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Automating SEER for Software: A Quick Cost Estimation Process

Software/Hardware/Tools Track

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Software estimates are useful tools for examining project scopes ranging from an entire system- of-systems program, down to a specific component of a small subsystem. In general, however, producing an estimate is neither quick nor easy. Even worse, maintaining the estimates as projects mature and undergo change is laborious – and consequently, tracking the progress of a project’s estimates over the project lifetime is rarely effectively accomplished. What is desired is an estimation process that can respond with agility to changes in project direction and to the assumptions on which the estimate is based, without undue cost and effort in updating the estimates themselves. This paper will discuss a process for automating and speeding up the iterative development and maintenance of estimates using SEER, reasons for creating the process, and the benefits to the estimator.

Most estimators use SEER in interactive mode, performing the laborious and error-prone task of manually entering data into the SEER User Interface client. This is a time-consuming and sometimes frustrating segment of the software cost estimating process. Unfortunately most estimators do not realize that their desktop application employs a client-server architecture, and the server portion can be utilized with a variety of clients other than the SEER for Software user. Using an Excel-based process, the server mode can accept a sequence of commands from a text file or the Windows clipboard, and process them to create a SEER Project file, generate estimates, and produce output reports that can be exported to the same or alternate client application. If performed properly, this process only takes a few seconds. The goal of this process is to reduce demands of data entry, and to empower the estimator to focus on the role of a software estimating consultant and analyst.


John Teal
John Teal is an associate with Booz Allen Hamilton in Colorado Springs and works in the areas of cost analysis, life cycle cost estimating, business case analysis, cost risk analysis, and economic analysis. His five years of cost and finance experience have been on space and aircraft programs for the Air Force, intelligence agencies, DoD joint programs, and NASA. He is currently pursuing an MBA at Regis University and has a Bachelor of Science degree from the United States Military Academy at West Point. Mr. Teal is a Certified Cost Estimator/Analyst (CCE/A) and a Project Management Professional (PMP). He is a member of the Pikes Peak SCEA chapter where he serves as the Program Chair.

Gary Hellenga
Gary Hellenga is an associate with Booz Allen Hamilton in Bozeman, Montana and is a software and systems engineer, performing both as a consultant and a practitioner. He has over 15 years of experience related to full software lifecycle aspects of space-related systems, including real-time flight software, flight planning and simulation, remote sensing modeling, image processing, communications system planning, and launch loads analysis. He has supported programs for the Department of Defense and several intelligence agencies, in addition to his current role supporting NASA. He has a Master of Science in Applied Mathematics from Montana State University, and is a Microsoft Certified Applications Developer. He has helped develop cost estimating processes within the Booz Allen Colorado Springs software development team, and has applied cost estimating techniques to business case analyses supporting NASA’s developing Constellation Program.