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World-class benchmarking and estimating

Software development is one of the fastest-growing areas of business today. Unfortunately, it has always had a poor reputation for the accuracy of its estimates and projections, as well as the credibility of its deliveries. Software Technology Transfer Finland offers access to a range of resources that could help improve performance here considerably.
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In addition to dissatisfaction with the late deliveries and cost overruns typical of many software development projects, a large number of customers are also often critical of software benchmarking services and perceive them as having low overall value.

FiSMA scope managers can help organisations manage their IT procurement projects more effectively, by using FiSMA methods, metrics, and Experience® Pro.

All these problems have one factor in common: a lack of good project data and reference material. Which is where the type of information contained in the Experience® repository, a database of detailed information on some 800 delivered software projects, definitely has something to offer.

Learning from experience

The Experience® repository is managed and maintained by Software Technology Transfer Finland (STTF), the founder and the facilitating partner of a national collaborative network known as the Finnish Software Measurement Association, or FiSMA.

Working with other FiSMA members, STTF has developed and defined a series of concepts and methods for software project estimation and measurement data needs.

Drawing on 15 years of data collection and research, it can be seen that accurate estimates are possible, as the best FiSMA organisations consistently attain +/-3% accuracy in their scheduling and cost estimates.

The quality of project data is critical to accurate estimations and reliable benchmarking. The major issues centre around incorrect, missing, or insufficiently granular classifications, as these lead to misleading data results, even if key parameters such as scope and input requirement are forecast accurately.

Today, the best companies with a track record of reporting Experience® data can compare their performance on 21 productivity factors against the industry standard to see where they need to improve, and rate their improvements against the industry average.

The value of benchmarking is highest for organisations with mature processes. Historical data is of limited help in estimating costs and schedules or benchmarking, however, in the case of new, unproven technology and less mature businesses.

Consulting and training are the best means forward for companies at this stage, until they reach a defined or quantitatively managed process maturity level, when they can benefit from more formal assessments.

Others can learn too

By leveraging this common knowledge, Finnish companies have started to change their software delivery methods and benchmarking approaches, and Finland is quickly establishing a leading reputation for quality benchmarking and estimating data.

The opportunities are now there for others to learn from this experience, and increase the success of their procurement programmes, and improve their customer satisfaction performance.

> Pekka Forselius
(Published in High Technology Finland )