Software project management in today’s business world

As a practicing project manager, I felt that I could provide some good tools, useful information, and interesting links related to this field. This page is for project managers and the purpose is to share information on software development project management topics. My goal on this page is to provide general and project-specific software and information to help anyone working to establish consistent leadership on software projects.

Also, I hope to provide some help in building professionalism. The current literature still says that even with all the training and attention to project management, there is still a fairly large error or failure rate in software projects. If your career path is in project management, you have a legacy problem and even more reason to read and apply the stuff that works. My favorite book on this topic is by Harold Kerzner and it is Project Management A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling and Controlling. I was lucky enough to attend the PMI certification training with Dr. Kerzner as the instructor.

This article is about the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK).

First of all, remember that unsponsored accountability makes you an immediate target for project time, scope, and resource fit issues. Responsibility without authority is like having great vanity. It means almost nothing when tough decisions are required. It is very similar to Solomon’s thought of vanity as “like fighting after the wind.”

First, my focus is on principles developed by the Software Engineering Institute (SEI) and shared by project managers around the world in the context of the Capability Maturity Model (CMM).

As a starting point, it is important to discuss what is called the project management body of knowledge (PMBOK). The PMBOK was developed to provide c
consistent definition of the phases of a project and to delineate what should be considered important within the context of each part of the project management guide.

Knowledge areas and project management processes are contained in nine main focus areas.

Project integration management: project plan development, project plan execution, and change control.

Project scope management: initiation, scope planning, scope definition, scope verification, and scope change control.

Project time management: activity definition, activity sequencing, activity duration estimation, schedule development, and schedule control.

Project cost management: resource planning, cost estimation, cost budgeting and cost control.

Project quality management: quality planning, quality assurance and quality control.

Project human resource management: organizational planning, personnel acquisition and team development.

Project communications management: communications planning, information distribution, performance reports, and administrative closeout.

Project risk management: risk identification, risk rating, risk response development, and risk response control.

Project Procurement Management: Procurement planning, requisition planning, solicitation, source selection, contract administration, and contract closeout.

As you can see in these focus areas, there is a strong emphasis on the use and meaning of the word “control.” There can be a LOT of activity and paperwork going on in these management areas, but the bottom line is that there needs to be corrective action as needed. Authority and responsibility reside with the project manager.

There are many skills and attributes that a project manager needs to leverage in order to be effective. The project manager must be:

Leader – As a manager, your primary concern is to consistently deliver the key results that “stakeholders” expect. Leading is also required and involves setting the vision, the strategies needed to “realize” the vision, and indeed setting the direction. The leader must motivate, inspire and communicate among the various people, overcoming political, bureaucratic and people barriers. It is important to remember that leadership must be demonstrated at all levels within the project, for example by those responsible for technical issues and team members.

Communicate: the exchange of information is the key. Make sure that clear, concise and complete information is provided to the recipient. Make sure the recipient has obtained the information in its entirety and clearly understands it. Communications is a broad subject area, but suffice it to say that, whether oral or written, communications are critical to the project. It does not matter if the communications are formal, if the communications are ascending, descending or vertical. What matters is that the effort will be far outweighed by the results. One area to remember is that if you tell everyone at once, you have a better chance of getting your concerns or information out there rather than relying on word of mouth from team members telling others. Each time a different person conveys information, inclination, intent, body language, and inflection have the opportunity to infer something different.

Negotiate: consult with people to reach a consensus or agreement. Negotiating implies that there may be a need for a mediator, arbitrator or facilitator. It depends on the circumstance, the importance, the level and, most likely, the problems. Issues such as cost, scope, objectives, contract terms and conditions, resources may require negotiation skills.
Problem solving: definition (problem definition) and decision (decision-making based on analysis, feasibility of the solution, or stakeholder dictates).

Influence the organization: the ability to use power and politics to get things done. This requires the ability to understand the mechanics or organization of how to use political capacity constructively.

Project management processes can be organized into five groups of one or more processes each of the following:

Start processes: This includes recognizing that a project or phase needs to start and committing to do so.
Planning processes: This means developing and maintaining a “viable” plan to achieve what the project has committed to achieve.

Process execution: coordination of people and any other resources to “execute” or carry out the plan.

Control processes: make sure that project objectives are met by measuring and monitoring progress. Furthermore, it means taking the appropriate corrective actions when necessary.

Closing Processes: Bringing the project to an orderly conclusion with formal acceptance of the phase or project.
Everyone involved in project management has had the additional core challenge of developing metrics that are “value added” in the ability to perform and deliver complete projects that meet stakeholder expectations. Collecting metrics doesn’t mean just tabulating numbers. It means developing information that helps from time to time helps even more in future endeavors.

There are many, many methods. The charge is to determine what works best for your organization. There are volumes of information on what to collect and how to use the measures effectively. The main point is not just to collect data. Gather information!

My next article will discuss the project triangle and the technical solution level: time, resources, and technological solutions. Next, I will share information about Six Sigma developed by Motorola that can drastically change the quality of your products and/or services by instilling a business process culture that affects the organization and provides positive returns. In fact, the principles are based on statistical analysis that revolves around the concept of standard deviation.

Now I would like to offer some suggestions, by way of experience, and then offer some links to places that I have found of great value to me.

Cost Expert is a fairly inexpensive software package that provides what-if reports, combining estimate types such as Function Points, Top-Down, Bottom-Up, GUI. Also, you can use it with Microsoft Project. I have enjoyed the functionality and reporting capabilities. The software will help generate good plans, resource requirements, and risk factors. Cost Expert is particularly good for project managers who work without a centralized, formalized project organizational approach.

I’ve also been a big fan of the Microsoft Project software since Project 4. The new version still provides a database schema, and VBA’s ability to expand functionality continues to make the product a good choice for those who aren’t interested. ​in spending much more money for project software.

There is a fairly simple wizard that is good to start counting function points. It’s called SEER Function Point Wizard and it’s fpwiz.

There is a PDF file on DoD initiatives regarding software measurement which is Software Measurements for DoD Systems.

MMB&T makes available version 1.1 of SoftEST, which was developed by MCR Federal Inc. on behalf of the Air Force Cost Analysis Agency.

SoftEST Cost Model (V1.1) (1 MB – Zip file)

Getting the most out of Microsoft Project requires using the product’s features correctly and using the right features to meet your project management needs.

Microsoft describes resources that you will find useful in developing your skills with Microsoft Project and applying them to the broader field of project management.

Read about it at: Microsoft Project Support

Microsoft® Project Course Instructor Pack

These are just some of the resources available. The good news is that the feature is now recognized as deserving of executive management’s full attention and sponsorship to avoid the previously very high project failure rate.

This article is written by MMB&T’s Martin Floyd. All rights reserved.


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