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Capture the value of your reuse environment

Building a successful reuse environment demands considerable time and effort. And sooner or later, you'll need to quantify the benefits that reuse is providing to your organization. Use this list of metrics to help make your case.

To build a successful reuse environment and culture, you need to establish good reuse processes and train the staff to capitalize on reuse opportunities. You also need people to fill new roles that support the environment, and you need to develop the right incentives. The only way you will know if there is more good than bad coming from this effort is if you apply some meaningful metrics to the system. Let's take a look at some of the ways you can assess the value that reuse provides to your organization.

Don’t miss our previous articles on the development of a reuse environment

Value in the numbers
We usually think that most of our daily activities provide value to the company. But how many of us could do a good job of quantifying the value that we provide? It is a lot easier to see what we cost. Many companies that have tried to implement a reuse environment in the past were not able to keep organizational focus and continuity for the length of time needed to really make the program a success. One of the major reasons organizations can't sustain a long-term focus is that they are not able to track the value. They may have been able to justify the reuse program based on the ability to deliver solutions better, faster, and cheaper. However, they did not do a good job of quantifying the benefits. The costs are easy to find and understand. The reuse program must capture the value as well.

Examples of reuse metrics include:
  • Effort and cost savings. This is the big one. It requires developers to estimate the cost and effort associated with building the functionality, vs. the cost and effort of using a reusable component. Chances are that developers will not provide the information you need unless they have the proper incentives. (For more on this, see "A successful reuse environment requires new roles and incentives.")
  • Cycle time savings. This is similar to the preceding metric. Ask how long it would have taken to code and test the functionality from scratch, vs. using the reusable component.
  • Quality of the components. Count the errors that were found in the reuse components. Also, survey the developers who use the components for their opinions of overall quality (ease of use, stability, reliability, etc.).
  • Number of components reused. Count and track the numbers.
  • How often the components have been reused. Count and track the numbers.

The value metrics are, by their nature, relatively imprecise. For instance, a developer may reuse a component that takes five hours to understand and fully utilize it in a solution. He or she may estimate that it would have taken 40 hours to code and test the functionality from scratch. Although the implication is that there was value provided, it is impossible to know precisely. The reuse team should capture as many metrics as possible that show the reuse value and then supplement these numbers with anecdotal evidence such as success stories and testimonials.

If a reuse environment is to last, it is essential that everyone, especially management, be aware of the value that such an environment brings to your shop. As you prepare to make your case, remember these points:
  • If you're investing the effort to build a reuse environment and develop a reuse culture, make sure that you collect evidence of the value you are providing. The costs are easy to determine, but they must be balanced against an accounting of the value generated.
  • Even if the metrics are not perfect and precise, they will help capture the value. Collect all the information you can, even if some of it is subjective or imprecise.

Project management veteran Tom Mochal is director of internal development at a software company in Atlanta. Most recently, he worked for the Coca-Cola Company, where he was responsible for deploying, training, and coaching the IS division on project management and life-cycle skills. He's also worked for Eastman Kodak and Cap Gemini America and has developed a project management methodology called TenStep.

Quantifying the hard-to-measure
Have you had to justify reuse in your organization? How did you go about making the case? Send us an e-mail with your experiences and suggestions or post a comment below.


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