Applying Earned Value Management to Software Intensive Programs

Many information technology projects have been declared too costly, too late. and often don’t work right.  Applying appropriate technical and management techniques can significantly improve the current situation. The principal causes of growth on these large-scale programs can be traced to several causes related to overzealous advocacy, immature technology, lack of corporate technology roadmaps, requirements instability, ineffective acquisition strategy, unrealistic program baselines, inadequate systems engineering, and work-force issues.   This article provides a brief summary of four processes to resolve these issuesEstablishing a Process for Requirements Definition and Developing the Technical, Cost and Schedule BaselinesWe all realize the importance of having a motivated, quality work force but even our finest people can’t perform at their best when the process is not understood or not operating at its best.  A well defined process is critical to defining the requirements and completing the initial cost and schedule estimate.  The proper use of Performance-Based Earned Value® (PBEV) provides for integration of project technical scope, schedule, and cost objectives; and the establishment of a baseline plan for performance measurement.  Additionally, the use of an analytic application to project likely cost and schedule based on actual performance provides for realistic projections of future performance.  Success of the project can be aided by defining the best objectives, by planning resources and costs which are directly related to those objectives, by measuring accomplishments objectively against the plan, by identifying performance trends and problems as early as possible, and by taking timely corrective actions. In the book, “Software Sizing, Estimation and Risk Management” (Dan Galorath and Michael Evans, 2007) a ten step process is presented for program requirements generation and estimation.   The 10 steps are:1.    Establish Estimate Scope2.    Establish Technical Baseline, Ground Rules, and Assumptions3.    Collect Data4.    Estimate and Validate Software Size5.    Prepare Baseline Estimates6.    Review, Verify and Validate Estimate7.    Quantify Risks and Risk Analysis8.    Generate a Project Plan9.    Document Estimate and Lessons Learned10.    Track Project Throughout DevelopmentThe key here is to establish an auditable, repeatable set of steps to establish the requirements and develop the baseline estimate of cost and schedule. Identifying Critical Software Management MetricsThat most large software programs get into trouble is a demonstrated phenomenon.  Therefore selecting the correct set of software metrics to track is critical to program success.  Practical Software Measurement (McGarry, Card, Jones; Addison-Wesley, 2002) identifies seven information categories and expands these information categories into measurable concepts and then prospective metrics . For Earned Value purposes, the most effective software metrics are those that relate to product size, schedule, quality, and progress.  For software intensive programs, measures of quantity (e.g. number of lines of code completed) do not accurately reflect the quality aspects of the work performed on neither the program nor the actual progress since items such as lines of code completed do not capture items such as integration, testing, etc. Size is often measured as Source Lines of Code (SLOC) or Function Points and used as a sizing measure for budgets and for earned value using a percent of completion method.  There are two critical problems with this approach.  First, there has traditionally been a significant error in estimating SLOC.  And, the number of lines of code completed does not necessarily reflect the quality or total progress toward a performance goal.  Therefore, any progress metric based solely on SLOC is highly volatile.  Whether SLOC, function points, Use Cases, or some other size artifact is selected, a careful process must be utilized to establish a credible size metric.   It is recommended that in addition to tracking progress toward a goal, size growth should also be tracked.Schedule metrics and procedures normally relate to completion milestones are also a common tracking metric.  Sometimes these milestone definitions and completion criteria lack quantifiable objectives.   Often an incremental build is released that does not incorporate all the planned functional requirements or a developer claims victory after just testing the nominal cases.Progress metrics can be very difficult for large software programs.  It is generally agreed that no software is delivered defect free.  Software engineers have hoped that new languages and new processes would greatly reduce the number of delivered defects.  However, this has not been the case.  Software is still delivered with a significant number of defects.  The physical and practical limitations of software testing (the only way to determine if a program will work is to write the code and run it) ensure that large programs will be released with undetected errors.  Therefore, defects discovery and removal is a key metric for assessing program quality. Applying Performance-Based Earned Value (PBEV)Performance-Based Earned Value® (PBEV) is an enhancement to the Earned Value Management Systems (EVMS) standard . PBEV overcomes the standard’s shortcomings with regard to measuring technical performance and quality (quality gap). PBEV is based on standards and models for systems engineering, software engineering, and project management that emphasize quality. The distinguishing feature of PBEV is its focus on the customer requirements. PBEV provides principles and guidance for cost effective processes that specify the most effective measures of cost, schedule, and product quality performance.Program managers expect accurate reporting of integrated cost, schedule, and technical performance when the supplier’s EVMS procedure complies with the EVMS Standard.  However, EVM data will be reliable and accurate only if the following occurs:o    The indicated quality of the evolving product is measured.o    The right base measures of technical performance are selected.o    Progress is objectively assessed.Using EVM also incurs significant costs. However, if you are measuring the wrong things or not measuring the right way, than EVM may be more costly to administer and may provide less management value . Because of the quality gap in the EVMS standard, there is no assurance the reported earned value (EV) is based on product metrics and on the evolving product quality.  First, the EVMS standard states that EV is a measurement of the quantity of work accomplished and that the quality and technical content of work performed are controlled by other processes. A software manager should ensure that EV is also a measurement of the product quality and technical maturity of the evolving work products instead of just the quantity of work accomplished.  Second, the EVMS principles address only the project work scope. EVMS ignores the product scope and product requirements.  Third, the EVMS standard does not require precise, quantifiable measures of progress. It states that objective EV methods are preferred but it also states that management assessment (subjective) may be used. In contrast, other standards specify objective measurement. Fourth, EVM is perceived to be a risk management tool. However, EVMS was not designed to manage risk and provides no guidance on the subject. PBEV is a set of principles and guidelines that specify the most effective measures of cost, schedule, and product quality performance. It has several characteristics that distinguish it from traditional EVMS, by augmenting EVMS with four additional principles and 16 additional guidelines.PBEV supplements traditional EVMS with the best practices.  Its principles and guidelines enable true integration of project cost, schedule, and technical performance.  The distinguishing feature of PBEV is its focus on the customer requirements.  Measures of product scope and product quality are incorporated into the project plan. Progress is measured against a plan to fulfill all customer requirements. Measuring the wrong things does not dilute management attention. Consequently, management is able to take rapid corrective actions on deviations that threaten customer satisfaction and business enterprise objectives.Using An Analytic Process To Project Cost And Schedule Based On Actual PerformanceOnce the requirement definition is complete; the cost and schedule baseline has been established; the appropriate metrics have been selected; and a PBEV system is in place, the final challenge is to implement a process that quickly and accurately estimates final cost and schedule based on actual performance.  This analysis is best accomplished using an analytic/parametric process.  Galorath Incorporated calls this process SEER Control.  The purpose of SEER Control is to provide an understanding of the project’s progress so that appropriate corrective actions can be taken when the project’s performance deviates significantly from the plan.  SEER Control provides a “dashboard” that includes a health and status indicator for the project related to: schedule variance, time variance, cost variance, size growth, and defects discovery and removal. At the heart of SEER Control is the ability to forecast the final project outcome based on actual performance to date.  One of the primary goals of SEER Control is to provide adequate supporting documentation (charts and reports) to support the software project management process and to satisfy stakeholder needs.ConclusionManagement of Software Intensive Programs should be based on the foundation of establishing the requirements, developing a reliable baseline estimate for cost and schedule, selecting effective software metrics, applying Performance-Based Earned Value (PBEV), and using analytic processes to project cost and schedule based on actual performance.Author’s Note: This article was written with contributions from Dan Galorath, CEO of Galorath Inc. and author of the book, Software Sizing, Estimation, and Risk Management and Paul Solomon, co-author of the book, Performance-Based Earned Value®.

Importance of a Travel And Tourism Course For the Young Generation

Today’s generation of effervescent, young people is more open-minded, more informed, more adventurous and more mobile than ever before. Traveling as a part of education is a long, established fact and with that in the backdrop, youth travel has become one of the most dynamic and fastest growing markets in the global tourism sector. The ruling body UNWTO estimates that nearly 20% of the 950 million international tourists traveling the globe during 2010-2014 were young people. Still, the importance of this market transcends beyond the numbers. Countless young students have been accredited or recognized by the UN as a major force for social change and development.The academic inferenceThe above point holds true for tourism as well, with young travelers leading a vibrant and positive change in the sector, championing environmental fortification and investing in local or state tourism business. As such, the concerned youth tourism and travel are one of the most promising pathways towards a more sustainable and responsible job sector. Education is the fulcrum of this sector, which underlines the need for a travel and tourism course. In an era of diverse and unprecedented challenges for the travel industry, these courses represent not just a pivotal market category, but also a crucial resource for change and innovation.The future of travel is youthBeing at the leading edge of a new era, young people impact the travel industry too. They think out of the box, experiment with the new and push all limits. The travel industry is undergoing vigorous changes with traditional vertical chains of distribution giving way to a more compound value network. It involves a wide range of multiple suppliers from within the domain and beyond a travel sector. Here, a travel and tourism course help you to understand the dynamics of the field. Today, travel is no more dependent on the old economy’s infrastructure like hotel beds, travel agents’ logistics, and airline seats. You are entering a networked, flexible and new economy wherein the local culture and society, ICT, work, education and play become fragments of the tourism value thread. This is where the courses become important.Things to find• In such a course, you learn the inter-relationships between tourism, travel, and other economic sectors.
• You learn about the integration that fosters value web instead of the primitive value chain.
• In this new value web, the value is made by actors outside and inside the tourism sector in various combinations for creating and exploiting new opportunities.
• Courses show and teach you to be at the forefront of these innovations because young minds are willing to cross every boundary and create new links.
• The nit-grid of the subject is that young people are early-adopter and heavy users of the newest technologies, which help them in pioneering the methodology of mobile media and social networking sites pertaining to product purchases and travel information.In a nutshellYou also learn how to advise a tourist on his/her product contract, transporting to the destination, provide food, accommodation, organize a meeting or events, and the thing about travel and transport companies and site operator groups.

Payday Loans – What You Need to Know

There are more payday loan stores in the United States than there are McDonalds restaurants so if you are in desperate need of an emergency infusion of cash you may be one step away from your goal. But if your car is sitting in the driveway leaking vital fluids, you may not even have to leave home to get a payday loan as many purveyors of the service are now online.How a payday loan worksBefore you rush to do a search for “payday loan online” there are a few things you should know about how these types of loans work and what alternatives are available. A payday loan is a short term small-balance loan that is intended to tide you over till your next payday arrives. They can be conveniently obtained as payday loans do not require a credit check. If all you have are a checking account and two recent paychecks, you may be a customer. But there’s a price.Payday or payroll advance loans are offered by companies that usually fly under the radar of state and local government consumer protection laws. In some sates such as Georgia, which has the stiffest regulations in the country, payday lenders have been accused of predatory practice and have sometimes been run out of town on rails. In their defense, payday lenders say they provide a much-needed solution to consumers with less than perfect credit and who must have a quick infusion of cash to tide them over till their next pay day.In exchange for these high risk loans, payday lenders charge a fixed fee for a fixed period, usually fourteen days and if you happen to miss the fourteen day deadline, there’s a penalty fee that is added to your charges along with another set of fees to roll over the loan through another period.Rapid escalationIn short order, if you borrowed $500 for an emergency situation, you could end up owing as much as $700 if you miscalculated your cash flow and were forced to take a payday loan for a month. That equates to 480% or so per year and on the face of it, looks like a dreadfully large price to pay for a small amount of money. So payday loans are usually a good idea only when you have run out of options entirely.Whether you are applying online or in person, you must at least have a checking account. Payday lenders will require you to write them a postdated check for the loan amount plus the finance charges. They will be more than happy to extend the life of the loan if your needs are pressing. And the sheer convenience of payday loans online is difficult to resist. These sophisticated sites require your routing and account numbers from your check book and will routinely deposit money in your checking account almost instantly.What can go wrong?You run the risk of miscalculating your budget and getting into a cycle of using one payday loan to pay the other. The Center for Responsible Lending, a Durham, North Carolina non-profit, reports that the vast majority of payday loan borrowers do five transactions a year, while more than half of all borrowers take twelve or more loans per year. If you get into a cycle of dependency on payday loans, it may be hard to wean yourself from the habit.Several states led by Georgia recognize this and have banned payday loans at one time or another, including Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Vermont and West Virginia. But you should take heart if you live in those states, or if you have had all you can take of onerous interest rates.The alternativesYou may be surprised to learn there are alternatives to payday lending and certainly to the beguiling online payday lending sites. If your credit rating is in the cellar you may find the following suggestions just short of annoying but I’ll make them anyway:Use your credit card for which you’ll pay a much lower rate than a payday loan.Ask your payroll department for a salary advance.Ask a friend or family member for a loan.Offer your supplier or service person a post-dated check.Ask for an extension on your car loan that defers one month’s payment and frees up some cash.The other alternativesRealistically speaking, if you had good credit or a reasonably well-off family member, you would probably not be in the market for a payday loan. So your only reasonable alternative may be to minimize the damage. Searching for a payday loan online may be your best option for finding a reasonably low interest rate. But you must brace yourself for prompt repayment in order to avoid getting on the lender’s treadmill. Once you have lined up a reasonable rate and obtained your cash, you should start planning how to avoid becoming repeat business.Breaking the cycleA great place to start would be to learn how to make a simple personal budget so you can put aside small amounts of cash each payday for an emergency fund. If budgeting does not work for you, consider joining a credit union before your next crisis occurs. Credit unions now offer a nifty device called a Salary Advance Loan Program. State Employees Credit union in North Carolina has one of those. They will lend you up to $500.00 at 18% and with no fees attached and they allow borrowers to set up a loan by phone. They require that you have a direct deposit account with the credit union, into which your paycheck goes.But what if you don’t work for the state of North Carolina? Or what if you don’t belong to a credit union or have a family member who does? All is not lost. The National Credit Union Administration has a nifty web page accessible from their “Resources” page where you can search for credit unions by type and state. This is pretty useful because some credit unions will allow you membership just because you live in a particular city or county. Take ACCESS Federal Credit Union in New York state for instance. According to their web site, “if you live, work, worship, or go to school anywhere in Oneida County or the City of Oneida, you are now eligible to join.”OtherwiseIf you absolutely, positively cannot find a credit union near you that offers salary advance loan programs, try to minimize the damage by shopping around for the best possible rate, before you run into an emergency. With a little luck, payday lenders online and off may realize a little restraint can go a long way. Any day now congress may decide to take up legislation to cap payday loan rates at lower levels, much as they have done for military personnel, whose rates have been capped at 36%.