Bruce F. Webster: Instrumentation and HeuristicsBy Bruce F. Webster Print
Waking up to find that the metrics used in a project are not measuring up to the needs--and satisfaction--of being completed.
This list also doesn’t directly address such common problems as scope creep, conflicting requirements, changes in business or market needs, budget constraints, or internal politics. Still, the items in the list above could themselves be considered useful metrics; that is, if you could measure this information, you would have a very good sense of where the project stands.
These items would certainly be informative and even predictive—but it remains unclear how to make them “objective,” much less “automated.” In effect, we’re back to the “70 percent done” question and answer, though perhaps in more detail.
Now, I have known organizations that are quite skilled at predicting how long a project will take and how much it will cost. But these are organizations that confine themselves to niche markets and, in effect, implement the same application over and over again, using a rigorous and standardized methodology, usually with extensive up-front analysis and specification (particularly in user interface and functionality).
Even then there are no guarantees; look at the number of troubled and failed enterprise resource planning installations that appear in the news on a regular basis. And, of course, this is of little use for organizations that are creating one-off applications, either custom or commercial.
One solution, I believe, lies in a combination of two approaches: instrumentation and heuristics. By “instrumentation,” I mean creating a system whereby you can automatically track and monitor as many aspects and activities as possible of the entire software development or infrastructure project lifecycle. And by “heuristics,” I mean analyzing the information gathered via instrumentation to discover which characteristics best predict ongoing performance and completion of the project.
And we’ll talk about this in more detail next week. Until then, I’ll see you on the bitstream.
© 2008 Bruce F. Webster
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