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Feature Article

Function Points or Use Case Points?
by Mauricio Aguiar Function Points method popular. A search for “use
The Function Point measure case points” was executed on the
At some point in their careers many originally conceived by Albrecht Rational website for the first version
Software Measurement professionals received increased popularity with of this article in November 2002. It
will be asked a typical question: Do the inception of the International returned only one document, while a
Function Points work with object- Function Point Users Group (IFPUG) search for “use cases” on the same site
oriented software-intensive systems, in 1986. In 2002 IFPUG Function retrieved 348 documents. The search
or should one consider Use Case Points became an international ISO was repeated in May 2009 on the IBM
Points instead? standard – ISO/IEC 20926. developerWorks website – this time
Function Points may be easily 8 “use case points” documents were
Software Size Measures counted or estimated from use cases. found while 1,619 were found for
Software size measures first Several organizations are successfully “use cases.”
appeared as the main input to soft- using that method as I write these Even though still not very widely
ware development effort estimation. lines. Pre-requisites to Function Point known, UCPs have been studied by
Software development effort, usually counting from use cases are: knowing several researchers both in industry
measured in staff-hours, is known how to read use cases and experience and academia. A 2001 paper by
to hold significant correlation with in Function Point counting. Professor Bente Anda from the
software size. The first leading size Many organizations have invested University of Oslo reported results
measure was SLOC – the number significant time and money to collect of the application of UCP to project
of Source Lines of Code. There are data and compose large project data- effort estimation. While Anda con-
several different ways of counting bases containing function point data. cludes that UCP can be used for
SLOC, some of them line-oriented No other functional measure has estimation, his report and others
and some statement-oriented. SLOC reached the same level of use and/or suggest that use case style variations
is considered a physical size measure investment. For example, the can have an impact on the number of
because it measures the physical Australia-based International UCPs obtained through the method.
volume of source code associated Software Benchmarking Standards
with a software system. Group (ISBSG) keeps a database cur- Function Points and Use Case
While the SLOC measure is useful rently with over 4,000 projects, most Points
in many contexts its limitations led of them measured in function points. UCP counts may vary among
to the appearance of other measures. For a long time the U.S. Department organizations and individuals due to
Those new measures sought to meas- of Defense and its suppliers used variations in use case styles. It is then
ure the functionality delivered to SLOC as the single measure of soft- reasonable to assume that the produc-
the user by the software system as ware size. That measure seemed to tivity associated with the development
opposed to its physical size. They are be adequate for a stable ADA-based of one UCP (20 staff-hours according
therefore called functional size meas- environment (ADA is a language still to Karner’s original work) will vary
ures. Functional size is used to obtain used by the military). Around the turn as well. Therefore to obtain reliable
early project estimates when it can be of the century, research communities effort estimates one would need
very difficult to estimate SLOC. The such as the U.S. Army PSM initiative both to standardize use case writing
most important of those measures and the USC COCOMO development styles and calibrate a local UCP-based
was introduced by Allan Albrecht in group started to consider Function estimation model.
1979 – Function Points. Later, other Points as an alternative since the The lack of universal standards for
functional size measures were pro- appearance of new technologies made use case construction will limit com-
posed such as Bang, Mark II, Full the old SLOC measure incapable of parison among projects from different
Function Points, and Cosmic-FFP. satisfying all measurement needs. organizations using UCP. There is no
All those measures achieved some way to guarantee UCPs from different
degree of industry use with the possi- Use Case Points organizations will measure the same
ble exception of Bang. In 1993 Gustav Use Case Points were created by thing if use case writing styles are
Karner created a function point vari- Gustav Karner in 1993 as a particular allowed to vary widely.
ety specifically designed to measure variety of function points specifically Furthermore, UCPs can only be
functionality based on use cases. Use designed for use cases. Karner later used by organizations that adopt use
Case Points (UCPs) had been born. went to work for Rational but that cases to model functional require-
apparently did not help to make the ments. That may limit comparison

14 IFPUG MetricViews Summer 2009

guarantee the uniform application Unified Modeling Language UCPs are still not very well known if of the technique. In May 2009 other method.The International Function Validation” – IEEE Transactions on Point Users Group – IFPUG.000 occurrences of “function possible by the existence of a large Transactions Straight”. compared to FPs. 15 March 2009.J. 1982. M. one cannot safely recommend UCPs as the best choice for companies. E. Roy K. Adam – “Function Points. Tom. LNCS occurrences of “function points. the way they model requirements – Crosstalk. mately 60 times more cited than Use they may utilize use cases or any Collaris. Assessment in Software Engineering IFPUG MetricViews Summer 2009 15 . Springer-Verlag. They are also artifact inde. ensures that certified specialists “Estimating Software Development ects from the same company before consistently apply the method. SE-9. perhaps Documentation” – IFPUG Annual impossible. That UCPs as an alternative measure in Functional Requirements. Prediction: A Software Science zation . automat. Yourdon Press. and artifacts.700 at a higher abstraction level than October 1-5. Effort Based on Use Cases – and after use case adoption. Feature Article among companies using different • IFPUG keeps a worldwide.” The UCP. Related Publications Function Points are generally more Albrecht. to make comparisons or acquire Conference. its Recommendations lack of maturity severely limits UCP From an objective perspective application to business relationships. (UML2001). same query for “use case points” pendent and may be used by Clemmons. However. 1986. • Function Points are an ISO standard Experiences from Industry”. e J. there is scarcely any There is nothing wrong with using Dunn.” This means that six data kept by several organizations. roughly 10 times as cited as Use used in contracts in government Measurement & Estimation” – Case Points. Keele. “Software Cost Estimation Using Use Google reported approximately • Studies and comparisons are made Case Points: Getting Use Case 113. and industry in several countries. R. April 8-10. 2002. since Software Engineering. additional knowledge. Gaffney. or even between proj. international organi. publicly available UCP data. 2185. A. Source Lines • Function points are maintained by a of Code. UK. case points. Finally. requirements modeling techniques ed certification program that 2002. Google reported approximately 12. February 2006. Toronto. The Rational points” as opposed to 11. Empirical user groups in various countries. (ISO/IEC 20926) – that helps to International Conference on the nity has increased its UCP awareness. pp. This organizations independently of Estimation with Use Case Points”. Gogolla. and Development Effort not-for-profit. and Dekker. and Kobryn. (EASE 2002). “Comparing Effort • Function points are supported by Estimates Based on Use Case Points several consulting companies and with Expert Estimates”. convenient for the following reasons: “Software Function. Anda. 6. “Controlling years later Function Points are still • Function Points are successfully Software Projects: Management. Functional makes comparisons difficult or even addition to Function Points. means Function Points were approxi. In: 4th Even though the software commu. – Case Points at the time. 2001. (editors).400 of “use volume of Function Point-based Edge. Bente. DeMarco. In November 2002 • Function Points model requirements C. 2001. Canada. 1983. – “Project returned only 213 occurrences. 487-502.