The not-for-profit Object Management Group (OMG) computer industry consortium reports this week that it has taken a definitive decision to adopt the Automated Function Point specification (AFP) — a specification dedicated to automating the counting of function points.
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OMG's board of directors and the Consortium for IT Software Quality (CISQ) really led the push for this adoption.
NOTE: CISQ is an IT industry leadership group comprised of IT executives from the Global 2000, system integrators, outsourced service providers, and software technology vendors committed to introduce a computable metrics standard for measuring software quality and size.
"The announcement by OMG of a specification for [AFP] counting should dramatically expand the use of Function Points for sizing IT applications," stated Dr. Bill Curtis, Director, CISQ. "By dramatically reducing the cost of counting and eliminating the problem of inconsistency among manual counters, automated Function Point measurement can become a standard component of the software development and maintenance process."
Counting guidelines laid down by the International Function Point User Group (IFPUG) ascribe to AFP as a standard for automating the function-point measure. Further then, OMG chairman Richard Mark Soley reminds us that this method has been around since the end of the 1970s.
The problem (and hence the reason for the insistence on a standard) here is that function-point "estimation" has always been inherently flawed, says Soley. He explains that two separate developers could spend time counting the same code base and come back with two different numbers. Worse still, a single individual could (potentially) count the same code twice and get two differing results.
"With the new OMG Automated Function Point specification, function-point counts aren't estimations; they're counts — consistent from count to count and person to person. Even more importantly, the standard is detailed enough to be automatable; i.e., it can be carried out by a program. This means it's cheap, consistent, and simple to use — a major maturation of the technology," he said.
"The arrival of automated high-speed function point counting...will elevate the importance of function point analysis from being a tool for mid-range applications to becoming a powerful tool for executive analysis of the largest and costliest software applications," says Capers Jones, software industry measurement expert, VP and CTO, Namcook Analytics. "Both software productivity and software quality data based on function points will expand rapidly, as will reliable software benchmarks."