• Predictive Analytics for Improved Cost Management



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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: Thursday, August 12, 2010 The late Norm Crosby’s “Quality is Free” taught us that an investment into quality is more than offset by prevention of defects based upon understanding of requirements. Only with the latter can lack of conformance (and subsequent costs) be captured and hence quality quantified. So how then is Parametrics relevant?  Parametric estimating is more than cost modeling. Our craft represents an initial consulting function into the accuracy and completeness of program planning concepts. Our customers trust us to know when to ask and when to supplement. Yes, we are mathematical and financial modelers too. But I’d suggest that “Parametrics is ...
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: Tuesday, April 20, 2010 In September of 2009 the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) submitted a report[1] discussing the lack of robust Analysis of Alternatives for weapons systems. The report indicated that … “Cost, schedule, and performance problems in the Department of Defense’s (DOD) weapon system programs are serious. Why is it that DoD weapons programs experience a simultaneous cost growth and performance degradation? I believe the answer is found in unrealistic cost estimates and schedule estimates mostly driven by pressure to win a program within a certain budget constraint. Excessive requirements change either through poor ...
Original Post Date: Monday, June 7, 2010 Currently we are exploring the best approach to including a more comprehensive cost estimate for Total Ownership Costs (TOC) into TruePlanning. The current version of the software has focused on development and production costs with some life cycle costing including. The life cycle costs included are focused on the system specific O&S costs such as initial spares for priming the supply pipeline, maintenance, replenishment spares, etc. It is a system view as opposed to a program view of TOC. As we better understand the need to conduct affordability studies it has become clear that design decisions ...
Original Post Date: Thursday, July 15, 2010  “I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I'm not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.” This is a famous quote by author and US. State Department spokesman Robert McCloskey (September 15, 1914 – June 30 2003) and was attributed to him by Marvin Kalb, a CBS reporter, in TV Guide 31 March 1984. This quote was in reference to a press briefing during the Vietnam War. What it really addresses is the ease to which the communication of the meaning / understanding ...
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: Wednesday, September 29, 2010 In May of this year the Washington Post published an editorial article on the need to reduce waste in the Defense Department. The byline of the article was “Defense Secretary Gates’s war of necessity against wasteful spending.” In this article the writer points out that the secretary is taking on the challenge of maintaining our military force [at reasonable level of effectiveness] during a time in which the President and Congress are seeking cost savings / reductions based on the decrease in our presence in Iraq.  Mr. Gates goal is to look for efficiencies ...
Original Post Date: Monday, November 8, 2010  Margaret Wolfe Hungerford in 1878 in her book Molly Bawn coined the phrase …”Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. This concept of the “value of beauty” has been expressed by others such as:    Benjamin Frankin in Poor Richards Almanack 1741 when he wrote;                 “Beauty, like supreme dominion                 Is but supported by opinion” David Hume in Moral and Political 1742 “Beauty in things exists merely in the mind which contemplates them.”   So what does this have to do with Cost Benefit? Well Merriam-Webster dictionary defines benefit as something that provides useful aid. Inherent in the term “useful” is ...
Original Post Date: Wednesday, August 25, 2010 To me the greatest strength of TruePlannning®  is its flexibility and wide range of parameters. AND, to me the greatest weakness of TruePlanning®  is its’ flexibility and wide range of parameters. The nature of the TruePlanning® framework, the idea of cost catalogs with cost objects, and the implementation of activity based costing allows or provides for a wide range of solutions to our cost estimating requirements. TruePlanning’s ® ability to address a wide range of cost problems lies in its flexibility and extensibility. The clever use of worksheets, multipliers, and the product breakdown ...
The CRASH (CAST Research on Application Software Health) report for 2104/2015 is out and an Executive Summary can be downloaded for free from this link.  This is the third biennial report produced by CAST based on an analysis of the data collected by their  AppMarq static code analysis tool to develop a report on the health of software projects based on their structural quality.  Structural quality speaks to the engineering goodness of the architecture and code for an application, rather than the functional quality that results by delivering software that solves users’ problems.  CAST determines structural quality of code ...
Am I correct in understanding that in order to determine Payload PM, SE, MA [e.g., WBS 5.1, 5.2, 5.3], Payload I&T/GSE [e.g., WBS 5.5, 5.6], Spacecraft PM, SE, MA [e.g., WBS 6.1, 6.2, 6.3], and Spacecraft I&T/GSE [e.g., WBS 6.6] costs, each user must export TP results into an Excel spreadsheet, then apply their own factor to obtain the aforementioned WBS costs because TP lumps all of those costs into 1 PM bucket, 1 SE bucket, 1 MA bucket and 1 I&T bucket? And we have to do this every time we make a change to determine those costs? Gosh ...
From the presentation, it looked like the TP risk area included the capability for percent inputs around the point inputs rather than having to enter value? Yes, we’ve added Percent (as well as offset) to the FRISK input method to set pessimistic and optimistic values off the point values.  In the 1st example below I’ve used +20% and -10% respectively, around the Weight of Structure’s point’s value.  Per the 2nd example below, we can do likewise in our Monte Carlo companion applications, where our new custom logic satisfies NASA’s typical approach for mass growth-risk with Optimistic=CBE {i.e., your point value}, ...
Does any of the Space catalogs (objects) cover the launch vehicle and stage 1 & 2 engines?  Do the defaults cover manned space? Not, not soon at least.  HOWEVER, we and multiple NASA Centers have used the True-Hardware/Software catalogs for many years to estimate launch vehicles and manned vehicles.  Currently the Space Missions Catalog objects (i.e., estimating models) support robotic and unmanned missions.  But again, in the TruePlanning catalogs (HW, SW, Systems, etc), there has always been an Operating Specification choice for manned space per below— To watch the "Best Practices using the TruePlanning Space Missions" Webinar, click here.
Will other recent programs be added (to basis/analysis/CERs)? Yes, typically within one year of launch. We don’t often need to make changes to the component estimates but we test them as new data comes in. The support functions get minor tweaks each time we add another data point. To watch the "Best Practices using the TruePlanning Space Missions" Webinar, click here.
Do you plan to add MAVEN any time soon? Just learned that yes, Maven will be added to the basis & analysis in the near future. To watch the "Best Practices using the TruePlanning Space Missions" Webinar, click here.
In your webinar presentation-- Slide 21: NASA WBS mapping for the WBS 4.0 – this slide seems to indicate that this WBS is estimated by TP Slide 35: Space Systems Object – this slide seems to indicate that this WBS is estimated by TP Slide 48: Mapping Rules.. – this slide seems to indicate that this WBS is estimated by TP, but Notes column this very slide are contradicting this – by saying typically passed-thru what would be right approach; shall we have a pass-thru number for this WBS (4.0) or shall we assume that the TP estimate includes this WBS? Good catch!  ...
If you look at slide 68 of the presentation (Reference Mission Set Used in the Chicago Development Cost Model), it says that the data sets includes “actual costs for completed projects and projected costs for projects in development and near-term mission candidates”. Does this mean that historical actuals were used and there was no normalization of the data?  Does the actual costs include contractor fee and any subcontractor burdens or were those stripped out?  If contractor fees or burdens were removed, how do we go about adding that to the model estimate?  Is there an input parameter for that ...
It is not evident how WBS 10.0 which is not just integration of all systems together but also the integration with launch vehicle as well as other related launch operations is calculated without knowing the complexities of the mission.  Also, environmental I&T associated with observatory integration is in WBS 10.0. WBS 10 covers all S/C and System-level I&T that is not specific to an individual instrument or S/C subsystem. It includes Assembly & Integration, System Test, and Ground Support Equipment. Costs for the prototype/EM hardware used in flight system testbeds are covered within each applicable component estimate (represented by the ...
Why is there no assembly level object at the s/c top level.  All the subsystems within the s/c bus need to be assembled because all the s/c bus subsystems are very much intertwined together. So there has to be an assembly object at the top of the bus? Assembly I&T is performed by the Space Subsystem object.  Adding an additional Assembly object at the top of multiple subsystem-assembly pairings produces very high redundant costs.  However, the estimator can certainly perform organizational calibration and use worksheet set multipliers to adjust outputs at this top level if an overall assembly is added. ...
What about software? I never heard it mentioned. How does the space catalog address software? Actually, we did discuss software briefly.  Since flight software is included with each electronic item, some portion of an independently estimated software cost should be removed from the result.  The separate TruePlanning for Software catalog can be used to estimate development and COTS new/modified/reused/deleted code, sized via multiple approaches:  SLOC, function point, use cases as well as via a Functional Sizing calculator. To watch the "Best Practices using the TruePlanning Space Missions" Webinar, click here.
What kinds of software costs would you say are not included in the calibrated cost to the particular space component? Flight software costs are included with each electronic component.  Ground software costs are included with MOS.  Ground data handling costs beyond the typical level used by most robotic space missions may not be adequately covered with the MOS factors. To watch the "Best Practices using the TruePlanning Space Missions" Webinar, click here.
Some space components had an asterisk (modeled outside of PRICE TruePlanning)?  What does that mean? There are some components that are not found on the Component Type drop down but rather are modeled with CERs outside of True H (Space Parachute for example).  These CERs are available via custom cost objects, per below, rather than the Space Component cost object. To watch the "Best Practices using the TruePlanning Space Missions" Webinar, click here.
Is there an EM and prototype calculator, or do you treat every type or prototoype (breadboard, brassboard, mass model, etc) as a full prototype? Fractional prototype quantities are acceptable.  Regarding a calculator-- good idea.  We will investigate feasibility. To watch the "Best Practices using the TruePlanning Space Missions" Webinar, click here.
Can you mix catalog objects from different catalogs into the same assembly? (ex. a microcircuit with a space component) The Space Catalog was designed to use only the components in that Catalog and some activities are different to other Catalogs.  When using a Space System cost object, a Space Sub-assembly and a Space Assembly, do not mix regular System, Assembly and Hardware Cost Objects in the same Space System.  If Regular System, Assembly and Hardware items are included as component of a Space System, the results will be different to using only Space Catalog components.  A Project may contain separate Space ...
On one of your slides you mention using Assembly at the subsystem level for HW to HW integration (I can see this for Payloads as those are usually stand alone),  however, for spacecrafts a lot of subsystems aren't integrated as a stand alone, are you overstating possible costs by doing at each subsystem vs. a spacecraft level assembly which would encompass the integration of all the subsystems at the spacecraft level? A bus (or payload) can have just one subsystem-assembly pairing, with all components listed below, rather than multiple subsystems (or instruments) each with multiple separate pairings.  In general, note that the ...
You mentioned using production qty vs. prototype, even with the Space Mission Objects, however typically Spacecrafts are very low qty and my experience from heavy PRICE H use is that the production qty uses a much steeper slope. Is it now more realistic with the industry data in the space objects that production qty is good to use now? Yes, that is our recommendation.  We have seen production first units higher in cost than prototypes.  We recommend using the latter for engineering models and test units. To watch the "Best Practices using the TruePlanning Space Missions" Webinar, click here.
Do you have capability to do CONOPS which drive the design? Good idea!  As demonstrated, we allow the user to model complexity (or any other input) as a function of requirements, specifications, etc which could include a CONOPS value as well.  Also, another companion application is our linkage to the design-trade tools ModelCenter and i-Sight. To watch the "Best Practices using the TruePlanning Space Missions" Webinar, click here.
Are you able to triangulate bounds on inputs, low -high-average, to get nominal values? Yes, the risk tools above all allow for triangular distributions.  Specifically in FRISK, the “Auto” selection (from the Method drop-down in the Risk Input Sheet) will generate pessimistic and optimistic values around the point estimate’s baseline.  Or the inputs can be manually input. To watch the "Best Practices using the TruePlanning Space Missions" Webinar, click here.
Do the cost models include SEER, USCM, OGC, NAFCOM, ACEIT? Per our discussion, ACEIT is an export option from TruePlanning.  And we are evaluating the feasibility of hosting PCEC (fka NAFCOM) as a custom catalog, available to NASA users. To watch the "Best Practices using the TruePlanning Space Missions" Webinar, click here.
Spares may be a contract deliverable? Yes.  Quantities include flight units, spares and prototypes for Ems/proof-of-concept builds. To watch the "Best Practices using the TruePlanning Space Missions" Webinar, click here.
Can cost estimates be “simulated” using Monte Carlo (or alike) to model probabilistically based costing? Monte Carlo simulation is via Crystal Ball and @Risk. To watch the "Best Practices using the TruePlanning Space Missions" Webinar, click here.
How is cost uncertainty integrated into cost basis and subsequent roll-up into subsystems, etc? Complexities are density functions that act as surrogates for combinations of CERs.  Hence, overall model prediction error is reflected by the impact of complexity uncertainty on overall risk at subsystem and system levels. To watch the "Best Practices using the TruePlanning Space Missions" Webinar, click here.
Can you provide additional information regarding the missions used for the basis of the Space Mission Catalog? Table 1 - Scope of Historical Data Table 2 - Planetary Missions in the Database Table 3 - Astrophysics Missions in the Database Table 4 - Earth Science Missions in Database To watch the "Best Practices using the TruePlanning Space Missions" Webinar, click here.
Can you provide a pointer to additional information regarding the ChiCoMo Model? Here’s an earlier webinar by our Chief Scientist: http://www.pricesystems.com/Resources/Videos/tabid/487/VideoId/23/language/en-US/Default.aspx To watch the "Best Practices using the TruePlanning Space Missions" Webinar, click here.
Whether a new cost estimator or a seasoned professional cost estimator, we all need to continuously seek to improve the credibility of our cost estimates.  I can think of no better reference to assess our cost estimates than the March 2009 Government Accountability Office (GAO) Cost Estimating and Assessment Guide.  The basic characteristics of effective estimating from the guide are listed below, were first published in 1972, and have stood the test of time as the yard stick for measuring the credibility of our cost estimates done for both government and industry. 1.       Clear identification of task ...
We’re often asked about how to model the cost impacts of various quality assurance standards like SEI Capability Maturity Model (CMM) and CMM-I for software, DO-178c and DO-254 for airborne software and electronics, various MilSpecs, and even process standards like ISO-9000.  As a result, we’re kicking off a study to create new and updated modeling guidance for use with our cost models. Many of these standards have significant overlap, and an implementation of one can give you a head start in implementing another.  For example, DO-178c and DO-254 are design assurance standards, which basically says that if you follow these ...
Introduction Recently a PRICE customer was interested in mapping TruePlanning projects to the Army’s Cost Element Structure (CES) and asked us to provide some help. The TruePlanning projects were completed so the next step was to pull the TruePlanning project and the Army’s CES into TrueMapper. The question was: where to find the Army CES in a form TrueMapper can digest. One option would have been to ‘hand jam’ the CES into Excel from the PDF based CES definition the customer provided. The Army CES isn’t enormous, but the effort would have been laborious and fraught with the potential for ...
Introduction: The goal of this blog is to show how data can flow between TruePlanning and ProPricer. This walkthrough is based on estimating a software application that will provide users the ability to track objects orbiting the Earth using a feed from some fictitious data stream. The benefit is the ability to get the labor requirement (effort in hours) estimated by TruePlanning into ProPricer in a seamless, easily repeatable process.   1. Create ProPricer Proposal for the Orbiting Body Tracking application The first step is to create a proposal in ProPricer with a WBS. Each task in ProPricer will have a set of ...
Original Post Date: Monday, August 18, 2014 I had the distinct pleasure last week of attending the 2014 NASA Cost Symposium.  While to the uninitiated this might sound like a bit of a snoozer – it was actually quite interesting and proved to be the source of a ton of valuable information.  The event took place at Langley Research Center in Hampton, VA – near Williamsburg, Newport News, and not too far from Virginia Beach.  My participation was somewhat self-serving in that I was there to talk about PRICE’s new Space Missions Cost Models for TruePlanning®.  This model – discussed ...
Original Post Date: Friday, July 25, 2014 July 2014 marked the 25th anniversary of Neil Armstrong’s historic stroll on the moon.  If you go to the NASA website and select Missions you’ll probably be amazed at the number of missions in NASA's past, present, and future.  Unless you’re living under a rock, you know about the International Space Station, and the Hubble telescope but I’m guessing there’s a lot about space missions that many of us are unaware of.  The Dawn spacecraft, which was launched in 2007 from Cape Canaveral, was sent into Space to help NASA scientists learn about the history ...
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: Thursday, July 10, 2014 Introduction TruePlanning provides a powerful and highly customizable reporting environment. Project data can be viewed from many different perspectives and those perspectives can be saved and reused across all projects. Results can be exported to Excel and Word as custom reports. There are, however, some instances where there is a need to get beyond the two axes used in TruePlanning’s reporting engine. This need is sometimes expressed by users preparing TruePlanning cost estimating project data for use in a bid or proposal. Perhaps the data needs to be split by phase and labor/non-labor over ...
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: Friday, June 20, 2014 Proposal estimates based on grassroots engineering judgment are necessary to achieve company buy-in, but often are not convincing or not in sync with the price-to-win.  This contention can be resolved through by comparing the grassroots estimate to an estimate developed using data driven parametric techniques.  Parametric estimates apply statistical relationships to project data to determine likely costs for a project.  Of course, for a parametric model to properly support this cross check of the grassroots estimate, the proper data must be fed into the model.  This most likely requires the estimator to reach ...
Original Post Date: Wednesday, April 2, 2014 Introduction Parametric estimates provide reliable, reproducible, and flexible views into cost and effort so it’s only natural to want to include this data in a bid and proposal workflow. With TruePlanning 2014 big steps have been taken to make such integration seamless and easily reproducible.  New tools in the TruePlanning suite of products, as well as, integrations with some of the major bid and proposal software applications are at the heart of this new feature set. You can learn more about TruePlanning 2014 and the PRICE cost estimation models at our website, but let's ...
Original Post Date: Thursday, March 20, 2014 Here’s a conundrum.  You are a software estimator responsible for helping the decision makers in your company determine what business to pursue and what business to steer clear of.  You know, that to win profitable business, your company first needs to decide which opportunities are golden and which should be avoided.  You also know, that at the point at which this decision needs to be made, there is very little information available to support a quality estimate.  Add to this the fact that software estimation is hard   at almost any stage.  What’s ...
Original Post Date: Thursday, March 20, 2014 One of the complications in generating Bids and Proposals for Modules and Microcircuits is determining the “Should Cost” for better cost realism. Most of the electronic modules and their components in the proposals are not actually manufactured by the Proposer, but rather by a subcontractor, thus becoming a Purchased item. It is difficult to determine the cost of making the Module, and determining a fair cost. Costs for the modules include Assembly and Test costs together with the component costs. Components such as ASIC’s (Application Specific Integrated Circuits), have both the cost of developing the devices and ...
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: Tuesday, December 3, 2013 Forrester defines big data as “the techniques and technologies that make capturing value from data at extreme scales economical”.   Wikipedia defines it as “a collection of data sets so large and complex that it becomes difficult to process using on-hand database management tools or traditional data processing applications.  The challenges include capture, curation, storage, search, sharing, analysis and visualization”.  Many use the 3Vs to describe the characteristics of big data – Volume, Variety and Velocity.   Basically Big Data refers to number crunching of epic proportion, accomplishing in minutes what may have ...