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Benefits of Function Point Counting and Estimation

It has been said that one cannot manage what one cannot measure. eSell's FP-based metrics allow measurement both before the project begins (for cost estimating) and during the project phases (for mid-course corrections and status checks). In the final analysis, without metrics, the delivery organization would have had no rational way of managing the project. For the customer, it was all about limiting their exposure on a "bleeding edge" project.

The key benefits to eSell's customers with this approach include:

  • Birth of the collaborative partnership: The project launch event with the initial FPE meeting is a microcosm of the entire project. It is a mini-project that has a start, a process, a deliverable (the FPE worksheet and the plan), and an end. Because the client is intimately involved more as a partner, the collaborative nature of the entire project is introduced. Delivering the size/effort/scope plan is a small enough deliverable to be an early and quick success for all. The tone is set, the ice is broken, and ground rules are established for the long-term relationship. We have found that the chance of a successful project is increased if the relationship sought from the outset with the customer is that of a partner—a truly concerned compatriot—and not an arms-length "vendor."

  • Focus on ultimate end-user: FPE forces the entire team to view the world from their customer's customer perspective (sometimes the customer's customer's customer). The ability-to statements serve to anchor the end-user's voice in the process. Combine this with an implementation methodology that physically engages the end-users, and you can virtually guarantee customer acceptance and satisfaction at go-live. Thus success is measured predominantly by end-user adoption, engagement, and satisfaction. A project that deploys an application that is on time and on budget but is rejected by its ultimate end-users is still a horrific failure.

  • Managing client expectations: The FPE worksheet is the vehicle by which the client's expectations can be accurately set and then tracked as the project proceeds. This includes both the scope of the functionality and the projected costs. With mid-project re-estimations, the client can manage the size of functional changes and their budgetary ramifications. It gives the customer the project cockpit instrumentation (sufficient metrics) and flight controls (ability to make corrections at a detailed level) necessary to manage and mitigate risk. This is especially apparent with the line-item-veto capability during the FPE process.

  • Better designs: FPE requires design reviews by disinterested third parties (the FP analysts) who are by necessity senior software architects in eSell's process. This is often done multiple times during the project, each time improving the design.

  • Accurate forecasts of effort: The project kickoff and FPE process reviews all client business processes with the client experts and the project design team at a very fine grain. The elementary business transactions correspond to FP elementary processes. Because each is sized and the effort estimated, the ramifications of adding, changing, or deleting functionality on budget is readily apparent. Without these metrics, sales and services would have been estimating too low or too high, with the inevitable result of disappointing either the client or eSell management. Customer satisfaction would certainly suffer. This could even have created a situation where liability would be a factor.

  • Credibility: eSell earns credibility from two perspectives. First, discussions are done at the business problem level, not at the technology feature/function level. The customer's customer's view is represented. Discussing at this level is more difficult but more compelling and effective than the traditional alternatives. Second, the teams fielded are senior experts who clearly inject the voice of experience. This shows especially in the level and quality of the questions asked, including those the client has not even thought about. Ultimately the client is enlightened by the process and ensuing discussions, which include analysis of the issues at the complete systems level. It becomes clear that this team of experts has solved these types of problems before. eSell's customers are being tasked by their Boards of Directors to jump on the Internet business wave. Many of these brick-and-mortar companies have been doing business the same traditional way for decades. To survive, they must gain enough confidence to become early adopters, but they are faced with the dot-com meltdown of the recent past and its associated marketing hype. Who can they trust? On what claims can they bet their company's future? The credibility earned during the project kickoff and FPE process alleviates many of these concerns.

The rigorous detail, standardized objective analysis, quantitative approach, lack of reliance on "guesstimation" and hand-waving, and line-item veto all gave eSell's customers a feeling of confidence in their ability to manage the project and budget risk and still have a high probability of success.

Let us now examine the component parts of this function point estimation program, as adapted and adopted at eSell. The following sections detail eSell's actual implementation of these atomic parts, listed here:

  • Extensions to the International Function Point Users Group (IFPUG) Counting Practices Manual 4.1 or CPM 4.1

  • The FPE worksheet

  • The productivity database repository

  • The processes used

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