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Productivity Challenges in Outsourcing Contacts

By Sridevi Devathi, HCL Estimation Center of Excellence, and CISQ Member

 

In an ever competitive market, year-on-year productivity gains and output-based pricing models are standard ‘asks’ in most outsourcing engagements. Mature and accurate SIZING is the KEY in order to address the same!

 

It is essential that the below stated challenges are clearly understood and addressed in outsourcing contracts for successful implementation.

 

Challenge 1 – NATURE OF WORK

All IT Services provided by IT vendors are NOT measurable using the ISO certified Functional Sizing Measures like IFPUG FP, NESMA FP or COSMIC FP (referred as Function Points hereafter). While pure Application development and Large Application enhancement projects are taken care of by Function Points, there are no industry standard SIZING methods for projects/work units that are purely technology driven, like the following:

  • Pure technical projects like data migration, technical upgrades (e.g. VB version x.1 to VB version x.2)
  • Performance fine tuning and other non-functional projects
  • Small fixes in business logic, configuration to enable a business functionality
  • Pure cosmetic changes
  • Pure testing projects
  • Pure agile projects

 

Challenge 2 – NEWER TECHNOLOGIES

  • The applicability of Function Points for certain technologies like Data Warehousing, Business Intelligence and Mobility are not established.
  • While COSMIC is supposed to be the most suitable for such technologies, there is not enough awareness and/or data points.

 

Challenge 3 – TIME CONSUMING AND COMPETENCY ISSUES

  • It is of utmost importance to ensure that IFPUG/COSMIC certified professionals are involved in SIZING; hence there is a dependency on subject matter experts.
  • Also appropriate additional efforts need to be budgeted upfront for SIZING of applications; releases and projects.

 

Conclusions and Recommendations

Challenge 1 & 2 could lead to situations where more than 50% of work done is not ‘SIZE’able in a given engagement. Most clients do not foresee this gap, and often expect that the SIZE delivered by a vendor should be in proportion to the efforts paid.  It is critical to have these challenges documented and agreed to with the client upfront.

 

Challenge 3 could be addressed by usage of tools. For example, CAST provides automated FP counts based on code analysis. So it would be worthwhile for IT vendors to validate and ratify the CAST automated FP counts for various technologies, architectures and nature of work. While there would be exception scenarios which are not addressed by CAST, the dependency on FP Subject Matter experts could be significantly reduced.  CAST supports the Automated FP Standard – http://www.castsoftware.com/news-events/press-release/press-releases/cast-announces-support-for-the-omg-automated-function-point-standard

 

Various other tools on IFPUG FP, like Total Metrics, could also be used, if manual FP counting is required. While these tools do not remove the dependency on FP subject matter experts, they significantly reduce the overall efforts on SIZING and also help in faster impact analysis of changes done to existing applications.

 

 

About the Author

Sridevi Devathi has 19 years of IT experience in the areas of Estimation Center of Excellence, Quality Management & Consulting, IT Project Management and Presales. She has been with HCL for past 16 years, and currently leads the HCL Estimation Center of Excellence. She has taken up various certifications like CFPS®, PMP®, IQA, CMM ATM and Six Sigma Yellow Belt. She has taken part in external industry forums like CISQ Size Technical Work group in 2010 (http://it-cisq.org), IFPUG CPM Version 4.3 review in 2008 (http://www.ifpug.org), and BSPIN SPI SIG during 2006-2007 (http://www.bspin.org).

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