Can You Really Trust Your Project Plan to Tell You the Truth, Even If You’re Already Knee-Deep in the Project?

June 13, 2014 · Filed Under Project Management, Risk · Comment 

Find Renewed Confidence In Your Project by Implementing the Best Project Estimation Software

So you dove head first into a new project that seemed to be an excellent next step for your business. You and your team had a tremendous amount of enthusiasm for the project at the start, but just a basic idea of your production costs, labor, materials, tooling, set-up, and rework numbers. Now that you are knee-deep in the project, your team and the stakeholders’ enthusiasm for the project is rapidly waning because you are not hitting the numbers you expected, and unanticipated problems seem to be cropping up left and right.

best project estimation software

What to do? Perhaps the answer is a new project estimation system. But even when you identify the best project estimation software for your industry, can you depend on its output to give you feedback that’s valid?
The answer is yes, the best project estimation software will give you honest and thorough answers about your project. You might be at a point of panic because you know you’re already months into a project, or you might still be just considering the feasibility of the project, two different emotional states that the software is immune to – all it knows to do is weigh inputs and history, and report back impartially.

Here are four big reasons why now is a good time to consider employing project planning software:
1. It Helps You Build a Complete Picture of the Project

The best project estimation software available allows you to build an entire manufacturing project plan from templates, or from scratch. Its user-friendly interface allows for quick and easy entry of information regarding every single detail of the project, including progress already made, if applicable. It asks intuitive questions to help you consider possible alternative materials, tooling, manpower, and more to plan for the best possible outcomes.

 

2. It Serves as Your Virtual Expert

A built-in and constantly updated library of industry-specific knowledge will help you anticipate more potential stumbling blocks that could come your way, which will help you to plan accordingly for continued successful progress. Sector-specific models derived from extensive project histories, behavioral models, and metrics give you the opportunity to make unlimited hypothetical trade-offs to analyze endless scenarios in order to pinpoint the best plan of action to ensure good outcomes for the project. Pop-up windows ask intuitive questions to guide you through the process of defining the project’s scope, complexity, and technologies. Software at this level should pose questions that may bring topics, options, or potential problems to light that your team never even considered.

 

3. Its Cost Analysis Capabilities Makes Budgeting a Breeze

Top-notch project estimation software takes into consideration costs already incurred, and runs it against the project’s full budget. It can quickly and accurately generate labor and machine cost rates for use in determining facilities costs on a global scale. It contains a regularly updated, comprehensive database which includes worldwide labor cost data, default technology costs, average costs for many regions (including low-cost centers), default labor costs, and regional currencies to make your budgeting tasks so much easier. The best project estimation software on the market right now makes it easy to produce accurate figures and estimates, and to actually meet those numbers with a solid management plan.

 

4. It Offers a Variety of Reporting Options

Customizable charts, graphs, and reports allow you to visually present project outcomes and alternatives, as well as work-in-progress. Analyzing these reports can help you identify weak points in your current manufacturing systems and assets, and determine better alternatives to improve quality and output. You may run numerous simulations and generate reports for each scenario to compare outcomes and decide on the best assets and systems for your project. The effects of your improvements will be evident when you compare reports from before and after the change over to new planning software. Your new project estimation software should also allow users to export all of this information to other software programs for even wider reporting capabilities.
To tell you the truth about a project’s status or feasibility, regardless of what stage of the project you are in, the best project estimation software combines traditional project estimating software and cost estimating software solutions into one seamless package. Learning the truth about your project may sting a little, but in the end, you need to know all of your viable options – and you want to give your stakeholders the best, most accurate information possible. The best project estimation software can tell you the optimal way to complete the project, or whether the project should be scrapped.

 

Want to get a live demo of what our clients say is the best project estimation software they’ve ever used? Click here or call 310-414-3222 in the U.S. or +44 (0) 207 788 9042 internationally.

Thank you for reading “Dan on Estimating”, if you would like more information about Galorath’s estimation models, please visit our contact page, call us at +1 310 414-3222 or click a button below to ask sales questions, sign up for our free library or schedule a demo.




How to Shun Public Mortification by Setting Realistic Project Expectations

May 15, 2014 · Filed Under Estimating, Project Management, Risk · Comment 
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The key is to set realistic expectations.

Use these tips to avoid project estimation disasters.

Grossly over-budget. Famously broken. Publicly acclaimed as sketchy. Most certainly this is not how any sane software developer, project manager, or estimator wants their next project to be classified. In the face of sky-high hopes, tremendous political pressure, and a nation waiting to see how the pieces all fall into place, perhaps one of the first ways many projects veer off-track is in a failure to assess and set realistic expectations.

Whether you’ll report to an internal client, a buyer you’ve hotly pursued, or even an entire nation, learning to manage expectations in advance is a critical skill that can preserve a delicate relationship.

Here are 7 tips to help you provide confident assurance that your customer or stakeholders’ needs will be met.

1.    Know your limits, or risk overstepping them.
What is your bandwidth? How much time can you allot to the project with your existing resources? What stream of preexisting obligations, snags, and demands might overflow the banks and flood this new project before it even starts?

2.    Balance promises with reality.
While the adage “under-promise and over-deliver” has its share of pitfalls in that doing so in the extreme guarantees your competitor will win the project by being on-target with promises and delivery, it is still better than its opposite, where you make lavish promises and paltry deliveries.

3.    Disclose limits beforehand to prevent trouble escalation.
Most project obstacles rear their heads with some measure of predictability. The sound of the train precedes its arrival with at least a bit of warning. Rather than pretending the path ahead is irreversibly smooth, be upfront with your end customer about potential pitfalls before the project begins. This helps you avoid wasting time in damage-control mode later when one of these blockades pops up.

4.    Allow for wiggle room.
When possible in your negotiations, adopt the time urgency of your customer while also demonstrating your understanding of the need for the project to be done right. The phrase “Done Fast, Done Cheap, Done Right… Choose Two” is simplistic but true. In most projects, one of these goals must be sacrificed in order to deliver the other two. Disappointment can be avoided when time, budget, and quality realities are transparent from the start.

5.    Keep the lines open.
Sometimes a project reaches a fork in the road with no clear indicator of which way to turn. Uncertainty can freeze progress in its tracks, and can be made worse when there’s a sense the team “should have known” the answer to the perplexing dilemma and rather than coming clean with it to the customer, they send a hurried scout down each path to see which way to go. Don’t allow uncertainty to cause your project to come to a grinding halt. Before the project begins, explore various “what-ifs”, alternatives and trade-offs – this will keep forward momentum safe and ease potential constriction of communication lines.

6.    In the loop is always preferable to in the dark.
It’s a sure bet your customer has someone breathing down their collective necks as impatiently as a first-grader on a long car drive. “Are we there YET?” is the constant refrain, and it needs to be answered with a credible answer to avoid small-scale rioting. If the timeline morphs mid-project, prompt and honest communication is the best policy. Agreeing to making this sort of update if needed affords your customers the intel needed to manage expectations and communicate intelligently.

7.    Present projections backed by history.
Every project you undertake is both unique and yet based on precedent. Ideally, your organization documents processes, timelines, and the progression of projects. This enables you to learn from history, to plan well for new opportunities, and to more firmly tether promises made by the sales department with the realities of operations. The documentation process yields information that can be aggregated into a sort of internal knowledge base that can be used to create and sanity-check estimates for future projects.

While humans are naturally wired to be optimistic, the hope that everything will go as planned must often be tempered with caution – especially when setting expectations with stakeholders. With realistic expectations in place from the start, before any promises are made, the likelihood of thrilling your customers is much higher – and the risk of a crash and burn disaster in the public eye shrinks.

Aggregating historical project data to create realistic expectations bears its own set of challenges, especially in the absence of access to directly-relevant prior history. SEER project estimation software features continually updated industry-specific knowledge bases which allow users to glean reliable insights from other projects as they plan for their own.

For more information on how project estimation software could be your secret weapon, download our whitepaper “On Time, On Schedule, and a Huge Success”.

Thank you for reading “Dan on Estimating”, if you would like more information about Galorath’s estimation models, please visit our contact page, call us at +1 310 414-3222 or click a button below to ask sales questions, sign up for our free library or schedule a demo.




Affordability Analysis: The Role of Process, Cost & ROI

October 19, 2012 · Filed Under Estimation Process, General, Presentations, Project Management · Comment 

This is the short version of my new brief on Systems and Software affordability and affordability process.  This version is oriented towards Department of Defense software.  I have another, more comprehensive version that covers commercial software.  One key point is the use of parametrics in the affordability process to make lots of trades quickly… then after analysis of alternatives, drilling down on the chosen one or few alternatives.

Here is the abstract:

Affordability Analysis:  The Role Process, Cost and ROI Modeling In Improved Program  Performance

Affordability analysis as part of decision making  may be the biggest edge of the decade for both commercial organizations and DoD / government organizations.

In an IT context companies struggling to increase profits often view IT as a necessary evil: one that consumes resources rather contributes to the bottom line. However, IT can be a significant contributor when IT decisions are made after modeling affordability in terms of the cost and return.

In a DoD context affordability as “should cost” and  “will cost” are the bywords of the times: attempting to replace past cost / performance failure due to inflexible user requirements or over-specified contractor requirements is being replaced by realistic trades of cost, schedule, performance and other key performance parameters.

As people go forward in affordability analysis it is important  to recognize that tools are important and that repeatable process is essential to success.

A complete affordability analysis  determines the risk adjusted Total Cost of Ownership and return on IT investment along with its consistency with long-range investment and business strategy of an organization measured against risk and key technical and performance parameters.

Both existing systems and new developments will be addressed.  Additionally risk and tradeoffs between functionality, quality, security and other system goals will be covered.

Process steps include: Read more

Thank you for reading “Dan on Estimating”, if you would like more information about Galorath’s estimation models, please visit our contact page, call us at +1 310 414-3222 or click a button below to ask sales questions, sign up for our free library or schedule a demo.




Estimation, Planning & Control Can Make the Difference Between Project Success and Failure

This is the webinar I did through the ITMPI today covering estimation and project success as well as estimation process and best practices.  Estimation, Planning & Control Can Make The Difference Between Project Success and Failure

Thank you for reading “Dan on Estimating”, if you would like more information about Galorath’s estimation models, please visit our contact page, call us at +1 310 414-3222 or click a button below to ask sales questions, sign up for our free library or schedule a demo.




Software Project Failure Costs Billions.. Better Estimation & Planning Can Help

June 7, 2012 · Filed Under Project Management · 22 Comments 

There are so many studies attempting to quantify the cost of software failures.  They don’t agree on percentages but they generally agree that the number is at least  50 to 80 billion dollar range annually.

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Thank you for reading “Dan on Estimating”, if you would like more information about Galorath’s estimation models, please visit our contact page, call us at +1 310 414-3222 or click a button below to ask sales questions, sign up for our free library or schedule a demo.




IT Risk Management Through Process, Estimation and Measurement

I had the privilege of presenting “IT Risk Management Through Process, Estimation and Measurement” at the Manila ITMPI conference on the topic of IT risk management.  There was a large, savvy audience, eager to further explore this topic.  As we have seen in other countries, many don’t look at estimation, planning, measurement, and control as critical processes.  Those organizations often have less than successful projects, late, over cost, and with missing functionality.  Conversely, those organizations that do spent mind-share on these critical planning and management functions perform much better.  Of course not all their projects are successful, but many more are, and they know when things are turning for the worse and can fix them sooner.  The three key points of the presentation were.

  1. Critical IT Systems present significant risks to organizations
  2. IT estimating processes are core to reducing risk
  3. IT estimation & metrics can help mitigate risk & empower program managers to be successful

PS:  I also got a little R&R in, scuba diving about 100 kilometers outside Manila.  Beautiful diving and very unusual dive boats… This is the exact style, but not the actual boat we dove from.

Thank you for reading “Dan on Estimating”, if you would like more information about Galorath’s estimation models, please visit our contact page, call us at +1 310 414-3222 or click a button below to ask sales questions, sign up for our free library or schedule a demo.




Understanding Cost & Affordability Using SEER as a Common Benchmark, Driven By Facts

I was pleased to present at the joint CAST / Galorath event.  My paper, “Understanding Cost & Affordability Using SEER as a Common Benchmark, Driven By Facts,” covers use of parametrics as a common language for describing estimation problems and solutions.  It also points out how parametrics can be the basis of affordability trade-offs even when the final cost may be produced bottoms-up.  Additionally it illustrates how SEER parametrics combine with data and provide traceability and confidence by the facts of prior systems.  The following graphic illustrates the savings in time as well as the potential number of affordability analyses that can be done with SEER versus manually:

This briefing also touches on the Carter DoD “Better Buying Initiative” and affordability analysis to provide “will cost” analysis.

Thank you for reading “Dan on Estimating”, if you would like more information about Galorath’s estimation models, please visit our contact page, call us at +1 310 414-3222 or click a button below to ask sales questions, sign up for our free library or schedule a demo.




The Future of Software Analysis and Measurement : Expert Panel Questions & Answers

Here are some of the questions that were answered after the webinar with Bill Curtis, David Herron, and Dan Galorath.  They were answered on Cast software’s Facebook page.

What about aerospace component level software and how would you apply a cost factor their  complexity factors?

Daniel Galorath The way we do this in SEER is to apply people, process, technology, complexity, and constraints to the components.   SEER would then output the cost.

What is IFPUG Back Fired Points, how does it help?

Daniel Galorath Backfiring  means counting lines of code then using a number of lines per function point to approximate function points.  I think it is much better than nothing for a finger in the wind.  Many others in the industry object strongly to it.

Another question – What type of information is needed to start using a software analysis and measurement tool?

Bill Curtis First  you need to know how you want to use the results.  That will help you establish criteria for evaluating which of the various tools best meets your needs.  The Goal-Question-Metric paradigm is a good guide for determining what your measurement needs are.

Here’s  another question from the webinar – Would like to understand how we can  improve our ability to capture metrics (defect density either using effective loc and or functional point) for applications that rely heavily on database’s where the logic resides – e.g to map biz rules existing in table rows/columns etc?

Daniel Galorath Generally  you would count the work involved in building the database, not the entry of the data into the database itself. SEER will provide estimates of defect density, etc.  From my understanding CAST can provide measurement of this.

What  is the panel’s opinion on LLOC to FP translation such as QSM language by language table which they developed from their database.

Daniel Galorath While  lines of code do not translate into function points and most people object to “backfiring”  it does make sense to relate function points to  effective effort units.. that is effort that has not yet been adjusted for complexity, technology, constraints, etc.

Do you have to have a technology inventory?

Bill Curtis Having an inventory of the technologies you are supporting is a necessary first step in trying to reduce IT costs, since reducing the number of technologies may be a critical issue. Even when organization has tools that allow easy entry of effort the developer/tester/reviewer doesn’t want to spend time to enter the data – this is a culture thing or motivation (understands value in collecting the data) In some environments it is required by law (government contracting). If developers don’t collect accurate effort data, they will always be subject to effort estimates that dramatically underestimate the time that the work will actually require. It is in developers best interest to record accurate effort data.

How do you extend the IT governance to software suppliers? what requirements to pose to them?

Bill Curtis Customers are starting to write measurable quality targets such as robustness or security targets into their outsourcing contracts as the equivalent of service level agreements. They then establish a Quality Gate where all software received is measured and evaluated before being put in operation. If the supplier’s software falls below the quality target they must remediate the code or face a financial penalty.

 

Thank you for reading “Dan on Estimating”, if you would like more information about Galorath’s estimation models, please visit our contact page, call us at +1 310 414-3222 or click a button below to ask sales questions, sign up for our free library or schedule a demo.




DoD Affordability: Implementing Directive For Ash Carter Initiative

November 8, 2010 · Filed Under General, Project Management, Thoughts · Comment 

A lot of people are interested in DoD’s initiative for improving affordability, often referred to as the Ash Carter memo.  Here it is from NDIA and others: “Implementation Directive for Better Buying Power: Guidance for Obtaining Greater Efficiency and Productivity in Defense Spending,” issued by Dr. Ashton Carter, DoD AT&L, concerning implementation instructions for a series of measures aimed at improving efficiencies and reducing costs in support of Secretary Gates’ Efficiency Initiative.  This directive and guidance are effective immediately.

- CLick here for Document

Thank you for reading “Dan on Estimating”, if you would like more information about Galorath’s estimation models, please visit our contact page, call us at +1 310 414-3222 or click a button below to ask sales questions, sign up for our free library or schedule a demo.




Capers Jones, Gary Gack, Leon Kappleman, Dan Galorath Team Up To Improve IT

January 20, 2010 · Filed Under General, Project Management · Comment 

From the consortium web site:

Information Systems Risk Management Consortium Charter

Written on January 28, 2010 at 4:25 pm, by adminThe consortium is the result of four of the industry’s leaders (Capers Jones, Gary Gack, Leon Kappelman, Dan Galorath) deciding to pool our expertise and form a consortium called the Information Systems Risk Management Consortium for the purpose of offering our combined talents to assist the information systems industry.  The process improvement results we’ve achieved with other diversified government and industry organizations and large distributed companies has convinced us we can help you accelerate your strategic initiatives while improving tactical performance with measurable results within a 6 to 18 month calendar window.

Our experiences can help your teams identify and reduce the potential risks earlier in the project life cycle.  In most cases the problems and failures are avoidable if you know what to look for, what to do about them, have repeatable processes, appropriate practices, and utilize independent expertise like ours both before and after contracts are awarded.  Federal Government organizations a world-class companies often lack the necessary in-house expertise to ensure success in these high-risk, complex, multi-year initiatives.  Independent specialists with world-class experience and capabilities can provide the critical differentiator needed to manage successfully large high-risk projects.

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Thank you for reading “Dan on Estimating”, if you would like more information about Galorath’s estimation models, please visit our contact page, call us at +1 310 414-3222 or click a button below to ask sales questions, sign up for our free library or schedule a demo.




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