• Predictive Analytics for Improved Cost Management



Blog



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: Friday, November 20, 2009 Bill Scheessele’s article in the Washington Technology, Time for a hard look at marketing strategies, is a quick read about organization’s reacting to these new economic conditions. He suggests that most organizations are... "Attempting to move forward with an obsolete business development operation, reacting to fewer opportunities and shifting budgets by shedding business development personnel, sticking with an outdated business development process that everyone in the industry uses, or doing nothing while waiting on the sidelines for conditions to change are not reasonable decisions." This is further supported by the recent flurry of acquisitions both ...
Original Post Date: Wednesday, September 16, 2009 While most of the books on the topic of parametric modeling take a look at detailed techniques and fundamentals, such as building parent/child relationships or the mathematics behind models, Systems Cost Engineering, takes a more practical perspective to answer a very basic question:  What can parametric estimating do for my organization and how can we implement it?  The book covers an array of business processes that can be dramatically improved with the application of a standardized parametric cost estimating framework. These processes exist across multiple phases of a program's lifecycle such as early concept planning through development and production. Chapters are ...
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: Monday, July 20, 2009  Did you know that according to kgb a single Google search takes 0.2g of Carbon Dioxide? Asking Google 2 questions is equivalent to boiling a tea kettle full of water.  If there were 2 billion Google searches a day in 2008, today we're looking at more than 400 Million g of Carbon Dioxide a day just for Google searches.  A part of my job at PRICE is to look into emerging trends and technologies to determine if and how changes in the world impact the costs of hardware, software and information technology projects.  ...
Original Post Date: Thursday, July 16, 2009 In an article in last weeks Harvard Business , IT Costs: Do You Speak Their Language), John Sviokla discusses the fact that as the information business continues to grow it is increasingly important for organizations to understand the impact of IT as it relates to their operating costs. This certainly rings True to us here at PRICE Systems who have recognized this reality. TruePlanning 2009 has been developed by PRICE specifically to help organizations get their heads around the true costs of Information Technology. Application development projects can represent significant expense to an ...
Original Post Date: Tuesday, June 16, 2009  Bad project estimates lower profitability.  Despite this fact many business leaders don’t invest in improving their estimating capability, buying into the fatalistic myth that this is as good as it gets.  This is patently wrong.  Project portfolios are prioritized based on the total expected Return on Investment (ROI) of projects.  Investments in the wrong project based on bad estimates could lead to lost revenue or delay of net benefit. All around us we see reports of software projects which are over budget, delivered late or cancelled because they are taking too much time ...
Original Post Date: Thursday, April 30, 2009 It's finally Spring!  And along with the leaves on the trees, the beautiful flowers and the happy chirping birds.... it is once again Baseball Season.  Baseball season is a beautiful thing - and not just because, as a resident of South Jersey, my team is the 2008 World Champion Phillies.  I just love the game and everything about it.  I believe this is because with baseball the impossible becomes possible because anything can (and will) happen and with a good plan in place you can still be successful. I didn't always love baseball.  ...
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: Monday, March 9, 2009 The US Department of Defense (DOD) continues to be plagued with cost overruns on major weapons systems.  Last month Senators Carl Levin (D-Mich) and John McCain (R-Ariz) introduced the 2009 Weapon Systems Acquisition Reform Act intended to put measures in place to force the DOD to address the issues that cause overruns and schedule slippage.   Among other things,  this legislation would create the position of Director of Independent cost assessment for Major Defense Acquisition Programs (MDAPs) and require the DOD to perform trade-offs between cost, schedule and performance early in the program lifecycle. ...
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: Friday, February 6, 2009 Last week I was asked to participate in Career Day at my son’s elementary school.  I was both honored and humbled.  Honored because the school felt that my career was something the children would be interested in and humbled because I was forced to concoct a story that would make cost estimating and analysis both understandable and interesting to children from kindergarten through grade eight.  Fortunately the format was such that I presented to each grade individually so at least I did not have to come up with one story to address ...
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: 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: Tuesday, December 30, 2008 It seems that, even in the midst of billions of dollars of bailout funds, the federal government is taking accountability a little more seriously.  Politics aside, the government is making the effort to ensure that every dollar spent is an investment rather than waste.  As we all know, industry follows the lead of government.  We see this effort for accountability in a recently introduced Senate resolution (that will be re-introduced in the next Senate), S. 3384. The Information Technology Investment Oversight Enhancement and Waste Prevention Act of 2008 was sponsored by Sen. ...
Original Post Date: Wednesday, December 17, 2008 A recent Gartner report indicates that industry enthusiasm for SOA is waning.  The reasons cited are the lack of enough people with the proper skill sets to perform SOA deployments and the lack of a good business case for SOA.  It’s an interesting but not really unexpected direction.  SOA has been surrounded by significant hype, ensuring that organizations surveyed would be anxious to profess their desire to start a SOA project.  But as the rubber hits the road, these organizations are realizing that SOA may not be the answer to all of their ...
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: Monday, October 6, 2008  According to Gartner, Service Oriented Architectures (SOAs) will be used in more than eighty percent of mission critical operational applications and business processes by the year 2010.  Perusal of the literature on SOAs leads to visions of ease of implementation and cost savings of epic proportions.  And it is likely that not only will service oriented implementations results in cost savings, but that without them many currently envisioned capabilities in the corporate world and the Department of Defense (DoD) will be impossible to deploy, maintain, and evolve as technology explodes and requirements and ...
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 ...
 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 Nothing drives me crazier than the statement I get from many of our clients during that first meeting, "We are really bad at estimating. So what? Why does it matter? Management does not seem to care."  Business leaders have been duped into believing that inaccurate project estimates are not a concern and that they cannot do better - Wrong.  Bad estimates lower profitability and yes, you can do better.  Please consider that projects are prioritized and launched based on their expected costs and benefits, the return-on-investment (ROI).  So you optimize your portfolio ...
Original Post Date: Wednesday, August 6, 2008 Last week the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs held a hearing entitled "Offline and Off-budget: The Dismal State of Information Technology Planning in the Federal Government".  The prepared remarks by those who testified before the committee make good reading.  You can find them here. The committee focused on the many IT projects that are overrunning cost and schedule, giving most Federal Agencies failing grades on their budget management report card.  My experience while working with Fortune 500 companies is that they do not do much better - we just do ...
Original Post Date: Friday, August 1, 2008 Whether you are pricing a competitive bid, or you are trying to get a new product to market, estimating accuracy will determine your success or failure.  When pricing a competitive bid, you first want to “ghost the competition” to determine a price-to-win.  Parametric estimating models allow you to quickly estimate the cost of recently priced items from your competition to determine their bidding margins and target a likely price-to-win for a new competition.  I recently worked with one of our clients who has an extensive database of competitive bids from which he can determine ...