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Original Post Date: Wednesday, November 17, 2010 Unfortunately this is a true story. I decided to have a couple of gold fish in a nice glass bowl, having done my sums I estimated the cost should be: Bowl £20.00 Gravel £5.00 Two gold fish £8.00 Food £4.00 Making a total of £37.00, ok I can afford this, off I go to the pet shop. The pet shop advised “fish don’t like bowls”, plus “it’s cruel to keep them in one”, but as a child I often won fish at the ...
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: Tuesday, November 2, 2010  After some recent meetings with clients I am sensing some confusion on how to estimate software reuse. I think part of the problem is in the definition of reuse, so let's start with a definition and then address the estimating issue. Software reuse is defined as “the use of existing software, or software knowledge, to build new software.” This definition came from Wikipedia. From a estimating software costs perspective the above definition is part of the problem. The definition should read: "Use of existing software with no changes for operation in the new software program.”  If the existing software is going to be changed, ...
Original Post Date: Wednesday, October 27, 2010 Here’s a cool project.  The Bloodhound Project  is focused on building a land vehicle capable of breaking the 1000mph speed barrier.  The mission of the project is twofold.  The first is to “overcome the impossible using science, technology, engineering and mathematics”.  But the second is more interesting – this project is intended as motivation for the upcoming generation to embrace technology related fields.  Britain doesn’t have enough students interested in such fields and they are worried about their ability to compete in technological forays going forward. But how much should something like this ...
Original Post Date: Friday, July 30, 2010 Earlier this week I presented a webinar on the topic of SOA governance – specifically focused on making sure that organizations include SOA governance as they plan to deploy SOA capabilities.  As sometimes happens when I am giving a presentation (especially one I have given before), I was struck with somewhat of an epiphany as I was relaying the material on my slides.  In this case it was not really a new idea about the material, but more a deeper understanding of why this topic really is important. To be honest, when I first ...
Original Post Date: Thursday, July 8, 2010 Which came first the chicken or the egg?  We can look to Darwin for one theory, the Bible for another but at the end of the day – nobody really knows.  There can be no chicken without an egg, nor there be an egg with no chicken.  Thus we are left with a bit of a circuitous conundrum. Joint Confidence Level (JCL), NASA’s current best practice for program planning and management, also presents a circuitous conundrum.  When a program has a JCL of 70% this implies that there is a 70% confidence that ...
Original Post Date: Tuesday, June 15, 2010  I recently read a great paper by Glenn Buttes and Kent Linton, NASA’s Joint Confidence Level Paradox – A History of Denial.   In it, the authors present a  very detailed analysis of many failed NASA projects along with some compelling theories on why so many projects fail and what can be done going forward.  While I’m not here to summarize their findings – interested parties can hit the link above and learn for themselves, there was one extremely interesting jewel in this paper that I felt the need to share. The reason I ...
Original Post Date: Thursday, May 13, 2010  Earlier this week I conducted a webinar intended to make PRICE users aware of the Cost Research Services available to them as part of the license fee they pay to use PRICE products. I thought I would recap the highlights of this webinar for those of you who might have missed it. At PRICE we understand that cost estimating tools, while useful and valuable, do not always present the complete solution. Every single cost estimation projects presents new and unique challenges.  We think it's important that in addition to solid, time trusted cost estimating models, ...
Original Post Date: Friday, April 2, 2010  The newest version of TruePlanning has been released and distributed to customers. The new features were designed to make it easier to estimate entire systems, not just individual components or sub-systems. TruePlanning is an excellent solution in this regards. Systems that require you to estimate software costs, hardware costs, and the integration of multiple pieces of each can all be done in one framework. There are  specific features in this release, like input inheritance, that allow you to make changes at the top Project level which then flow throughout the entire system.  This saves an ...
Original Post Date: Friday, January 15, 2010 Failed software projects are always bad but there are additional complications when there is a contract in place to deliver the software.  Disputes over failed software can result in costly litigation that generally damages both the vendor and the buyer. According to observations of Capers Jones in "Conflict and Litigation Between Software Clients and Developers" (2007) , 5% of the projects his clients were involved in either had litigation pending or were currently involved in litigation over project failures.  His findings indicate that it is very large projects, over 10,000 Function Points that ...
Original Post Date: Monday, November 30, 2009 It seems that business and government today is mired in cost-benefit analysis. The cost side is fairly easy to understand: how much money will the business (or government) have to expend to deliver a given service? Benefits are a little harder to quantify. First, there is the difference between monetary versus non-monetary or social benefits. Some things like the office Christmas Party do not make any money but they keep morale high. Second, there is the difference between short-term and long-term costs and benefits. The company using Blackberries may bring the immediate satisfaction ...
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: Tuesday, March 17, 2009 Doing business with the Department of Defense (DOD) requires that you have disciplined company governance in specific areas as noted in the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulations (DFARs). In particular, DFARs 215.811 and 252.215-7003. DFARs 215.811 requires all DOD contractors, large and small, have adequate estimating systems to support their proposals. As part of a regulatory oversight requirement, the Defense Contracts Audit Agency (DCAA) will periodically perform contractor estimating system reviews. If you are a large defense contractor, you can expect your estimating system to be reviewed routinely. Smaller defense contractors can be audited ...
Original Post Date: Wednesday, February 25, 2009 Author Nassim Taleb describes a Black Swan as an unexpected event that ultimately leads to what best can be described as a paradigm-shift. In his book, The Black Swan, he includes 9/11, the rise of the Internet, Google and the personal computer as Black Swan events. We could not have predicted those events but they have had a huge impact on us. Even positive Black Swans can be a source of frustration. Since so few people are prepared for them, it becomes impossible to profit from them. The group that is most frustrated by ...
Original Post Date: Monday, February 2, 2009 In a seminal RAND Corporation report, Bureaucracy Does Its Thing, author and former CIA agent K.W. Komer promotes the idea that the mindset of America’s institutions led to problems in Vietnam. His thesis is that the bureaucracies of the U.S. were fixated on fighting the Vietnam War according to how the bureaucracies had prepared and organized instead of in manner that the situation required. As I read the stimulus package before Congress, I see a focus on the idea that new technology will create jobs. Yet I also have read that Governor Schwarzenegger ...
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 ...
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: 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 ...