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Understanding the Different Factors that Affect the Cost of Using Function Points

Everyone seems to be concerned about the ‘cost’ of using function points, whether the costs are generated internally or for external services. Tangible costs are reflected in vendor prices, internal effort, SLA and contract negotiations; as well as intangible “costs” associated with quality and relationships (reliability, consistency, integrity, trust).

One of the drivers that can directly affect costs is client-supplier relations. All function point activities have a client and a supplier — the client being the receiver of the function point data and the supplier being the counter/counting organization. This relationship can be internal or external to an organization – with the function point activities being all within IT, between IT and the rest of the organization, or between the organization and one or more outside vendors.

These relationships support multiple business activities within the function point program to effectively manage count work flow; accurately plan, budget and forecast function point deliverables; or estimate software deliverables.  At the organization level, they are an integral part of service level agreements; contracts based on function points; bench marking; and a variety of compliance and delivery metrics (costing, requirements content, quality, and schedule).  To successfully support all these functions, all parties need to have expertise, mutual respect and understanding.

The costs that can be affected by these relationships are (a) counting costs, (b) process costs (costs associated with collection of function point data, (c) measurement costs (directly associated with collection, analyses and reporting using the count data), and (d) other indirect costs (e.g. management, internal compliance).  For example, an undocumented, undisciplined function point process can incur more costs due to rework and other quality issues. Lack of understanding between parties on function point issues can cause undue audit activities and in extreme cases, legal actions.  How can we improve vendor-supplier relations in the function point environment in order to maximize the return on your counting investment?

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