National Board of Patents and Registration of Finland (PRH) is an experienced organization to outsource software and systems development. The PRH administers information of Finnish companies, products, patents and trademarks. The national membership of European Union since 1995 has brought also international projects with new stakeholders and requirements along. The organization has experienced great project success, but also some failures in the past.
In the process of looking new ways to develop software for their specific needs, PRH contracted with a new, innovative partner Alfame Systems Oy. The purpose of these projects was to build up two applications, using agile management and development methods (e.g. SCRUM) in 2013 – 2014. Feeling of success in these efforts was so strong that the PRH decided to make a triangle benchmarking survey on these projects, to find out if the feeling was right or wrong. The motivation was to verify that projects’ results come up to the positive impression of cost efficiency.
The triangle benchmarking service conducted by 4SUM Partners showed that indeed both project deliveries were exceptionally efficient and fast, compared to normal productivity of public sector both in Finland and internationally. Functional sizes of the software delivered in these two projects were typical, close to the average FP size in the benchmark dataset, but both the speed of delivery (FP/month) and the unit price (€/FP) were far better than the benchmark. The project management team first believed the high performance was due to agile approach alone, but that was not the whole truth. Several other projects in the benchmarking repositories had applied almost the same set of methods and tools, without reaching the same level of performance.
A closer exploration of the projects and the system documents provided revealed that more than just the agile methods, the key success factor was the product owner’s active leading, and capability to elaborate and represent functional and quality requirements. In this case the developers found it easy to build the expected functionality while in the beginning of iterations, use cases were described on an effective level of accuracy and also the descriptions of business processes and conceptual entities were available for making the big picture.
It is encouraging to notice that it is possible to reach this kind of fine results within our industry. Success is even probable, and should be expected when the client and software vendor have the right capabilities and skills, and they both use those for mutual benefit.