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Success Case: Automotive Company BMW AG


One important challenge for the BMW application software development is the estimation of cost for software projects. This is essential in order to properly estimate their internally developed projects as well as assessing incoming bids. However, the estimation of cost for software projects is one of the most important and most difficult management tasks. A number of problems are commonplace and may explain the situation. These problems are related to a lack of necessary input data from past projects and a lack of knowledge about which data to collect that has the most impact on the cost.


In collaboration with Fraunhofer IESE, a concept for the establishment of an appropriate cost estimation procedure at BMW was introduced. The cost estimation concept was based on the CoBRA® method (Cost Estimation Benchmarking and Risk Assessment).

To collect useful cost data, it is necessary to determine predominant, influential factors on cost. This is done through knowledge acquisition of experienced project managers. Within the BMW project, representative BMW
project managers were asked to decide about the relative importance of a large number of potential cost factors. Based on these results, interviews were performed to quantify the cost drivers according to their relative impact on cost. Uncertainty in the answers was also taken into account.

The size of the software system is one of the most important cost factors and thus is considered in the first component of CoBRA®. Within the BMW project, a sizing procedure was defined following standard size measures, such as function points. This procedure also utilizes the information from the BMW development standard.

The results obtained regarding the cost drivers can not be applied to all the heterogeneous systems within BMW as a whole. Rather, they should be applied to similar, comparable projects only. Therefore, project characteristics that distinguish different types of projects were determined in collaboration with the BMW project managers. These project attributes determine the scope of a CoBRA® application.

All the above mentioned parts were integrated in a CoBRA® model that is valid for a specific type of BMW projects. Since a lot of uncertainty exists at an early stage in a project, CoBRA® incorporates the possibility for quantitative risk management using Monte-Carlo simulations. This allows for the assessment of the probability of overrunning a certain budget for a project. The relevant data collection instruments were defined and usage scenarios were described.



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