It’s an old joke that IT development projects are on track until a week before the deadline, at which point the customer discovers that the project is really six months behind schedule. The developers may have worked long hours, but it often turns out that nobody fully understands the status of their project deliverables. One reason the status and deliverables are unknown is that the developers’ processes are ‘hidden’ from the project manager and the end users; it is almost as if the developers were coding in the dark. Good project management goes hand in hand with formal, disciplined processes that are carried out consistently; everyone knows what deliverables are associated with each activity and there should be very few surprises along the way. But what about the end users who have been burned on previous projects and who are not passionate believers of CMM? They might ask, “How do I know that your developers are following a formal process? If the Project Manager says, “Here’s a description of the process, and it’s the same one we followed in our earlier projects.” The cynical customer might still say, “We don’t care about your earlier projects! How do we know you’re following it this time?” There are two familiar ways to answer this question. A) Produce frequent prototypes throughout the project, and B) produce voluminous progress reports, updated weekly. But in today’s ‘Internet time’ environment, that may not be enough. A mission critical e business project may last only 4 weeks. If it takes a full week to find out that a wrong system is being built, 25% of the time is already lost.
An alternative, as Cognizant Technology Solutions is demonstrating is to make the software process completely visible so that the customer doesn’t have to wait passively for a week before the project team delivers a status report. The project teams use a formal process that is implemented in a web enabled workflow automation mechanism and the project team performs all its work within that environment. The automated process is “instrumented” with appropriate metrics in the form of a cockpit, allowing end users to literally watch the process in motion, in real time through their web browsers. This paper detail how the metrics cockpit enable end users to observe in real time, requirements being created, modified and approved, design reviews, with metrics about the number of defects that were identified, and track the defects to see if any festering problems threaten the projects’ success. This paper also detail the benefits in adopting this approach, towards achieving business transparency.
Sridhar Narayanan has over 15 years experience in the areas of Software Development, Testing, Software Quality Management (system implementation, audits, facilitation, and training) and Metrics. He specialises in Software Process Improvement and has assisted several organisations in successfully achieving higher maturity levels of CMM. He has presented papers in the 11th and 12th SEPG conferences held in USA and 5th European SEPG conference held in Amsterdam. He received postgraduate degrees in Quality Management and Operations Management from College of Engineering, Madras and graduate degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Institution of Engineers (India).