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The Ten Golden Rules of Software Project Management

(1) Develop a written scope of work or specification that details all system functionality.

(2) Obtain customer and/or management approval for the scope of work and a time schedule for delivery.

(3) Develop a detailed work breakdown (task list) with task durations. Refine the task list – break out more and more detail. The task list should include time for planning, scheduling, project management, unit test, integration and documentation. Involve the engineering staff in developing the task list and durations; the developers must agree that the task durations are achievable. Rules of thumb: no single task should be greater than one-man week; no single task should be greater than 2% of the entire project.

(4) Define numerous development milestones so management can periodically review project status.

(5) Pick a development team with proven (relevant) experience. Favor a small, highly experienced team to a large inexperienced team. Select engineers with large system, team development experience. Assign team members to the project tasks and create a development schedule. Account for inter–task dependencies. Q: How much time should it take to plan 6 man months or approximately 1000 man hours of development work? A: If your answer is less than 50 hours (5% of the project) you will probably fail to meet your schedule.

(6) Iterate over items 1-5 until a reasonable set of features can be developed in an appropriate time frame for an acceptable cost (number of engineers, project duration). Remember that project planning and scheduling are project management tools, not marketing tools.

(7) Develop project standards. Identify and acquire all required development tools. Remember that procedures and tools for source code management are essential. Define documentation standards, backup procedures, etc.

(8) After items 1-7, are complete kick off the project.

(9) Manage the project using the work breakdown, the project schedule, and the milestones. Identify oversights (unidentified tasks) as early as possible (a good initial work breakdown will result in few oversights). Remember that adding people late in a project to make the schedule will only exaggerate the problem.

(10) Push hard early in the project. Achieve major milestones during the first half of the project. Remember that the first half of the project is where most schedule slip-ups occurs, the second half is where unidentified tasks show up.

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