanning project files as well as projects in the database.   Usage When selecting a behavior in the LPE that targets a TruePlanning project, users can now pick TruePlanning project files (*.tpprj) files as well as TruePlanning projects that are stored in the database. Operations that support this can be identified by the small down arrow in the ribbon menu buttons which indicates a ‘split button’. When the buttons are used, users are given ...
Original Post Date: July 1, 2015 Introduction                Consumers of cost estimates need to understand how risk  and uncertainty impacts their estimates and, as such, performing Monte Carlo analysis is becoming a required step in producing a cost estimate at many organizations. One of the most popular Monte Carlo tools is Oracle’s Crystal Ball and PRICE has produced an Excel based solution that allows users to perform Monte Carlo analysis on their TruePlanning estimates. With this combined solution users can run risk/uncertainty analysis on their parametric estimates using an industry standard tool. The Issue In the TruePlanning/Crystal Ball solution, users select TruePlanning ...
Original Post Date: June 29, 2015 Regarding the special case where a Module _only_ integrates commodity (thru-put) components that themselves have no modification/development requirements, I would like to share a recent “lessons learned” in implementing our MicroCircuits catalog. Typically, for actual module development, TruePlanning calculates hours typically as the sum of the cells, modified by the component pins, modified by the area of the module, modified by the layers of the board.  This special case scenario is clearly a case where development labor at the module level is limited to placing/connecting various active elements on the board, including connecting elements between ...
Original Post Date: June 25, 2015 Additive Manufacturing (or 3D Printing) is a set of manufacturing processes that are rapidly increasing in popularity and cost-effectiveness.  In Additive Manufacturing, digital 3D design data is used to build up a component by adding layer upon layer of material.   Many existing cost estimating relationships (CERs) are based on traditional subtractive manufacturing methods, where you often begin with a larger piece of material, and remove the unwanted sections, leaving behind the desired part.  These CERs may not accurately predict additively manufactured part costs, so PRICE is focusing research efforts in this area. There are many ...
Original Post Date: June 19, 2015 Ward Cunningham introduced the notion of technical debt in 1992, writing “Shipping first time code is like going into debt.  A little debt speeds up development so long as it is paid back promptly with a rewrite”.  Technical debt can be described as a quantification of the amount of ‘should fix’ issues that remain in production code.  The term “technical debt” is a metaphor used to ease business leaders understanding of the costs of making poor decisions during development or making wise decisions during development (such as a short cut to meet a time ...
Original Post Date: June 18, 2015 There is a movement afoot suggesting that there may be compelling reasons for employees to use their own technology (phones, laptops, tablets) in the workplace.  And it may actually be a movement inspired by employees not employers.  A recent survey (http://www.zdnet.com/article/research-74-percent-using-or-adopting-byod/) found that 74% of employers are allowing (or plan to allow in the near future) employees to use their Personal Mobile Devices (PMDs) for business purposes.  The benefits to the employee of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) include the convenience of not having to lug around personal and business devices, the ability to ...
Original Post Date: April 27, 2015 An Excel-based Pivot Table consolidates and summarizes data, with the flexibility of changing the order of organization – typically for sorting/aggregating subtotals by multiple designated dimensions.  For example, the below shows two different orderings.  The Left output sorts by Activity, then Object then Resource; the Right output sorts by Resource, then Activity then Object— But what about aligning the objects displayed in the same order as originally in the TruePlanning PBS?  In this blog, we will learn how to control and re-arrange output ordering.  As we learned in the first Pivot Table blog, begin by ...
Original Post Date: April 27, 2015 Check out this article ‘Pizza as a Service’ (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20140730172610-9679881-pizza-as-a-service) which uses Pizza to describe the different delivery models for cloud computing.  It presents a good case that should be understandable to anyone who has ever eaten a pizza and should provide a great guide to organizational decision makers when considering cloud solutions for their business.  The author uses pizza analogies to describe Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Software as a Service (Saas) in an effort to provide non-technical folks a way to think about cloud computing options ...
In our last Part I blog, we introduced the capability of estimating key-input drivers based on early-stage metrics that represent requirements.  We even produced a CER based on a data-driven multiple regression, i.e., a linear model predicting Functional Complexity based only on two Key Performance Parameters (KPPs).  So how could you do the same?  Import the spreadsheet (given last time) into TrueFindings.  Note that spreadsheet row names now become the knowledgebase “column” fields.  Now per below, the first tab-function “Distribution Finder” shows descriptive statistics for all or selected criteria— The second tab-function “Dependency Finder” allow us to observe possible simple ...
Predicting cost from requirements is a fundamental goal of parametric estimating.  Many say they do it.  But often, analogies are not based on rigor and do not represent organizational experience/productivity not capture the complexity of project deliveries driven by requirements. TruePlanning allows for calibration of the latter.  TrueFindings allows for aggregation, filtering and analysis of these calibrations.  But then what?  How can this knowledge base of calibrated metrics best be utilized? The answer is aligning knowledge of corresponding requirements that drove the costs that informed the calibrations.  In this way, we predict an appropriate set of model input-drivers based on the organization and ...
As a Hybrid / Monolithic Microware Integrated Circuit (MMIC) designer back in the day, and then later on when I actually had to perform cost estimates for new Hybrids and MMICs, I sure wish I had a tool like TruePlanning Microcircuits at my disposal. This tool makes estimating the cost of both of these types of circuits a breeze. With just a little bit of data I can literally estimate the cost of one of these circuits in minutes! Actually gathering the data is definitely the harder part of the process. For a MMIC, all it really takes is ...
Welcome to PRICE TruePlanning® Microcircuits. Prior to the release of TruePlanning® Microcircuits, you have always been able to model / estimate the cost of electronic hardware at the assembly level down to the circuit card assembly (CCA) Level based on estimated weight and complexity inputs, but now, with TruePlanning® Microcircuits, you can model electronic modules down to the individual chip and component, to provide more detailed, accurate electronic assembly estimates.  TruePlanning® Microcircuits provides full support for estimating hybrid modules as well as monolithic integrated circuits (ICs). IC types include digital and analog circuits of all types, including ASICs and monolithic ...
We’ve kicked off a study of the cost impacts of various development standards, and this post discusses a customer request on the cost impacts of IEEE/EIA 12207. IEEE 12207 establishes a common framework for software life cycle processes, with well-defined terminology that can be referenced by the software industry [1].  Adherence to this standard helps to eliminate misunderstandings between contractors and procurers and significantly improves chances of mission success, a major part of which is preventing cost and schedule overruns [2, 3]. IEEE 12207 contains a set of management, engineering, and data requirements for all parties involved (acquirers, suppliers, developers, operators, ...
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 ...
The Business Executive Executives typically challenge their managers of Finance, Engineering and Project Management with reducing risk, reducing cost, and increasing efficiency.  With TruePlanning, the latter can effectively and quickly estimate, evaluate, and direct – whether with initial bids, design trades, alternative analyses, or engineering changes.  With a life cycle approach to Program Affordability Management, these managers can readily accelerate value to the customer, integrate processes, and improve the effectiveness of project selection, control, and delivery. Improve overall cost control and program management, by integrating cost estimating tools into life cycle cost management processes. ...
Business Executives are impacted directly by the organizational use of True Planning in establishing budgets, winning projects and managing programs.  The ultimate value-adds are improving bid success ratio, bidding more competitively, and improving project win rates with insights for more competitive bidding.  The Executive will see overall improvement in organizational ability to win new business as well as renewal/expansion of customer funding.  Use of True Planning and PRICE tools/services translates into developing winning proposals with the right balance of capability versus price, compliant with prospective customer requirements as well as compatible with organizational costs. Improve bid/no-bid ...
The Business Executive attains greater opportunities for more profitable engagements, empowered by effectively leveraging agile, data-driven, credible estimating solutions.  The implementation of TruePlanning immediately affords a more strategic view of life cycle cost estimation to improve the organization’s efficiency— from better planning and better priority setting, through cost estimation of the entire program life cycle.  With improved cost estimating accuracy and insight according to actual experience, the Executive improves customer trust, improve confidence in innovation, and ultimately improve both top-line as well as bottom-line growth. Make well-informed decisions, about programs and projects across the total lifecycle, ...
I wanted to share a spreadsheet I’ve put together that helps with learning curve calculations and pulling out multiple production lot data showing the learning effects.  It provides useful lot information such as lot average unit cost and lot total costs with the effects of learning curves, escalation, and everything else factored in.  It also has a tab for doing some basic learning curve calculations in multiple lot scenarios by hand and viewing a set of useful metrics. We want all of this kind of information to be available in TruePlanning for the next release.  We’ll have new multiple production ...
Being that software measurement is a topic of great interest, I will occasionally look to Google for inspiration and trends.  Often these searches will return several of my own papers and it’s fun to revisit them and think about how much as things change, they remain the same. Recently, I stumbled across a paper I had written many years ago – it was in fact the second or third article that I had published in a magazine (see the article here).  I read through it briefly and was really struck by how relevant it still is today.  The paper ...
Introduction Phoenix Integration’s ModelCenter application provides users an environment where they can mix a variety of software applications together to perform analysis and trade-off studies.  PRICE’s TruePlanning cost estimation software was one of the first application to have a dedicated plug-in created to be used in ModelCenter. This document provides guidance on how to install and use the TruePlanning plug-in for ModelCenter. For more information on using the ModelCenter application, please consult the ModelCenter documentation. Installation Versions: TruePlanning versions are considered independent applications and can be installed ‘side by side’. The same is true for the TruePlanning plug-in to ModelCenter.  As seen ...
The Federal Information Technology Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) which Congress passed in December of 2014 is touted as the “biggest legislative overhaul in nearly 20 years to the way the federal government procures, budgets and maintains IT”  (read more in this report).  And even in this day and age of extreme political gaming, one issue on which there is consensus in Washington and across the country is the fact that the federal government (and the American people) would certainly benefit by getting their IT house in order.  The act strives to put the authority and responsibility for IT decisions ...
Recently I was asked for more detail about the implementation of COSMIC Function Points as a functional size measure for the software estimation model in TruePlanning® (True S).  Common Software Measurement International Consortium (COSMIC) is a group of software measurement experts who in 1998 recognized the need to improve on the traditional function point methods.  Because the origin of International Function Point User Group (IFPUG) Function Points with IBM, the method tends to favor business systems (though advances have been made to extend IFPUG Function Points with “Software Non-Functional Assessment Process (SNAP) – more on this to come in ...
I have just been perusing the latest issue of Crosstalk – The Journal of Defense Software Engineering.  I always start at the back with Backtalk.  This generally provides a more light-hearted opinion on the current issues theme.  This issues Backtalk (as is true with many issues recently) was authored by David Cook, a professor at Stephen F Austin State University.  This is particularly appropriate because this month’s issue is focused on the state of software education – who better to have an opinion than someone whose job it is to deliver that education. In the article David talks about the ...
How can I convert space-related PES files to TruePlanning? If you all are still using PRICE-H and not yet using TruePlanning, there are now tools available to fast-forward your file conversions. You have two options:  convert your models to the True-Hardware catalog or to the new Space Catalog. In the latter case, you can also choose to estimate System Level resources per below-- Different NASA Centers and contractors are opting for either approach, depending on their existing methodologies.  If you want to leverage our data-driven CERs for the above categories, then use the Space Catalog. If you do your own “post processing” then either ...
Here’s a great article about technical debt - “How Technical Debt Threatens Your Brain Capital”.  The author focuses not on the principle and interest of the technical debt, but rather the impact that technical debt has on the development team.  The author’s thesis is that one of the not-so-often talked about side effects of unaddressed and lingering technical debt is how its existence begins to chip away at the morale of your team.  If the product owners and the business are constantly choosing short cuts to get features to market without committing enough time to refactor these short-cuts, they are creating ...
In my last blog we considered nine characteristics of a credible cost estimate and identified the ones in which shortfalls were most frequent in my experience as a senior reviewer of Army cost estimates.  In this blog, I will address the clear identification of task, and thoughts to reduce the chance of shortfalls of this characteristic. Clear identification of task, as described in the March 2009 Government Accountability Office (GAO) Cost Estimating and Assessment Guide.  Estimator must be provided with the system description, ground rules and assumptions, and technical and performance characteristics Estimate's ...
Use of additive manufacturing (AM) has increased dramatically in the last 10 years, particularly in the automotive, healthcare and aerospace and defense industries.  AM differs from traditional manufacturing processes in that raw materials are slowly added together by a chemical or heat process to form the finished component.  In traditional manufacturing, material is typically removed from a larger piece of raw material until the finished component remains. With the increased use of AM comes an increase in capability, quality, and capacity.  We will examine how additive manufacturing could change the way we estimate compared to traditional manufacturing processes. A key ...
Importance of proper PBS structure Properly organizing your Product Breakdown Structure (PBS) in TruePlanning® is a critical first step to an accurate and defensible estimate.  The fundamental questions to ask are: What are you estimating? How is the system built? Where does integration occur? The answers to these three questions will assist the estimator in developing a PBS that truly reflects the work being accomplished.  Incorrectly structured projects may result in overestimation due to unnecessary levels of integration and test.  There is also a risk of underestimation by leaving out necessary levels ...