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September 19, 2005

Do tools drive change in process, or should process happen first, which then drives the organization to implement tools?

This is a question I get asked frequently. My answer is both; however, I believe that the best tools allow organizations to still use what they’re comfortable with, and offer a framework that a user can adapt at their own pace. This would be the case regardless of whether the tool being considered is SLIM, Seer, CostXpert, Cocomo, Price-S, or any of the widely available commercial measurement and estimation models.

For example, many estimating tools force a paradigm change that requires managers to fit their way of doing things into the tool. I believe that this is a roadblock that actually prevents change. Managers wary of new methods are risk averse. They’ll likely procrastinate using a tool because it is too risky to change how they estimate with so much at stake. Defending the tool estimate is risky because one has to be able to explain all the assumptions and the end results. An example of this is when someone is forced to size the project using function points.

Rather, I like to think that the best tools allow managers to transition at their own pace – fast or slow. They enable one to produce a scnario BOTH ways, and then compare. It’s even better when a manager can prepare a project plan using “their way”, then having the tool recreate that plan, essentially “cloning” it, and extending the plan by offering a benchmark of say, the deadline, against industry, or deriving the implied productivity.

That directly allows for people to achieve a comfort level at their own pace.