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How project management methods can improve software

Software project management takes knowledge, patience, skill and a lot of courage. The articles, tips, definitions and expert advice in this learning guide have been carefully selected to meet the unique needs of software project managers. Learn how various methods can be used to improve the development process and create better software.

Jennette Mullaney, Assistant EditorSoftware project management takes knowledge, patience, skill and a lot of courage. The articles, tips, definitions and expert advice in this learning guide have been carefully selected to meet the unique needs of software project managers. They won't make you more courageous by themselves, but the insight gained from these links might make project management seem a lot less daunting.

If you know of an article, tip, book or blog that should be included, send me an e-mail with the information and I'll add it. – Jennette Mullaney, assistant editor.

   Software project management basics
   Agile project management
   Six Sigma
   Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI)
   CMMI and Six Sigma
   Team building and leadership
   Other Useful Resources

  Software project management basics

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  • Successful project management: It's the person, not the process: David Christiansen explains the Flying by the Seat of Your Pants Cycle and how this and similar "processes" work.

  • 9 keys to effectively managing software projects (PDF) is definitely a basic guide (Key #1: Software development is not manufacturing) but as such it's a great introduction for the novice.

  • Project management training, certification: In this Expert Response Bas de Baar discusses various certifications and the benefits -- and limitations -- of being certified.

  • Tips for creating software project plans: David Christiansen details a simple way to approach planning in this Expert Response.

  • Secrets of successful project management, compiled by our very own requirements expert Karl E. Wiegers.

  • Giving managers time to manage: This is an article on Task-Oriented Applications (TOAs) and how these tools might ease the burden on project managers.

  • Managing software engineers offers a series of tips on how to deal with the unique set of people who comprise a software project team. Some of the advice may seem silly (install a koi pond in the office?) and many of the links are out of date but there are many good ideas to be found.

  • Software project management (PDF): This paper is from 1989, but it contains a lot of valuable information that's still relevant today.

  • Seven characteristics of dysfunctional software projects: For when things just go wrong.

  • Problematic system drags down software project: David Christiansen explains how to deal with a broken software project.

  • Software project management expert David Christiansen discusses introducing project management methodologies and ideas in this Expert Response. You will find more advice on software project management methodologies in the next three sections of the Learning Guide.
  Agile project management

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Agile software development is so hot right now, it only makes sense that project managers would start applying agile ideas to their management style.

Many of the articles in this section describe agile software project management as a panacea to the current creativity-stifling, boring style of management. Read on and see if you start to feel the same way.

  • Agile project management methods for IT projects (PDF) explains how the "light" aspects of agile can work with the "heavy" aspects of software project management. This easy to absorb article outlines approaches agile project managers can take.

  • Agile project management (PDF) proposes that the problem with today's project manager is that he or she is an "uninspired taskmaster." In order to become a visionary leader, project managers can follow the agile philosophy and this article explains how.

  • The Agile Revolution -- Agile Project Management is a sample chapter that promises to revolutionize project management using the agile philosophy. Agility is compatible with structure, and both can be found within the author's APM framework.

  • Methodology guru applies agile principles to project management is a news story on the author of The Agile Revolution (see above) and provides more insight into agile project management.

  • This "Herding Cats" blog entry on agile project management mentions the important difference between managing an agile project and managing a project in an agile manner and examines some criticisms of agile project management.

  • The blending of traditional and agile project management (PDF) details the benefits and disadvantages of traditional and agile pm and examines the environment that gave right to agile project management.

  • Agile project management tool from ThoughtWorks expected in June: This news article details how the tool, called Mingle, would work and looks ahead to the creation of similar tools.

  • Agile project management and "normative" paradigms is an editorial highlighting the failings of a PMBOK approach and offering alternatives.
  Six Sigma

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The elegantly named Six Sigma® methodology has its roots in manufacturing, not software development. Though it has been adapted for use in software engineering, its appropriateness to this industry and its effectiveness have many times been called into question. (Six Sigma has even been the inspiration for a Dilbert cartoon.) However, this methodology has its proponents as well -- and not just Jack Welch. The links below provide pro, con and neutral perspectives.

  Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI)

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CMMI was developed by the Software Engineering Institute (SEI) as a process improvement methodology. It evolved from SEI's CMM.

  CMMI and Six Sigma

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Even those who don't embrace either methodology might be interested in the integration off CMMI and Six Sigma. This integration, some believe, is more powerful than either methodology alone.

  • Balancing Six Sigma and the Capability Maturity Model compares the methodologies and goes through each step of the CMMI to determine whether integration is useful at a particular level.

  • Connecting Six Sigma to CMMI measurement and analysis is an excellent article describing the interrelationships between these two methodologies and the ways they can complement each other.

  • Integrating CMMI and Six Sigma in software and systems engineering (PDF) Disclaimer: This is in a tiresome PowerPoint format and there are company plugs scattered throughout. Other than that, this is a comprehensive (there are 155 slides) guide to combining the methodologies, and the charts and illustrations provide useful clarification.

  • After lengthy overviews of CMMI and Six Sigma, this article -- Relationship between CMMI and Six Sigma -- provides a number of great tactics for integration.

  • CMMI and Six Sigma synergy (PDF) is, unfortunately, in annoying PowerPoint format. However, the information is solid and those interested will profit from it.

  • Comparing lean Six Sigma to the Capability Maturity Model: Note that this article is concerned with lean Six Sigma, itself a combination of methods. Also, the comparison is with CMM, not CMMI. Nevertheless, the information is sound and readers may extrapolate what they wish.

  • Connecting software industry standards and best practices: Lean Six Sigma and CMMI: Again, it's lean Six Sigma but this informative, chart-filled article is an handy resource for those wishing to connect these two methodologies.
  Team building and leadership

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Project managers can look forward to all sorts of adventures in team interaction. Prepare yourself with these links.

  Other useful resources

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David ChristiansenExpert advice on software project management

Do you have questions about project management? Let our project management experts, David Christiansen, Bas de Baar and Karen N. Johnson guide you. Read advice they have given or submit your own questions.

Send in your suggestions
Are there other topics you'd like to see learning guides on? Send assistant editor Jennette Mullaney an e-mail at and let her know what they are.

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