Monday, March 28, 2011

Dependency analysis for estimating BI solution development efforts

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Creating a WBS (Work Breakdown Structure) is the starting point to start listing your tasks for any development efforts. After a list is created, a complexity factor is introduced for each task, and based on that a generalized amount of effort for each category of complexity is allocated and the sum of the same becomes the total tentative effort. Categorization of tasks from simple to most complex is generally classified on the basis of deep understanding of the dependency analysis of these tasks.

Dependency can be of different types like dependency on tools, dependency to use a component, dependency on infra, dependency on platform, dependency on operational processes involving approval cycles, dependency on release environment (Dev/QA/APT/UAT/prod) constraints etc.

This needs to be accounted while assigning a complexity factor to even the most modular level of work item. It might sound a very exaggerated theory from the way it looks. The best way to realize this is by the way of a real life example. One of the examples from my experience that suits this flavor is "Activating excel services on MOSS 2007 and ensuring it's available on the site". It sounds a very simple item and one might not even account more than an hour for the same, and the same was the case on a project on which I was working. The issue chain started as below:

1) Firstly one needs to activate excel services on the farm, which is pretty simple (clicking just an action button).

2) You need to have a site on which you need at least a web part page.

3) You need to have Excel Service enabled for the site and site collections, so that you can use the service on the site and get Excel Web Access web part on your page.

4) When you configure excel web access web part with a workbook uploaded to some document library on your site, you need to ensure that the same should be identified by excel services as secured location. For this you need to configure trusted locations for excel services.

5) To configure excel web services related setting you need to have shared services administration site installed in moss 2007 environment, which is an explicit process done only on demand by application engineering i.e. infrastructure and application management teams.

6) To install this site, you need to have Indexer service enabled. Also you need a web application created that you can use for this shared service provider, and this web application should not be configured to use "Network Service" for the security configuration.

7) You might need excel installed on this environment, as Excel 2003 workbooks many a times creates issues and you get an error on the web part when you try to configure your web part with this workbook. Most organizations would consider installing office only on client machines, and installing the same on server would be considered as a security exception.

From the above example, it's very easy to tell that how much experience goes into dependency analysis and how important is this factor to consider during estimation. If you have similar stories, feel free to share it with me.

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