Implementation based on Function Points Analysis

 

After having a great experience supporting organizations in the Function Points Applications since 1998, our company believes that one of the main obstacles to have a successful implementation of FPA is the lack of a strategic perspective. When this happens, the benefits obtained hardly justify the investments. This situation ends up with the FPA not being fomally applied and resources are wasted.

  

Our experience shows that if professionals or an entire team is trained on FPA without strategic perspective, it is an insufficient action. Both cases lack infrastructure. In addition of management support (main success factor), there are two other key factors to the successful implementation of metrics: a core competency in metrics and estimates aligned to a metrics repository of projects.

  

The implementation process can be easier if the organization is involved in initiatives such as ISO, Six- Sigma, CMMI, PMI and Balance Scorecard. In this case, common objectives and projects complement each other. The key is knowing how to associate and prove this to the sponsors.

 

FATTO Software Consulting defines the quality of this service if a successful implementation of metric infrastructure is reached. A cultural transformation is necessary in which the individual experience and subjectivity is gradually changed by metrics that reflect the collective experience of the organization in the Software development, support and / or contracting.

  

In case your organization does not have the resources and / or interest in creating a core competency in metrics, it can still achieve the same benefits. FATTO Software Consulting and its certified professionals are available for execution of technical functions in this core competence.

   

Our strategy contains two main lines of action:

  

The first aims to initiate the consistent use of Function Point Analysis inserted in the context of your organization, providing preliminary indicators, providing a core competency in metrics, identifying and supporting in the adjustment of the processes being used of functional metrics.

  

The second one aims to leverage the value of functional metrics in increased predictability- best estimates and budgets. This is reached with the review of the definition, population and categorization of the historical data base of projects. Meanwhile, your organization should already have at its disposal a sample between thirty and one hundred projects with appropriate information in each project relating to effort, cost and duration. FATTO is in charge of all of the measurement work and statistical analysis. The following diagram displays our proposal of the implementation of the FPA.

 

>> Step 1

 

Planning and mobilization

 

Managerial support of metric usage is a critical success factor for its implementation and at the same time receives the most benefit for this kind of initiative. Many times, interests between managers conflict. The software company responsible mainly has an interest in offering an estimate only when the product has been specified, whereas the PMO (Project Management Office) must offer a budget before than that.

 

People who are responsible for quality have an interest in institutionalizing practices and setting standards. The development managers have an interest in responding to the demands of internal and external customers in the shortest time possible. If the whole group is not sensitized to the benefits of the labor invested, without the difficulties and restrictions of each party being considered and defined actions to overcome those restrictions, the results of the initiatives of implementation of the metrics become compromised.

 

To address these issues, we suggest for the team to participate in the FPA Course: Fundamentals, Application and Implementation and in a metric planning workshop. This methodology will allow for the organization to understand the business value of a functional measurement and explore the practical applications of function points.

 

 

The functional measurement applies to many aspects of the systems development process, including projects estimates, requirements management, change management, performance management, contract management, cost and quality control, defect prevention and productivity enhancement initiatives.

 

The product is an outline plan to implement and use functional metrics. The following diagram illustrates how it works, the activities highlighted in yellow are provided by the FATTO consultant and has a maximum duration of two consecutive days.

 

 


>> Step 2

 

Team building and "baseline" metrics

 

Our work in training professionals in Function Point Analysis is widely recognized by the market. The educational material used by the participants is the result of over 10 years of continuous evolution in courses that are open to the public and courses that are limited to private companies. See more information about ¨Training Function Point Analysis¨.

 

After this course and taking into consideration requirement documentation previously prepared, during the period of two or more days, each project selected has its functional size measured and estimated through by the students that participated in the training, under the guidance of the instructor. It is in this context that doubts arise in relation to the application of the technique. These doubts allow the group to develop a guide for measuring function points which inevitable enhances their experience and avoids rework in relation to reoccurring questions.

 

Taking the functional size information (estimated and measured) in conjunction with updated effort information, we have a first reference of productivity for the projects and the difference of the preliminary and final estimations.In about a day this data is analyzed and subsequently a presentation is prepared including the results.

  

The sample is still not sufficient to apply the techniques obtained for the planning of future projects. However, the work provides the necessary technical foundation for that matter.

 

The following diagram illustrates this stage.

 

 

>> Step 3

 

Inclusion based Function Point Analysis on developing processes

 

This is a joint effort between the FATTO consultant and the professionals from the organization that act as Quality and/or PMO and have participated in the formation of the team and "Baseline" of metrics, to choose the management, development and systems support processes that will subject to adjustment.

 

The criterion to select is to grow the overall performance. In addition to the measurement and analysis processes, others such as project planning, controlling, requirements management and contract management are usually included in this selection. The best results are obtained when the analyzed processes are the processes that are being used in the organization. -"alive." A lot of times the processes, despite being defined and documented, are not in sync with the current practices in the organization.

 

The nature of adaptation is to plan the modification to use the new instruments brought by the Function Point Analysis. The overall performance is defined in terms of the objectives established in the work of Planning and Mobilization.

 

The team evaluates the components of the processes chosen by placing the objective of preparing a proposal that shows where a modification needs to be placed and what needs to be changed. At the end, the team presents a list of recommendations to its classmates. After a review, they will present to the managing body. 

 

This work takes about four days. For organizations with formally defined processes, the goal is not to update your process documentation, but it is to define the components of action for adjustment.

 

The following diagram illustrates the proposal.

 

 

>> Step 4

 

Definition and feeding of a project’s historical database

 

One common question addressed to the metrics community is in relation to expected productivity (Function Point /Hours per day) or rate of delivery (Hour per day / Point function) in certain computing platforms and programming languages. That is natural, given the amount of effort estimated in project planning.

 

The effort, in addition to being an input for estimating the duration, is accustomed to being the main component of cost in software projects and is also fundamental for the proposal phase. In theory, it's simple. All that needs to be done is to multiply the estimate of the functional size, obtained using whichever of the techniques learned in the Function Point Analysis training, times delivery rate. However, what delivery rate should be used? Any number will not replace those selected from the data of your own organization. 

 

By measuring/estimating a project using the technique of Function Point Analysis some features are not considered. These features make up the "technical size" of the application. Currently there is no standardized metrics to measure this and they are essential so that function points can be used to estimate consistently. The following figure illustrates this dynamic.

 

  

For example, imagine two projects, both of them offer the same functionality, one was coded in Java without the use of a framework and the other one was also coded in Java, but with an extremely powerful framework. The first one will consume a larger effort even though they both have the same number of function points. If we estimate one, and we will use the rate of delivery of the other to estimate the effort, this would generate wrong estimates.

 

One way to consider the "technical size" is by the creation of profiles that include common characteristics considered by the FPA and that impact the productivity in terms of function points.

 

The main purpose of this work is the definition of the lowest profiles or categories comprising the largest number of issues impacting productivity and establish criteria that permits the framework of a new project and provide a productivity of each category. This consists in a measurement phase and data collection and another of analysis.

 

In the measurement stage, our team measures several projects. The effort, time and cost data of these projects are collected and classified in terms of their pre-defined non-functional features.

 

 

In the analysis stage, our consultants look to identify the correlation relationships, cause and effect in the tabulated data from the previous stage. Based on these relationships, we define the categories, then we set for the productivity indicators. That work is repeated until the best configuration is set up.

 

The evaluation criterion is the comparison between actual data of tabulated projects and projected data using the numbers generated for each category that each project belongs to. The diagram below illustrates this work. 

 

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