Welcome,

This blog was produced to create a space to discuss how IT professionals manage the high-tension pressures of work life in the Information Age.

Why call it Optimal Friction™?  Simply put, we find that, for those of us in the field of Information Technology, high-pressure demands are a breeding ground for friction within and between organizations that affect us both personally and professionally.  In this environment – to build more and more in less and less time – friction is a fact of life.  Small amounts are unrealistic – too much can exacerbate conflict and drive a team to failure.  Somewhere in between lies a sweet spot where friction is optimal, serving a useful purpose, but not causing collapse - at work, in health, and at home.

We encourage our fellow professionals to weigh in on this topic.  We want to share ideas and solutions.  Welcome to the conversation.

- Michael Mah

February 28, 2013

QSM Associates, Pillar Technology Sign Partnership To Help Enterprises Transitioning to Agile

“Show Me the Data” is No Longer a Challenge, as
Companies Team-up to Tell the Truth about Agile Results

http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/02/26/ma-qsm-associates-pillar-idUSnBwpSGLha+9c+BSW20130226

PITTSFIELD, Mass., Feb 26, 2013 – QSM Associates and Pillar Technology today announced a partnership designed to deliver Agile software solutions, and benchmark time to market, speed to value and the quality of results. Under the agreement, believed to be unique in the software industry, Pillar will provide Agile enablement to enterprises, and QSM Associates will perform benchmarking services that are drawn from the software industry’s largest and most complete database of project statistics.

Pillar Technology, developer of enterprise software solutions and consulting services, uses Agile to develop software solutions at a productivity and quality rate that can be up to 10x better than the industry norms. Long before the Agile Manifesto, Pillar was built on a foundation that focused on Iterative and Incremental approaches, value focused delivery, and technical excellence.

QSM Associates provides the SLIM suite of software benchmarking and estimation tools. For more than 20 years, QSM has been researching software productivity and quality, including 10 years in the Agile environment. Using the QSM SLIM Database, comprising more than 10,000 completed software projects, QSM Associates delivers the most thorough and accurate project forecasts.

Through its proven process of structured interviews, expert observation, and assessment using SLIM, Pillar clients have produced some of the most impressive results in an ongoing study of Agile programming practices in central Ohio. The study goes beyond anecdotal claims by providing the Columbus Agile community with valuable, verified information on patterns of defect rates and time to market. It was during this study, conducted by QSM Associates, that the two companies recognized the value that collaboration could bring to customers.

“When customers say ‘show me the data,’ we have it, and now the word is getting out,” said Michael C. Mah, Managing Partner of QSM Associates. “When it became clear that some of the best Columbus results were achieved by Pillar clients, we knew that the news would spread fast, but there would be some skepticism,” he said. “QSM Associates has been tracking Agile productivity and quality for the last 10 years, using actual research data which documents the kind of productivity patterns that are rare in software.”

The SLIM database enables clients to assess and validate productivity and quality results of Agile development practices, and traditional approaches such as the waterfall method. Customers can license the database for self-assessment, or work with QSM Associates for a facilitated audit of their productivity and defect rates relative to industry norms.

“Converting to Agile can be a transformative commitment, and companies need proof that it works. Analyzing our projects with SLIM demonstrated that Agile works for us, but you don’t need to take our word for it,” said Angelo Mazzocco, Pillar Technology president. “We’re teaming-up with QSM Associates because their independent database of software development projects is like a Kelly Blue Book. QSM Associates provides a credible source based on reality, not speculation or hyperbole.”

Since the preliminary Columbus results were announced, QSM Associate has been invited to help launch similar region-based studies in Boston, Chicago, and Munich.

About Pillar Technology
Pillar Technology develops limitless Agile solutions at The Forge, a software studio that sparks breakthroughs with a “no holds barred” philosophy. As an incubator for thought leadership, The Forge allows rapid development of innovative software products and applications, serving as a resource for solving problems and achieving business goals through value focus, improved quality, and reduced waste. At the Forge, Pillar Technology’s plan-driven development allows a balance between the seeming "extremes" of vision and action, energy and focus, resulting in a catalyst for business brilliance. Information is available by emailing Steven Yaffe, syaffe@pillartechnology.com, or at www.pillartechnology.com.

About QSM Associates
QSM Associates, Inc. measures, plans, estimates and control software projects for businesses and organizations. It offers the SLIM (Software Lifecycle Management) Suite of tools, so managers can benchmark and forecast Agile, waterfall, in-house, offshore/multi-shore or ERP/package implementation projects. SLIM contains statistics from a worldwide database of more than 10,000 completed projects, enabling productivity benchmarking on the desktop. Using SLIM to dynamically run "virtual project simulations,” companies can model and forecast waterfall and Agile releases to deliver on time, within budget with >90% estimation accuracy. SLIM can also derive ROI achieved by Agile methods and other process improvements. QSM Associates offers consulting, training, and coaching to help accelerate this capability. Information is available at www.QSMA.com.

Michael Mah (Twitter: @MichaelCMah), is also the Benchmark Practice Director at the Cutter Consortium, a Boston-area IT think-tank. Along with Microsoft, Oracle, and Salesforce.com, QSM Associates is a Rally Software Strategic Partner.

QSM and SLIM are registered trademarks of Quantitative Software Management, which is headquartered in McLean, VA with partner offices and affiliates throughout the U.S., Europe and Asia.

Contact: Edward Bride, 413-442-7718 (Ed@edbride-pr.com)

more...

Continue reading "QSM Associates, Pillar Technology Sign Partnership To Help Enterprises Transitioning to Agile"

Posted by Mike at 5:02 PM | Comments (0) |

November 3, 2012

New article on Agile posted in Projects@Work

A new article I wrote on the Agile Columbus research has been published in Projects @ Work.

http://www.projectsatwork.com/content/Articles/275565.cfm

more...

Continue reading "New article on Agile posted in Projects@Work"

Posted by Mike at 12:27 PM | Comments (0) |

Good Q&A with Alistair Cockburn

Said succinctly. Enjoy.

http://www.adform.com/site/blog/adform/q-a-with-agile-hero-alistair-cockburn/

more...

Continue reading "Good Q&A with Alistair Cockburn "

Posted by Mike at 12:22 PM | Comments (0) |

October 1, 2012

Yes, Size Matters

Some time ago I released this paper on the challenges of sizing a software project. Recently I was asked about this relative to Agile Stories and Story Points. I realized it would be a good post for our blog. Enjoy! Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on “Software Size” Software is everywhere in modern life - from automobiles, airplanes, utilities, banks, to complex systems and global communications networks. They span from tiny applets that may comprise just a handful of instructions - to giant systems running millions of lines of code that took years to build. Software professionals are at the front... more...

Posted by Mike at 8:30 PM | Comments (0) |

September 6, 2012

The Results Are In: Columbus Ohio ROCKS

This Press Release on an Agile Study that I conducted for the Columbus OH technology community garnered over 1,000 views on the day following its issuance on Business Wire. This is exciting news, not only for Columbus economic development, but for the entire Agile community. Take a look and see for yourself. Congratulations Columbus! P.S. I've been added as a speaker on the Aspiring CIO Panel for the Columbus TechTomorrow Conference, where I'll be discussing what this means to today's CIOs.

This Press Release on an Agile Study that I conducted for the Columbus OH technology community garnered over 1,000 views on the day following its issuance on Business Wire. This is exciting news, not only for Columbus economic development, but for the entire Agile community. Take a look and see for yourself. Congratulations Columbus!

P.S. I've been added as a speaker on the Aspiring CIO Panel for the Columbus TechTomorrow Conference, where I'll be discussing what this means to today's CIOs.

----------------------------------------

QSM Associates, Columbus Executive Agile SIG, and COHAA Benchmarking Project Reveals Agile Development Advantage for Columbus, Ohio . Participation growing in first-ever industry study exploring disparity between local and global programming results.

PITTSFIELD, Mass., August 28, 2012 – A first-of-its-kind study analyzing the Agile development practices of one programming community –in this case, Columbus, Ohio—reveals a level of achievement that far exceeded expectations of both the analysts and the participants. The study, being conducted by software productivity researchers QSM Associates in tandem with the Central Ohio Agile Association (COHAA), bodes well for adopters of Agile software development.

Despite some initial concerns by a few participants on how they might fare on industry comparisons, "the defect data were significantly better than industry averages," according to Michael Mah, managing partner of QSM Associates. Most installations expect an improvement in schedule when adopting new technologies like Agile, said Mah, "but the improvement in quality was striking."

Early results from the Columbus-area participants show that a typical business system comprising 50,000 lines of code is completed 31% faster than the industry average in the QSM industry database of completed projects (4.4 months vs. 6.4 industry average). Even more remarkable, said Mah, is the defect rate, which is 4x better than the industry norm.

Not all participants may achieve such extreme results, Mah cautioned, because not all participants have adopted all of the best practices that lead to success. The survey does show that concepts embraced by Agile deliver remarkable results in areas of compressing a schedule and reducing defects. Some of these approaches include acceptance-test-driven development (TDD), pair programming, and co-location, Mah said. But even participants that had not adopted all of these techniques achieved better-than-average results.

The QSM Associates expertise is providing the Columbus Agile community with valuable information on factual patterns on productivity and quality instead of anecdotal claims. Moreover, the data helps answer questions about addressing development projects schedules and budgets. "Aside from the value inherent in knowing the current status, the Columbus experience will be analyzed on current and future projects, and that experience will be reflected in a continuous improvement process," said Ben Blanquera, Curator, Columbus Executive Agile SIG. "Participants never stop learning about their own productivity gains when compared with industry practices. The benchmark, as important as it is, is just a starting point that will help establish the Columbus community as a hotbed for knowledge and experience in all manner of Agile development."

The study allows participants to objectively benchmark the organization's performance to create an initial productivity baseline. This enables companies to identify strategic directions and goals, and to focus their improvement efforts with optimal efficiency, Blanquera said.

"The early results of the Columbus Agile Benchmark Study are consistent with our experience at Nationwide," said Guru Vasudeva, Senior VP and Enterprise CTO. "The data from participating companies shows a strong pattern of productivity, fast time-to-market and low cost, along with an impressively low level of defects. The fact that our own results are consistent with a larger community, in both quality and productivity, adds credibility to the claims of Agile's benefits."

"Agile is maturing. And, as more companies increase their emphasis on Test Driven Development and perhaps Acceptance Test Driven Development, we can anticipate even greater improvements," said Vasudeva. "Within Nationwide, we are seeing significant improvement in productivity and quality through Acceptance Test Driven Development."

Survey participants are able to see their own results contrasted with the industry at large; and, the Columbus community also compared the regional results in the aggregate with worldwide data. However, participants cannot identify the individual results of other companies, thus protecting the confidentiality of divisions or companies involved in the study. For this reason, Mah said, he has been able to confirm information that did not seem intuitive at first: for example, some successful Agile development shops are reversing the trend of outsourcing or "offshoring" some of their software development efforts.

"Outsourcing is proving to be an old-fashioned concept that might have worked well in old-line industries, such as manufacturing, but it is coming back to haunt new-age industries," said Bart Murphy, Treasurer of COHAA.

"Outsourcing or offshoring may make sense in an Industrial Economy based in cost-effective manufacturing," agreed Mah. "It is harder in an Information Economy when knowledge workers are trying to solve design challenges. And, now we have data to prove that. That being said, if companies do choose to outsource, benchmarking techniques serve a vital purpose in negotiation and relationship management."

The results from Columbus were aggregated into the SLIM software lifecycle management solution, which includes an industry-wide database of thousands of completed projects. SLIM allows "normal humans" to accomplish sophisticated analysis with ease, Mah said. Chief among the results is the fact that programming teams that are co-located tend to be more effective than those where expertise is geographically divided. This is one of the facts that have lead to the reassessment of outsourcing software development.

"Agile development has proven itself. In fact, we are now seeing some medium-to-large software shops actually repatriating programming resources that had been shipped to Asia or other countries, in what were considered strategic cost saving initiatives," observed COHAA's Murphy. "Although overseas development can sometimes bring dramatic schedule improvement, this often comes at a price: more defects. The cost to remediate and maintain the delivered work product outweigh the cost savings gained in the outsourced model, especially as offshore operating costs continue to rise," he added.

QSM Associates is accepting ongoing enrollments for companies that want to join the study, which will be continuous throughout 2012 and 2013. As an incentive to participate, companies receive a temporary use license of SLIM, a data capture template that captures key metrics for Agile projects, including stories, story points, time, effort, defects, velocity, and backlog.

Participants will receive a private, confidential analysis of their patterns along with the study results for the group.

QSM Associates has more than 30 years experience in helping Fortune 500 companies, and has access to the largest benchmarking database, comprising more than 10,000 projects, and believed to be the world's largest and most complete benchmarking database. The company, an affiliate of QSM, Inc., uses state-of-the-art measurement and estimation tools that are part of the QSM SLIM software lifecycle management suite.

About COHAA

The Central Ohio Agile Association (COHAA) is a non-profit group of IT and Business professionals dedicated to finding a better way to deliver software. COHAA promotes the use of Agile practices and principles in project management, software development, quality assurance, and business analysis with an emphasis on solution delivery.

COHAA supports and promotes the adoption of Agile practices in software development and delivery, and acts as a resource for individuals and organizations that use, or are interested in using Agile frameworks and practices such as XP, SCRUM, TDD, FDD, Lean, & KANBAN.

About QSM Associates

QSM Associates, Inc. helps organizations measure, plan, estimate and control software projects. It offers the SLIM (Software Lifecycle Management) Suite of tools, so managers can benchmark and forecast Agile, waterfall, in-house, offshore/multi-shore or ERP/package implementation projects. SLIM contains statistics from a worldwide database of more than 10,000 completed projects, enabling productivity benchmarking on the desktop. Using SLIM to dynamically run "virtual project simulations,” companiescan model and forecast waterfall and Agile releases to deliver on time, within budget with >90% estimation accuracy. SLIM can also derive ROI achieved by Agile methods and other process improvements. QSM Associates offers consulting, training, and coaching to help accelerate this capability. Information is available at www.QSMA.comor email info@qsma.com .

Michael Mah (Twitter: @MichaelCMah), Managing Partner is also the Benchmark Practice Director at the Cutter Consortium, a Boston-area IT think-tank. Along with Microsoft, Oracle, and Salesforce.com, QSMA is a Rally Software Strategic Partner.

## #

QSM and SLIM are registered trademarks of Quantitative Software Management, which is headquartered in McLean, VA with partner offices and affiliates throughout the U.S., Europe and Asia.

Contact: Edward Bride, 413-442-7718 (Ed@edbride-pr.com)

more...

Continue reading "The Results Are In: Columbus Ohio ROCKS"

Posted by Mike at 12:42 PM | Comments (0) |

August 10, 2012

Seven Steps to Project Failure

Excellent post by Don Beckett from our QSM office in McLean VA. Nice piece Don! Seven Steps to Software Project Failure By Donald Beckett In spite of 30 years of structured programming, CASE tools, OO development, 4th GL languages, CMMI, and PMI, the failure rate for larger projects has failed to respond to all of this love and attention. We normally think of failure as a negative thing; but it can have its upside. Saddling a competitor or enemy with a doomed project could stain their career or at the very least inflict a high level of pain on them.... more...

Posted by Mike at 7:12 PM | Comments (0) |

May 17, 2012

The Columbus Agile Productivity Benchmark Project;

venue-arena-grand1.jpg

Come join me and other thought leaders at The Path to Agility Conference in Columbus OH! Here's my talk slated for Wed May 23rd!

The Columbus Agile Productivity Benchmark Project;
Initial Insights from Project Data

Kent Beck, the visionary behind Extreme Programming, once said that Agile projects would be considered more successful - in the sense that they’d deliver more functionality with fewer defects. In essence, higher productivity and quality.

With Agile now becoming mainstream, is that truly the case? What patterns are being found in the vibrant agile tech community in Columbus OH?

Industry research from QSM Associates reveals varying degrees of Agile success. Some of the best teams - whether they be XP, SCRUM, Lean, etc. are finding Beck’s statement to be true. Others are not. What factors can make a meaningful difference?

The Columbus Agile Productivity vs. Industry study is looking to discover such patterns. Whether new to Agile or not, we’ll be determining baselines for this vibrant Columbus Agile community. Using a combination of velocity, burndown, and quality metrics, we will seek to understand productivity, time-to-market, quality, and cost patterns as this community matures. Serving as a comparison framework is the QSM SLIM industry database, with more than 10,000 completed projects (waterfall, agile, offshore, onshore) collected worldwide.

This talk will describe the group progress observed thus far, with initial discoveries that can help accelerate your Agile success. Join us for an overview of this project, and find out how you can participate if these goals are also important to you, your development, and your executive teams.

more...

Continue reading "The Columbus Agile Productivity Benchmark Project;"

Posted by Mike at 4:25 PM | Comments (0) |

January 22, 2012

Next Stop: Two Talks in Munich Germany

OOP 2012 Conference, Munich Germany

Marienplatz.JPG

http://www.sigs-datacom.de/oop2012/oop2012-eng/conference/english-sessions.html

Sustainability: Empowering the next generation

The financial crisis is still present, currently even revived with the Euro crisis. Additionally catastrophes like Deepwater Horizon or Fukushima remind us that aiming for the quick win is not necessarily beneficial for the long run. In all areas we’re asked to ensure that the next generation is empowered, by sustaining systems and strategies. Therefore it’s time for us to reflect on what this means in the software profession. One of the principles of the Agile Manifesto makes this very clear by stating “Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.” The Clean-Code-Movement requests technical sustainability by simply asking to stop building legacy systems. Thus this year’s OOP program strives for answering questions like: what kinds of tools, architectures, and techniques support building sustaining systems that are beneficial to the next generation; which designs and languages will enable a sustaining quality in a product; and how do management techniques, social skills, and (agile) processes help empowering people on the long run.

For over 20 years, the OOP conference provides a platform in particular for developers, architects, and technical (project) leaders to gain an excellent overview of the state-of-the-art in modern software engineering. The focus has always been on cutting edge techniques that have also proven to be successful in practical use. This year’s conference covers not only the essentials of software development like requirements engineering, testing & quality aspects, software architecture and IT management, yet the program will allow also to dive into the details of Integration Architectures like SOA, Large Scale or Distributed Systems. Moreover, participants can explore the essence of Modern Web and Cloud Architecture as well as technical architectural details such as Multicore, Parallelism, Security, High Availability, Scalability, Functional Approaches, Product Lines, and Platforms. If you are more interested in coding details you will most likely find sessions on Mobile and Embedded Development, DSL, MDD, OpenSource, and Coding particularly interesting. However, if we talk about sustainability – focusing on the technical aspects isn’t enough. Therefore the program will stimulate as well new ideas in the areas of people and soft skills and will cover proven and new techniques in Agility, Lean, Scrum, and Kanban.

In this year’s OOP we want to stress the interaction and networking of all participants. Tabletop football and the traditional ‘IT-Stammtisch’ – where IT seniors reflect on what has happened over the last year in software – ensure that we will as well enjoy our time together. The Open Arena (OOP’s deviation of OpenSpace) in the exhibition hall invites everyone to share his or her experiences and explore new topics with others.

I’m looking forward to welcoming you at the conference!

Jutta Eckstein

Technical Chair
OOP conference
Jutta Eckstein

more...

Continue reading "Next Stop: Two Talks in Munich Germany"

Posted by Mike at 8:31 PM | Comments (0) |

October 10, 2011

Ugly Teams Talk in NYC

Come on down!

Ugly Teams; Managing Difficult Conversations in Agile and Offshoring with Michael Mah

htthttp://nyspin1110.eventbrite.com/?utm_source=eb_email&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=event_reminder&utm_term=event_titlep://

NYC%20Night.jpg

more...

Continue reading "Ugly Teams Talk in NYC"

Posted by Mike at 4:22 PM | Comments (0) |

September 15, 2011

Provocative Ideas in Hartford CT on Outsourcing, Agile, and more...

QAAC%20ChapterLogo2010.png

http://www.qaac.org/

Join me for two thought-provoking talks in Harford CT on Friday September 16th. I'll be talking about trends in Managing Outsourcing, and Avoiding Dysfunction Using Agile.

more...

Continue reading "Provocative Ideas in Hartford CT on Outsourcing, Agile, and more..."

Posted by Mike at 3:45 PM | Comments (0) |

July 7, 2011

Why I Buy Apple Products

AppleStore%20Waikiki.jpg

Recently while visiting family and vacationing in Honolulu my son had an iPhone accident - our fault - only 3 days after my daughter had her phone stolen.

Micah at the Apple Store in Waikiki listened to our dilemma and logged into my Apple profile. He discovered that we were loyal customers. With a friendly smile, he set us up for a replacement on the spot.

Amazing customer service brings loyal customers. He laughed when he saw that my Apple profile revealed a message about my purchases, "Too many products to list on one page." There's are reasons for that. Now another reason is Micah at the Apple Store on 2301 Kalakaua Ave in Honolulu :) Thank you Micah, if you're reading this!

more...

Continue reading "Why I Buy Apple Products"

Posted by Mike at 7:43 PM | Comments (0) |

June 8, 2011

Deception and Estimating; How We Fool Ourselves

I think everyone needs to see this morning keynote address by my friend Linda Rising at the Better Software Conference in Las Vegas on June 9th:

BSCE2011WebHeader%20FINAL.jpg


Deception and Estimating: How We Fool Ourselves

Linda Rising, Independent Consultant

Cognitive scientists tell us that we are hardwired for deception—overly optimistic about outcomes. In fact, we surely wouldn't have survived without this trait. With this built-in bias as a starting point, it's no wonder that software managers and teams almost always develop poor estimates. But that doesn't mean all is lost. We must simply accept that our estimates are optimistic guesses and continually re-evaluate as we go. Linda Rising has been part of many development projects where sincere, honest people wanted to make the best estimates possible and used “scientific” approaches to make it happen—and all for naught. In many projects, because re-estimation was regarded as an admission of failure, the team spent too much time and endless meetings trying to “get it right.” Offering examples from ordinary life—especially from the way people eat and drink—Linda demonstrates how hard it is for us to see our poor estimating skills and offers practical advice on living and working with the self-deception that is hardwired in all of us.

http://www.sqe.com/BetterSoftwareConf/Keynotes/Default.aspx

more...

Continue reading "Deception and Estimating; How We Fool Ourselves"

Posted by Mike at 10:41 PM | Comments (0) |

April 4, 2011

Man Vans, Speed, Technical Debt, and You

ManVan%20Blog.JPG

I have what some people call a "Man Van." It has 4WD, alloy wheels, big ice-grip snow tires, tinted glass, and a 200-watt stereo. David E. Davis, past editor of Automobile Magazine, once wrote that his Man Van was his favorite car, even compared to his Ferrari and Dodge Viper. I'm no soccer mom, but as a single father of two, I can haul dorm-room piles of student belongings up and down the US East Coast. Most important, in a snow or sleet storm, I can drag-race anyone and leave them eating my dust ... um, snow.

The Man Van is large and heavy, like a large software team. It gets decent fuel economy unless you try to push it hard and fast, which is when wind resistance takes its toll. I once pushed the Man Van to 90 miles per hour on the highway, glancing at the radar detector at the slightest beep. Sure enough, my fuel economy degraded dramatically. Trying to go even faster had a diminishing rate of return as wind resistance increased. (Don't try this at home, folks.)

OGT06%20377.jpg

Trying to push a large software team fast also hits a compressible limit. Recently, I consulted on a high-pressure project with a tight deadline. To go really fast, management ramped the team up to 70 people. Despite this giant offshore and onshore hoard, the schedules refused to shorten beyond a certain point, and the team began missing its dates. It reached what we call "terminal velocity" that defined the minimum development time. All projects have a minimum development time. It's where wind resistance matches the forward driving force of the team.

What determines this minimum development time? Obviously, the first is project size and scope. If it's an absolute truth that to deliver 82 features requires six months -- no less -- then wishing you can deliver in four months is pure fantasy. "Reality will prevail," as I like to say -- plain and simple.

Another driver is productivity. In agile development, this is often referred to as "velocity." To me, I see it more as the "innate productivity" of a team actually results in a certain velocity. All organizations have an upper limit on productivity. The problem is that most organizations have never measured this and don't know what it is. It's driven by several factors, such as the experience of the team, the development approach, and the natural complexity of the task at hand -- all acting in combination. These and other factors limit productivity to some upper threshold. It's there, whether or not you know it.

Then there's a third factor at play, and this is related to wind resistance. It has to do with the limits of large teams and what happens to defects as you ramp up staff in order to compress time. Ask anyone in a room whether defects tend to go down or go up as you try to compress time with large teams. The answer is that defects will rise. What most people don't realize, based on research on thousands of projects, is that if you double team size, say from 35 people to 70 people, then you get a geometric rise in defects. It's typical that they'll rise by as much as 400%. In the worst case, I've seen numbers climb as high as 600%. This is known as the Fourth Power Tradeoff Law, discovered by industry pioneer Larry Putnam, Sr., and built into a project database called the QSM SLIM model. It's the result of the geometric rise in miscommunication as more and more people are thrown on a project under time pressure. Haste makes waste. (Good software estimation and forecasting models can help you avoid waste.)

When the deadline finally arrives and a software release isn't ready, it sometimes comes down to a terrible choice: shipping with lots of bugs, or slipping the date and spending more money. Given that choice, many execs often say two tragic words: ship it. BAM! Instant technical debt. (Let's just hope that the software isn't meant to fly airplanes or run other safety-critical systems.)

It's this defect factor that acts like wind resistance to limit the speed of a large software team. It gets even worse when large teams aren't co-located or are spread across far-away time zones and long distances. Aside from miscommunication due to giant-sized teams, you get mistakes from language barriers or thick accents, or fatigue when it's midnight for you and noon for them. One manager in Germany told me that, when speaking to a team in Singapore, people were attempting to understand each other on complex problems in English, a language that was foreign to all of them. They couldn't communicate well, and critical missteps killed the project.

Relentless pressure to make a date starts a vicious cycle of technical debt, which includes latent defects in production software that eventually must be corrected (e.g., paid down), else the business suffers in the form of potential software outages, poor performance, and/or a host of other consequences of buggy software. If this debt is not paid down due to neglect in software maintenance, technical debt simply accrues. Finally, at some point, this debt begins to crush the business, and diversion of critical staff resources toward repairing production code is needed.

Where do these staff resources come from? Obviously, from skilled developers in the company who know the systems and architecture the best. However, diverting their efforts to paying down technical debt diminishes velocity and productivity for developing new applications. Relentless schedule pressure continues, projects fall short, and the vicious cycle continues.

So what's the answer? Well, it sounds simple: in an ideal world, you run a project with the smartest people you can find, sitting colocated to the greatest extent possible, while planning and estimating the scope of the project within the limits of that team's productivity. That kind of team, if you can get it, responds quickly to change, builds cleaner code, and finishes sooner because they finish testing faster, since there are far fewer bugs in the first place. Another potential answer is in using agile methods to mitigate the communication complexity imposed by the conditions cited above. While no panacea, benchmarking research studies that show that the introduction of high-bandwidth communication techniques espoused by agile can often mitigate these risks.

Or you can push a big brick-shaped Man Van against the wind, burn lots of fuel, and risk crashing it if you push it too far beyond its limits.

You are welcome to share your thoughts and impressions about this topic via comments on this blog post.

-- Michael Mah, Benchmark Practice Director, Cutter Consortium

more...

Continue reading "Man Vans, Speed, Technical Debt, and You"

Posted by Mike at 10:42 PM | Comments (0) |

April 1, 2011

Join me at the QUEST Software Quality Conference in Boston!

boston-skyline.jpg

I'm excited for next week's Keynote Address on Thursday April 7th at the QUEST Software Quality and Testing Conference in Boston. If you don't come see me, at least try and also make it for the talks of the excellent other keynote speakers, Anders Vinberg and Peggy Layden. I'll be there to hear their talks for sure!

Meanwhile, here's an overview of what I'll be presenting:

Geography Matters: What Measurement Tells Us about Offshoring, Agile Methods, and the “Flat World”

Has the digital revolution really made it possible to do almost anything collaboratively, even with people separated by time and distance, thereby, making it feasible to construct the optimal project team from throughout the world? Or, are the decisions to split software development around the globe coming primarily from pressure by CFOs to cut costs? Countering and complimenting the multi-shoring trend is a powerful new movement that looks at the force of concentration, or the “clustering,” of human creativity and talent, claiming that powerful innovation and economic gains result when smart and talented people locate closely to one another. This is the view the Nobel Prize winning economist Robert Lucas and the message of the agile revolution. Who is right?

To answer this question, Michael looks at what measurement data says about offshore and agile projects, and about teams separated by distance or co-located. Michael will present case studies of real companies and contrast the results from the two philosophies. What you find may challenge long-held beliefs about knowledge work, commoditization, and innovation. Get to know the benefits, preconditions, and fundamental principles of test design methods. This keynote will spark new ways of looking at measurement, management, and strategy in the self-organizing and collaborative environment that will be required for software development in the next decade.

* Learn what Industry Data is revealing about software productivity and quality
* See how CFOs "get it wrong" in using offshoring to drive down costs
* Discover what data on agile is showing us about software quality and time-to-market

As managing partner at QSM Associates Inc., Michael Mah teaches, writes, and consults to technology companies on estimating and managing software projects, whether in-house, offshore, waterfall, or agile. He is the director of the Benchmarking Practice at the Cutter Consortium, a Boston-based IT think-tank, and served as past editor of the IT Metrics Strategies publication. With over 25 years of experience, Michael and his partners at QSM have derived productivity patterns for thousands of projects collected worldwide across engineering and business applications. His current work examines the time-pressure dynamic of teams, and its role in project success and failure. In addition to his background in physics and electrical engineering, Michael is a mediator specializing in dispute resolution for technology projects.

http://www.qaiquest.org/boston/keynote.html

more...

Continue reading "Join me at the QUEST Software Quality Conference in Boston!"

Posted by Mike at 11:10 PM | Comments (0) |

March 25, 2011

For All You Foodies Out There...

The following url link does not refer to the software industry, time pressure on technology projects, offshoring, agile, or anything of the sort.

It's a remarkable essay by an 18 year-old emergent writer and potential marine biologist college student named Tara Mah (my daughter) who has found her voice as she expresses concern about what we're doing when we eat meat without considering its origins and the ramifications of how it got to our plates.

Tara has chosen a vegetarian way of life, which I fully support, and she wrote this in her new blog about what corporate food production does to animals, in order to package the nice, neat cellophane wrapped chicken, pork, and beef that we buy every day.

I was so impressed with her heartfelt insights that I told her that I would celebrate her thoughts on this issue by re-posting what she wrote on her Dad's blog. What you read here might raise your awareness, as it helped raised mine.

There's a Crosby, Stills and Nash song for all you fellow baby boomers out there called "Teach Your Children". You might know the phrase where it shifts and says, "Teach your parents well, their father's hell, will slowly go by, and feed them on your dreams..."

When I was a young 14 year old listening to those lyrics, I never imagined how fascinating it would be to live those words, now that I'm a 51 year-old single father of two. Enjoy this essay. I'd welcome your comments.

http://sphericalbirds.blogspot.com/2011/03/personal-choice-yet-global-horror.html

more...

Continue reading "For All You Foodies Out There..."

Posted by Mike at 1:05 AM | Comments (0) |

February 16, 2011

What's Next For The Agile Manifesto?

I like that the Salt Lake City Agilistas came up with the following per Dennis Stevens' blog post:

Demand Technical Excellence

At the end of the day, you can’t deliver value through technology if you are not delivering quality. This category brings in aspects of architectural, engineering, and design. This is still a pressing issue and must be addressed in the community to deliver on the promise of the Agile Manifesto.

Promote Individual Change and Lead Organizational Change

Here is an example of a sentence that we had a broad range of perspectives on. Without adoption by individuals and alignment of organizational governance and management models, Agile won’t deliver on its value proposition.

Organize Knowledge and Promote Education

This isn’t just about the practitioners, it includes the broader business context as well. The community needs to build on the broad body of knowledge that exists within and outside the community – we have to avoid reinventing everything. Diversity of thought is important to the ongoing growth of the community – but we don’t actually do a very good job of intentionally building on the body of knowledge.

Maximize Value Creation Across the Entire Process

Software Development is not an end unto itself. Too many organizations moving toward Agile are focused on just the software development team. This is only valuable to the point that the software development team is the constraint in the organization. We need to learn how to do a better job of defining value and aligning the cadence across the organization and improving the flow of value from concept to delivery.

more...

Continue reading "What's Next For The Agile Manifesto?"

Posted by Mike at 7:49 PM | Comments (0) |

January 18, 2011

OOP 2011 in Munich Germany with Tom DeMarco

Come join me in at OOP 2011 Munich, Germany next week since my NYC event tomorrow is going to be canceled due to weather! Me, you, and a bunch of technical experts and software professionals from Germany, Switzerland, and the rest of Europe :)

http://www.sigs-datacom.de/oop2011/oop2011-eng/latest-news.html

Munich%20at%20Night.JPG

more...

Continue reading "OOP 2011 in Munich Germany with Tom DeMarco"

Posted by Mike at 1:07 AM | Comments (0) |

December 28, 2010

Bummer of a Production Defect

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Typo.JPG

more...

Continue reading "Bummer of a Production Defect"

Posted by Mike at 9:33 PM | Comments (0) |