Software Project Management – Science or Art ? Banner Image
October 12, 2009

Software Project Management – Science or Art ?
The discipline of Project management primarily evolved in the construction industry – and was very well documented. As the advantages were clearly visible – the practice of project management extended to other sectors as well. Each sector brought its own influences on Project Management – but none of them significantly impacted the core principles. But when the software industry started developing – the practice of project management was impacted in a major way. The difference being – the amount of people dependency while developing software is significant – so the primarily resource based -principles of project management – had to be adapted to people influences.

As opposed to other industries – the software industry is so people intensive that even the science of project management has now evolved into something of an art-form . Take estimation as an example – in the construction industry – you know that laying a slab will take 4 weeks and it is more or less a standard , now in the software industry -writing a JSP page – there are programmers who – in the right environment – given the right motivation would complete it in 3 days. The same guys in the wrong environment – and if not motivated would take 7 days. To make things more complex -set of programmers would react to differently to the same factors for. E.g. some programmers say that music helps them to concentrate and it is not uncommon to see C++ code being written to the loud accompaniment of Van-Halen of Aero Smith. However some guys would prefer Mozart and some no music at all – because it distracts them. All these guys would make a part of the projects managers’ team. And he has to now estimate how much a piece of work – to be done by these mavericks is going to take. Now what technique is going to help the poor project manager? Hence – he has to be more of an artist than a technician in order to manage these situations.

More importantly what has now emerged as a parallel expertise – is the discipline of Offshore Project Management. In this so called flat-word where communication channels have made off shoring not only possible but also very effective – a new field has emerged. Offshore project management – has to deal with the added complexity of managing a customer stakeholder who is miles away and also at times managing staff who is working from different geographical locations. As such it becomes even more of an art-form though a lot of books have been written on this subject trying to make it a science but the tremendous pace at which the market is changing makes it difficult for any paradigm to stick.

So that’s where we leave – Software Project Management or more so Offshore Software project management – Art or Science – you decide!!

I haven’t been able to figure out how I have been doing it for the last 10 years!! But I have been doing it for sure.
Abhijeet Dixit