Tag Archives: Global software development

QSM (Quantitative Software Management) 2014 Research Almanac Published this week!


Over the years I’ve been privileged to have articles included in compendiums with industry thought leaders whose work I’ve admired.  This week, I had another proud moment as my article was featured in the QSM Software Almanac: 2014 Research Edition along with a veritable who’s who of QSM.

This is the first almanac produced by QSM, Inc. since 2006, and it features 200+ pages of relevant research-based articles garnered from the SLIM(R) database of over 10,000 completed and validated software projects.

Download your FREE copy of the 2014 Almanac by clicking this link or the image below.

almanac

Fundamentals of Software Metrics in Two Minutes or Less


 

Fundamentals of SW Metrics in two minutes or lessTo read more click on the link:
http://www.qsm.com/blog/2013/fundamentals-software-metrics-two-minutes-or-less

If IT’s important – get a second (or third) opinion!


I’d like to share with you my latest  post on the QSM (Quantitative Software Management) blog – let me know what you think!

-Carol

1st in the series

1st in my new series – here’s the URL:

http://www.qsm.com/blog/2013/ask-carol-if-its-important-get-second-opinion

What Can Goldilocks Teach about Software Estimating?


goldilocks

http://www.qsm.com/blog/2013/what-can-goldilocks-teach-about-software-estimating

Comments?

Trust and Verify are the (IT) Elephants in the room


As a party involved in some aspect of software development, why do you think projects are so hard?  Millions of dollars in research work to solve this question, with the result being new models, agile approaches and standards, all intended to streamline software development.

What do you think is the core reason for project success or failure?  Is it the people, process, requirements, budgets, schedule, personalities, the creative process or some combination?

Sure, IT (information technology) is a relatively new industry, plagued by technology advances at the speed of light, industries of customers and users who don’t know what they want, budgets are preset, schedules are imposed, scope is elusive, and, ultimately computer scientists and customers still speak their own language.  Some people argue that it boils down to communication (especially poor communication).  After all, isn’t communication the root cause of all wars, disputes, divorces, broken negotiations, and failed software projects?

I disagree.

I believe that TRUST and VERIFY are THE TWO most important factors in software development

These two elements are the IT elements in the room (so to speak!) I could be wrong, but it seems like the commonly cited factors (including communication) are simply symptoms of the elephants in the room – and no one is willing to talk about them.  Instead, we bring in new methodologies, new tools intended to bring customers and suppliers together, new approaches, and new standards – and all of these skirt the major issues: TRUST and VERIFY.

Why are these so critical?

Trust is the difference between negotiation and partnership – trust implies confidence,  a willingness to believe in (an)other, the assurance that your position and interests are protected, and the rationale that when life changes, the other party will understand and work with you. A partnership means that there is an agreement to trust in a second party and to give trust in return.  Trust is essential in software development.

BUT… many a contract and agreement have gone wrong with blind trust, and that is why VERIFY is as important as trust. Verify means to use due diligence to make sure that the trust is grounded in fact by using knowledge, history, and past performance as the basis.  Verify grounds trust, yet allows it to grow.

President Ronald Reagan coined the phrase “Trust, but Verify” – but I believe it is better stated as “Trust and Verify” because the two reinforce each other.  This also suggests the saying:  “Fool me Once, Shame on You… Fool me Twice, Shame on Me.”

Proof that Trust and Verify are the Elephants in the Room

Software development has a history of dysfunctional behavior built on ignoring that Trust and Verify are key issues. It is easier for both the business (customers) and the engineers (suppliers) to pretend that they trust each other than address the issues once and for all.  To admit to a lack of trust is tantamount to declaring war and accusing your “partners” of espionage.  It simply is not done in the polite company of corporate boardrooms.  And so we do the following:

  • Fixed price budgets are set before requirements are even known because the business wants to lower their risk (and mistrust);
  • Software development companies “pad” their estimates with generous margins to decrease their risk that the business doesn’t know what they want (classic mistrust);
  • Deadlines are imposed by the business based on gut-feel or contrived “drop dead” dates to keep the suppliers on track;
  • Project scope is mistakenly expressed in terms of dollars or effort (lagging metrics) instead of objective sizing (leading metrics);
  • Statements like “IT would be so much easier if we didn’t have to deal with users” are common;
  • Games like doubling the project estimate because the business will chop it in half become standard;
  • Unrealistic project budgets and schedules are agreed to to keep the business;
  • Neither side is happy about all the project meetings (lies, more promises, and disappointment).

Is IT doomed?

Trust is a critical component of any successful relationship involving humans (one might argue that it is also critical when pets are involved) – but so too is being confident in that trust (verify).  Several promising approaches address trust issues head on, and provide project metrics along the way to ensure that the trust remains.

One such approach is Kanban (the subject of this week’s Lean Software and Systems Development conference LSSC12 in Boston, MA).

Kanban for software and systems development was formalized by David Anderson and has been distilled into a collaborative set of practices that allow the business and software developers to be transparent about software development work – every step of the way.  Project work is prioritized and pulled in to be worked on only as the volume and pace (velocity) of the pipeline can accommodate.  Rather than having the business demand that more work be done faster, cheaper and better than is humanly possible (classic mistrust that the suppliers are not working efficiently), in Kanban, the business works collaboratively with the developers to manage (and gauge) what is possible to do and the pipeline delivers more than anticipated.  Trust and verify in action.

Another promising approach is Scope Management (supported by a body of knowledge and a European based certification) – a collaborative approach whereby software development effort is done based on “unit pricing”.  Rather than entertaining firm, fixed price, lose-lose (!!!) contracts where the business wants minimum price/maximum value and the supplier need to curtail changes to deliver within the fixed price (and not lose their shirts), unit pricing actually splits a project into known components can are priced similarly to how home construction can be priced by square foot and landscaping priced by the number of trees.

In Scope Management (see www.qualityplustech.com and www.fisma.fi for more details or send me an email and I’ll send you articles), the business retains the right to make changes and keep the reins on the budget and project progress and the supplier gets paid for the work that the business directs to be done.  Project metrics and progress metrics are a key component in the delivery process.  Again TRUST and VERIFY are key components to this approach.

What do you think? 

Please comment and share your opinion – are TRUST and VERIFY the IT elephants in the rooms at your company?

P.s., Don’t forget to sign up for the SPICE Users Group 2012 conference in 2 weeks in Palma de Mallorca, Spain. See www.spiceconference.com for details!  I’m doing a 1/2 day SCOPE MANAGEMENT tutorial on Tuesday May 29, 2012.

Whats behind Project Success: Process or People?


Depending on who or what you read, most software and systems projects (over 50%) end up as unsuccessful/failures:  over budget, late, and/or fail to meet the user needs.  As a worldwide phenomenon, studies continue to expound on why projects fail (poor requirements, underfunding, overoptimistic estimates, unreasonable schedules, lack of management commitment, etc.) but few studies focus on what it takes for projects to succeed.

What do you think makes a project (of any kind) successful?  What is more important to project success:

1. The processes involved (e.g., formal project management, standards, shortened development life cycles, agility…); or

2. The people involved (e.g., the right team makeup, a good mix of skills, a motivated workforce, engaged users); or

3. Trust (e.g., collaboration rather than negotiation between customers and suppliers, reliance, cooperative teamwork; communication); or

4. Something else (e.g., other factors such as CMMI, tool sets, unlimited budgets, Steve Jobs on the team, …); or

5. Some “magical” combination of the above; or

6. None of these?

Across industries and across the world, is there a difference in what makes a project successful?  Are there certain factors that predispose a project for success (or failure?)

What do YOU think?  Inquiring minds are interested in hearing from you… (please post a comment or send me a private email to dekkers (at) qualityplustech (dot) com).

Thank you!
Carol

Walking on Eggshells – a Normal part of Business?


We have all been there – walking on eggshells to avoid outbursts from  a boss, co-worker, or client.  So we skirt the issue, pretend the bad behavior doesn’t exist, ignore the problem, and spend extra time planning how to present an issue so that the person in question doesn’t explode.

While I know that this type of behavior is rampant in business (I’ve experienced it more than once!) – it has serious (and expensive) consequences in the IT industry.  The repercussions stemming from having to “walk on eggshells” to avoid the potential wrath ranges from minor  “oversights” to full scale project failure.

The Challenger disaster is one such failure where group-think and avoidance of conflict ended up costing lives and millions of dollars.  A video chronicling the group think behavior depicts the group-think behavior and steps are taken in companies to address such behaviors. This is all good.

The Walking on Eggshells “syndrome”

Aside from the pressures of group think that encourages teams to conform and cooperate with a single mindset, the “walking on eggshells” syndrome is seldom documented or even discussed.

We all know at least one offender in our workplace!  The offending person may be a narcissist, a control freak, a bully or just plain immature. No matter the clinical diagnosis, our boardrooms and our production labs suffer greatly from their presence.

How much time and money could be saved by confronting these people and addressing the cost of their ‘verbal diarrhea’? Here’s the type of situations I mean:

  • Not raising issues:  “How can we possibly bring up the design flaw for this software now?  The project sponsor will yell and rant if the project is late. Remember how he “freaked out” at the status meeting last month?  Keep going and we’ll address this as an enhancement.”  Cost: could be significant.
  • Cutting corners: “There is no way we can finish the project within the approved budget.  We had no idea that xxx would be so complex, but the steering committee will fire us if we ask for more money. Let’s just cut testing so we can finish the project.”  Cost: could be critical if public safety is at stake.
  • Perpetuating the myth that project plans are right:  “The project plan was based on incomplete data that seemed right six months ago. Now we know more, but with a fixed budget and schedule, we’re stuck. The client will explode if we bring up that the plans were flawed. Let’s just do what we can.” Cost: Corporate learning will never happen (Einstein: insanity is doing the same things over and over and expecting different results.)
  • Skirting accountability: “We messed up on the schedule because we had to program that module 3 times.  I couldn’t understand what they wanted until this time, but we can’t tell Bob because you know how he gets.  I hate it when he yells in a staff meeting.” Cost: could be significant to minor.
  • Wasting time and money: “This project is doomed – the users told us they won’t use the system even if we finish it. The rationale and vision for the project are no longer correct (it’s a dog!) but if we tell the boss about it, you know how she will blame us. I don’t think it is even worth trying to explain it.  Just keep going.”  Cost:  priceless – time and money could be better spent on REAL work!

What a colossal waste of time, money, energy, and morale “walking on eggshells” is to a business!  It is not an easy situation to fix or address – especially when we are talking about people in power who behave badly.

Walking on eggshells should never be part of the way of doing business!  What is the solution?

If YOU were the king of your IT kingdom, what would YOU do?  I’ll publish a summary of responses – add your comments below – or send them privately to me by email to dekkers (at) qualityplustech (dot) com.

Have a productive week!

Carol

Common-sense Leadership: Respond not react…


A big benefit to teaching leadership and communication workshops to adult professionals is continuous learning: every time I teach a class, new revelations come into focus.

One such “aha” moment (where one realizes something that may not have been obvious before) is that Leadership is really about learning to Respond to a situation or stimulus instead of automatically Reacting.  Why is this important?  Responding is the thought intensive process of actively listening, pausing, and then gathering ones “thoughts” before speaking.  Gathering of one’s thoughts involves the neocortex (center) of the brain whereby we override the reptilian (instinctual) brain and the limbic (emotion-induced) brain, and hopefully create a response less prone to immediate and autonomous reactions (based on instinct or emotion).

Considering how eastern cultures (such as Japan) seem to habitually pause before asking questions at a conference or before coming to an agreement gave me “pause” to reflect on how this practice conveys power and respect – and is one often used by practised politicians at press conferences.  This results in less “eating one’s premature words” and less damage control as opposed to when one speaks too hastily or without due thought.

This is a common-sense tip on how to practice better leadership in your own workplace no matter your position:  remember and practice active listening (if you are thinking of what you are going to say – you are not listening!), pausing, gathering your thoughts (and perhaps even saying “please give me 15 seconds to gather my thoughts”) and then thoughtfully responding.

Food for thought – what do you think?  Could this be helpful in your workplace?

Carol

Communicating Quality in a Heavily Wired World – Presentation Slide Share


I’ve been on hiatus (so to speak) since mid-May, but I’m back with miles traveled, countries visited (Canada, France, Ireland), and lots of tech experiences in between – to share with you!

A Gift for you and a Favor…

I spoke as the finale speaker for our Institute for Software Excellence (ISE) conference within a conference (part of the American Society for Quality‘s International Conference on Quality and Innovation in Pittsburgh in mid-May – the topic was the subject line of this post above- which I also affectionately named – No More Death by Powerpoint!

As a presenter, I’m pleased to share with you the link to my slides (yes, with tips for using PowerPoint using PowerPoint slides themselves!) and coordinated audio.  This is my gift to you and I’d be interested in your comments – please let me know what you think!

Here’s the abstract for the presentation:  Quality professionals are passionate about the value and benefits of quality in their work, but when it comes time to present the proof to executives, communicating the value can be a challenge. We are all so busy and overcommitted that we often lose the message in the media. This session takes a look at and offers remedies to common presentation missteps such as “death by PowerPoint,” “tilt- slide overload,” and “duh?”

Now, here’s the link to the full presentation:

Now the favor – can you please fill out the poll below?

I am working with an editor to publish my ebook about Communication for Technical Professionals (Project managers, engineers, scientists, IT) using some of these blog posts –  and I need YOUR help to select a title. Will you help?

Thank you!!!

Have a great week,
Carol

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Whose job is IT anyways?


The title was a purposeful play on the acronym “IT” (information technology) because there is often no one person who takes responsibility for failed IT projects. In addition, it is not as if there are not project failures everywhere.

Notwithstanding one of my least favorite (but often quoted) research studies, the Chaos Report cites that about one-third of projects are successful when it comes to IT.  What gets in the way of project success?  Lots of circumstances and lots of people!

When a software intensive project fails, there is no lack of finger-pointing and blame sharing – yet seldom do teams stand up and confess that the failure (over budget and behind schedule and failing to meet user needs) was due to a combination of over and under factors, along with fears:

  • overzealous and premature announcements (giving a date and budget before the project is defined);
  • over optimistic estimates of how quickly the software could be built;
  • under estimation of the subject complexity;
  • assumptions that the requirements were as solid as the customer professed;
  • under estimation of the overall scope;
  • under estimation of how much testing will be needed;
  • under estimation of how much time it takes to do a good job;
  • under estimation of the learning curve;
  • under estimation of the complexity of the solution;
  • under estimation of the impact of interruptions and delays;
  • over anticipation of user participation;
  • over optimism about the availability of needed resources;
  • over optimism about hardware and software working together;
  • over optimism about how many things one can do at once;
  • risk ignorance (“let’s not talk about risk on this project, it could kill it”);
  • over optimism of teamwork (double the team size doesn’t half the duration);
  • fear of speaking up;
  • fear of canceling a project (even if it is the right thing to do);
  • fear of pointing out errors;
  • fear of being seen as making mistakes;
  • fear of not being a “team player”;
  • fear of not knowing (what you think you should);
  • fear of not delivering fast enough;
  • fear of being labeled unproductive;
  • fear of being caught for being over or under optimistic.

Therefore, I ask you, on a software intensive IT project, whose job is it to point out when there are requirements errors, or something is taking longer than it should, or it is costing more than anticipated. In traditional waterfall development because there’s so much work put into the planning and documenting of requirements, pointing out errors are  either no one’s job or the team’s (collective) job which really relates to no one’s job.

Often it is easier (and results in less conflict) to not say anything when the scope or schedule or budge go awry on a software project. Yet it is this very behavior that results in so much rework and so many failed projects.

Agile and Kanban projects are different

Several of the advantages to using Kanban and Lean and Agile approaches to software and systems development is that the methods address the very items outlined above.  Building better software iteratively becomes every developer’s job rather than no one’s:

  • Fear of pointing out errors is removed because the time that goes into a scrum is days and weeks not months (so participants don’t get defensive about change);
  • Over and under optimism remains but is concentrated on smaller and less costly components of work (i.e. days instead of months or years);
  • Risk is not avoided or ignored because we are no longer dealing with elongated and protracted development cycles (spanning seasons);
  • Assumptions come out with better and more frequent discussions;
  • Over optimism about how many things one can do at once is removed because Kanban limits the amount of work-in-progress;
  • Under estimation of the impact of interruptions and delays is minimized because such factors are addressed in Kanban;
  • Over anticipation of user participation is managed through direct user involvement.

What do you think?  Join us at the Lean Software and Systems Consortium conference LSSC11 from May 3-6, 2011 as participants and speakers address the best ways of advancing software and systems methods including Lean, Kanban, Agile and other exciting new ways to deliver high quality software more efficiently and effectively.

These newer approaches make it easier for everyone in IT to make it their job to build better software.

Wishing you a productive week!

Carol
@caroldekkers (twitter)

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