Friday, April 20, 2007

Great resources for estimating

There are two new books on estimating that I've been finding very useful recently, and one older one. The older one first; and here you understand I'm not referring to Larry Putnam Senior himself! It's his book, co-authored with Ware Myers, "Measures for Excelence: Reliable software on time on budget" that remains a classic, full of helpful advice and packed with actual measures from real projects. I met Larry in 1992 just after his book came out, when I was in Washington with Ed Yourdon presenting some research on software reuse from Japan. He kindly gave me a signed copy and it has been in frequent use since that time, and was a key source for my own book "Better Software Faster" published in 2002. Putnam and Myers' latest book "Five Core Metrics" is another excellent resource which highlights the essentials that all software projects should measure, with practical information about how to do it. In case you're wondering the five are:
  • Time
  • Effort
  • Quality
  • Productivity
  • Size
While Putnam and Myers experience covers projects ranging from the small to the truly massive, using a wide range of methodologies and covering five decades of software projects, Mike Cohn's book "Agile Estimating and Planning" is focused very much on the agile development processes of more recent history. It is similarly an excellent read with a mass of very practical advice for project managers of agile projects. I particularly liked the "Planning Poker" variant of the Wideband Delphi approach (!) but there are many other practical suggestions and insights, including discussions of burndown charts, velocity and prioritisation.

The challenge for me, working as I am on the product direction of xProcess, is to ensure that the full range of techniques and processes represented in these books is well supported by the underlying model and user interface of the product. xProcess has always been about agility, and in particular bringing powerful techniques from established project management methods and making them available to managers and participants of agile projects in such a way that they remain agile. These books similarly contribute to that drive to achieve controlled, productive and agile software projects.
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