In a recent exchange, I was asked what the typical ALM tools do to address three key challenges around process improvement and compliance in software/ IT organizations, and more specifically, what we at Digité do about them. I felt these would be of interest to others as well, so here is a summary of that exchange.
Most tools lack any (effort) estimation capability and most estimates falter. This is one area that remains a challenge for most organizations and application/ software projects are notorious for not meeting their original effort/ cost/ time estimates.
Our experience at Digité has shown that there is very little standardization in the use of estimation methods, except perhaps the bare minimum use of Function Point Analysis, so it is not easy to select any specific methodology and incorporate into the tool. However, the fundamental problem that I believe we (as also most PPM/ ALM vendors) help resolve is of helping our customers build historic data, one of the most common reasons for poor estimates. By using Digité across the organization, our customers capture process and project data and help successive projects do better in terms of estimation. We do have specific but basic functionality around capturing Phase level estimates and then automatically assigning to WBS tasks - which the PM can then tweak as needed.
Standardized Measurement Systems
We believe that ALM tools are at the front and center of solving this problem – that's where work happens! So ALM tools are the ideal candidate to be the measurement system in a software/ IT organization. Through Digité's integrated combination of Process Governance, Project Management and SDLC functionality, we provide all projects a consistent method of data capture across all phases of the project and across all types of projects - be it development, maintenance, implementation, etc. So, every activity in the project is codified, and reduced to a WBS task or a workflow step - and baseline, plan and actual effort against all project work - whether planned or unplanned - gets captured against these tasks/ workflow steps. These then get rolled up based on the WBS hierarchy or by the metrics/ reports that use that data to provide a variety of metrics from quality, defect, earned value, variance and so on.
Different organizations have differences in the way they may measure even a simple metric like Defect Density or Defect Leakage; large organizations may have that problem even across business units! However, using a system like Digité, they are able to standardize the measurement and reporting.
Compliance to Process
Compliance to a process is the biggest issue that our customers deal with - and I sincerely believe that is where we at Digité provide very unique functionality that no one else provides. Digité's integrated Process Governance module has what we call the Universal Process Framework (UPF). This is a flexible framework that allows you to define CMMi/ 6-Sigma, PM-BoK or other framework compliant process templates (PTs) easily and flexibly for different types of projects that you do.
Each PT is a combination of the project WBS, various functional processes (workflows) like requirements management, defect tracking, test management, etc. (depending on the process or project type), deliverables, phase gates, roles, process artifacts, etc. These create what we call 'actionable processes' – the critical component missing in most process improvement initiatives that automatically convert process definitions to project work-items. When the process template is used to create a project, all of these become available to the project team. As the team does its work, the process automatically gets followed! Very little 'extra' work needs to be done to follow the process and project managers/ teams love that!
If you have any insights to share, we'd love to hear from you.
Sr. Vice President, Product