Function Points

Function Points - People in the development world have a difficult time creating tangible metrics that tell how productive they are as individuals, teams or organizations.

In fact, you may have the fastest, smartest, most productive development staff in the world, but what does that really mean?

Normally, you would like to quantify how much work you can produce in an hour or a day or a month, and then compare this to some average or standard. For IT development projects, this is difficult, if not impossible, for two reasons.

First, it’s not at all clear how to measure what you are producing on an IT development project. Second, even if you found a way to measure what you produced, chances are that no one else is measuring what they produce in the same way.

Therefore, you cannot compare yourself to others, or to some standard, in any meaningful way.

The concept of Function Points was introduced to try to resolve this dilemma. Function points by themselves do not show productivity. Function points are a way to measure the size of a software application.

Since function points are measured in a consistent way on all IT development projects, saying that one application is 2,000 function points and another application is 4,000 function points lets you know that one application is twice the size of another.

The details of function point counting are more complex than what can be described in one, or a series, of pages. In fact, the IFPUG Counting Manual is a couple hundred pages long.

This book is just the beginning. Reading should be supplemented by additional training and experience before a person will feel comfortable doing function point counting.

However, in summary, the basic concepts of function points require you to look at five areas of the application:

  1. Internal logical files include data that the users are responsible for maintaining themselves.

  2. External interface files are files that are needed from other systems. This data is used for inquiry or reference, and is not updated by your application.

  3. External input refers to the functions that allow the user to manipulate internal data. This is usually in the form of transaction adds, changes or deletes.

  4. External outputs are functions that allow the user to request an output through the manipulation of data in the system. This could be information on reports, output screens, webpages, etc. The key is that the data is processed or transformed into new information that is made available to the user.

  5. External inquiries refer to information that is basically displayed directly from underlying tables. If you display information on a customer that comes directly from a customer file, then it is external inquiry data. If some fields were transformed based on internal program processing, it is more likely external output (#4 above).

Once the basic characteristics of the application are determined, an algorithm is applied that weights certain areas higher than others. But once the basic counts are determined, the number of total function points can be determined easily by applying the formula.

Functional Manager

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