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4 0 I E E E S O F T WA R E P u b l i s h e d b y t h e I E E E C o m p u t e r S o c i e t y 0 7 4 0 - 7 4 5 9 / 0 5 / $ 2 0 . 0 0 © 2 0 0 5 I E E E Most software professionals have no laws of physics or properties of materials to constrain their problems or solutions. They are bound only by human imagina- tion, economic constraints, and platform performance. (Some embedded-software developers are an occasional exception.) In a software project, you can change al- most anything at any time: plans, people, funding, milestones, requirements, de- signs, and tests. Requirements—probably the most misused word in our industry— rarely describe anything that is truly re- quired. Nearly everything is negotiable. Metrics and measures for software prod- ucts have no atomic units and are highly subjective. Economic performance more typical in service industries (measured by a user’s perceived value rather than the cost of production) has proven to be the best measure of success for software. These observations probably sound counter- cultural to project managers who use engineer- ing mindsets to produce airplanes, bridges, heart transplant valves, nuclear reactors, sky- scrapers, and satellites (unless these projects in- clude significant software content or are first- of-a-kind systems). However, they do apply to movie producers—professionals who regularly create a unique and complex web of intellectual property limited only by vision and creativity. I prefer to describe software management as a discipline of software economics rather than software engineering . Software projects are rarely concerned with established and mature engineering tenets. Rather, a software manager’s day-to-day decisions (like those of movie pro- ducers) are dominated by value judgments, cost trade-offs, human factors, macro-economic trends, technology trends, market strength, and timing. To deal with these more subjective deci- sions, I recommend using a steering leadership focus Successful Software Management Style: Steering and Balance S oftware project managers are more likely to succeed if they use techniques that are more like managing a movie production than an engineering production. “Heresy!” some might shout. “Software projects need more disciplined engineering management, not less.” Before you dismiss my claim as an insult to the profession, consider these observations (a related discussion appears elsewhere 1 ): project management Walker Royce, IBM Software Group Project management style is a significant determinant separating successful projects from failures. Contrary to conventional wisdom, steering leadership is better than detailed plan-and-track leadership.
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style that comprises active management involve- ment and frequent course correction.
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