CMMI and Agile Blog

September 1, 2014

Quantifying the Value of Using SEMAT’s Essence Framework

In a recent Google Tech Talk given by Ivar Jacobson and Ian Spence ( ) questions were raised regarding measured efficiencies when team’s use Essence versus control groups not using Essence.  Capers Jones also recently asked me if I had any benchmark data showing the effect that SEMAT’s Essence Framework would have on productivity/quality factors (e.g. impact on work hours).    

Although the new OMG Essence standard is only a few months old we are already starting to see hard evidence of the value of this framework.   As an example, in a recent field study using Essence conducted at Carnegie-Mellon West (  ) the following value of using the Essence framework was found:

“While most styles of Agile retrospectives tend to focus on known issues, Essence reflections tend to make unknown issues apparent by covering the project holistically and reminding participants of critical areas that might be overlooked. These differences make Essence reflections and Agile retrospectives complementary. This is illustrated by the following student quote:

Though the team was holding retrospectives every week already, having Essence discussions be a part of it allowed the team to touch on important aspects of the project; aspects which would otherwise be ignored’.”


What I find most interesting about this study is that the findings are not so much directly related to efficiencies gained, but rather related to improving the team’s understanding of unknown issues, or risks.  This is the same observation that was made by a senior experienced engineer in a major USA DoD organization when first exposed to the Essence framework.  One of the Essence framework’s primary strengths is that it can be used with any method to help an organization uncover risks early and take appropriate action before those risks do serious harm to your endeavor.

 So how do you go about quantifying the value of Essence from a risk reduction perspective?

 According to the Carnegie-Mellon Software Engineering Institute:

 “Data indicate that 60-80% of the cost of software development is in rework”.


Rework is the result of not doing the task right the first time and is often caused by issues that were unknown at the time the work was originally done.  Rework is preventable by reducing unknowns early, and it costs an organization in more than just labor hours. It costs in schedule delays, and lost customer confidence.  It is therefore reasonable to conclude that anything we can do to reduce risk– such as using the Essence framework together with whatever your organization is doing today– can potentially reduce the cost of software development by 60-80%.

 So, with such a great potential upside, what is the downside of using Essence? 

Personally, I don’t see a downside for the following reason: Essence is not another method.  It is not an alternative to what you are doing today.   It is relatively inexpensive and easy for team’s to get started using the Essence framework in a way that complements their current approach.

 To learn more about how the new Essence Framework can help your software development teams refer to: or or take a look at the Google tech talk referred to above ( ). 

 Why not give Essence a try and let your software development team’s decide?  What have you got to lose?



1 Comment »

  1. I fully agree with Paul’s comments. We often observe that less mature software engineers lose sight of the importance of satisfying stakeholders with different concerns and opportunities to generate perceivable values to the stakeholders when they get mired in technical implementation. Essence provides 7 alphas including Stakeholder and Opportunity. The alphas can be viewed as different dimensions of the project state. The Essence framework thus help software engineers to do multidimensional thinking when they check the state of their project or set goals for their next activities. It prevents them from losing sight of important dimensions such as stakeholder concerns and value propositions.

    Comment by June Sung Park — September 2, 2014 @ 3:17 am | Reply

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