northernSCOPE™ – A customer-facing project measurement and accounting system for Lean, Kanban, Agile, etc.

I’m going to start this post off in a non-traditional way with the p.s., first:

p.s., Don’t forget to register for David Anderson’s free webinar coming up on January 18, 2011.  Listen to the “Father of Kanban” discuss Lean Decision Making
from 12-1pm PST (3-4 pm EST)

– it’s free knowledge sharing by one of our industry’s best minds today!  Register here.

How to report project progress for Kanban, Lean, Agile, and other projects?

It remains a challenge to deliver appropriate business-focused reports to executives during software projects.  For decades, the IT industry grappled with ways to streamline and ease translation of technology into business terms, but today we have promise with new approaches.   There is no question that Kanban, Lean, Agile, XP, Scrum, and other approaches bridge the customer developer gap, and bring the customer in direct contact with development teams.  These and other methods increase mutual understanding, facilitate communication and enhance overall software delivery.

In addition, methods such as the Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI®) and Balridge Quality criteria complement these as well as traditional software development approaches through standardized best-practice processes.

Executives accustomed to numerical results, however, remain challenged at the lack of standardized business oriented metrics for reporting project progress and assessing outcomes.  How can one prove that Kanban, Agile, XP, Lean, or even CMMI® deliver software to meet the needs as well as (or better than) traditional approaches?  How can we prove that functionality delivered today meets or exceeds what is required or replaced?  Where are the business gauges to help executives chart progress towards program or project goals?


One promising method for measuring project progress independently of the work methods is  called northernSCOPE™ and it can work seamlessly alongside of software development to report progress in business terms using metrics suitable for the type of project work. Just as a home buyer needs to know that the finished product meets his/her needs and was delivered at a fair overall cost, so too do executives need bottom-line oriented reporting about the progress and delivery of software.

While northernSCOPE™ was developed and first worked along with traditional software development such as waterfall and spiral, it is easily adapted to work with iterative approaches as well.  The beauty of northernSCOPE™ is that the business can follow along with software development from a functional, business perspective and can track investment by type of work (functional software delivery versus modification versus porting, etc.). What is different about northernSCOPE™ versus traditional measurement reporting is that a “program” or “project” of work is first divided into sub-projects each of which can be accounted for with applicable metrics.

I use a construction analogy to explain northernSCOPE™:  If I need to have a house built somewhere along the east coast of the United States, large enough to hold my burgeoning family (2-3 children), a fully landscaped yard, a pool (if the weather permits), and potentially a guest house, how would a builder estimate and cost out this project for me?  Without knowing what I want and need at this point early in the project (I may not even know what I mean when I say a “house”), a wise builder will subdivide the project into various parts, at least with:

1.      Site selection, purchase, and preparation.  This would include research of available sites, pricing, purchase, and clearing of the land in anticipation of construction (similar to initiation of a project in software project management) – a standalone project paid for likely by hours expended plus the cost of the building site and permits.

2.      Home design and construction, which could be done in many ways from building one room at a time modularized (akin to agile software development) or a floor at a time (more waterfall or spiral like).  Pricing by the square foot would be a good way to manage and report on the progress of this separate project.

3.      Landscaping.  Again, a separate piece of work that would be done completely differently than #1 or #2 above.  Progress would be reported on a percentage complete, number of pallets of sod laid, or number of trees planted, and payment would be made on the same basis.

4.      Guesthouse design and construction.  This would again be a separate piece of work, which would resemble #2 in terms of progress and payment.

5.      Other work (such as furnishing the home). This would be a separate project requiring different tasks and labor and may be done incrementally room by room as progress on #2 is done.  Progress and payment would likely be done based on types and quality of furniture or appliances acquired.

6.      At the end of the project, the homeowner would pay for the work done (and changes would be managed with change orders whose cost would be based on unit pricing according to the work type) as agreed to during the projects.  Note that changes in the choice of trees would not affect the house construction price, and changes in the site selection process would not affect the landscape unit costs.  By unit pricing and measuring each sub-project separately, the homeowner never loses touch with or confidence in the overall project. In addition, the overall construction manager (the general contractor) can continue to work on the various parts of the project without interruption.  He/she will be paid for all the work done on behalf of the homeowner (with their agreement) so there is also flexibility built into the arrangement.

This is similar to how northernSCOPE™ works in software development.  At the beginning of the program or project, work is allocated into categories – software development (which is delivered through releases, scrums, iterations, etc), operations, enhancement, hardware installation, migrating of data, etc.  Each category or sub-project is then assessed in terms of unit pricing (for software delivery $ per function point can be used, for operations $ per hour can be used, etc) and the project commences.  When work in a Kanban environment is done, northernSCOPE™ would divide such work into a category and tracks its progress through to its delivery based on the right units.  Iterative and agile approaches would deliver functionality bit by bit, with progress reported according to functions and features delivered. The beauty of northernSCOPE™ is that it works to envelope what is being done on the project regardless of whether it is being delivered using Kanban, Agile, or other methods, and provides a business oriented view of the project to executives.

We have come a long way in software intensive systems development with the emergence of Kanban, Lean, Agile, XP, CMMI®, PSP/TSP and other advancements.  To bridge the gap with executives and close the circle (so to speak) with the business, northernSCOPE™ offers a solution – it affords one a way to measure and account for project progress independently of the underlying process(es).

Want to know more about northernSCOPE™?  Visit for related articles (or send me an email) or view prior posts on the subject.  In addition, there are northernSCOPE™ workshops I am planning for US locations in 2011.  Let me know if you would like to know more.

To your productive #Lean, #Kanban, and #Agile projects!




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s