Managing Software Projects: When has it gone RIGHT?

It occurred to me yesterday that I have never seen a software project managed well. (Almost) Every project I’ve worked on has had the fortune of excellent talent that has delivered and made someone money, but the developers always get burned out doing it.

Is this just the nature of the industry? Is it not actually as profitable as we once thought? Sure, it seems that there is never enough time or money in any business, but I just have this feeling that it doesn’t have to feel as catastrophic as I’ve seen it.

My very humble hunch is that we as developers (and people) have not properly asked ourselves this one question:

“What do I have that will allow me to do this better than it has been done in the past.”

I think that too often our answer is: “We have good skills, and we are ambitious,” and I think that that answer is not good enough. I think that software is still new and not enough of us have an experiential understanding of how software (and developer resources!) mature through development, testing, and maintenance phases. If we do have that understanding, I think we are not good enough communicators to apply it to our boss’ and clients’ expectations.

A lot of us has read the Mythical Man Month, but has anyone actually been on a successful project? Has anyone been happy enough with the life cycle of a product to be willing to go through it again in the same way? If so, I’d really love to hear about it.

By | 2011-07-16T18:26:00+00:00 July 16th, 2011|Uncategorized|4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. elarson July 17, 2011 at 2:47 am - Reply

    Honestly, sometimes I wonder if our expectations as software developers are simply too high. We look on other engineering industries and assume that the bridge or building someone built is working as expected, but doubt that is always the case. That road or bridge might need more maintenance than expected due to an unforeseen weather issue. The presumed usage might be incorrect, meaning that the lifetime of the result might be considerably hampered. There can also be mistakes that are expensive to fix. All of these issues reflect issues that us laymen may not realize that might change our opinions on what a successful project really is.

    Beyond the actual issues or problems a project might have (or introduce!) I think software developer metrics are also to blame. A developer that aims to build “beautiful” software might actually be hampering a metric based on simple business needs by extending the timeline in order to meet his/her own desire for something that represents his/her legacy as a coder. Likewise, a project might result in some open source software, but be a failure to the business. The point being that a developer that gets burned out might actually need to consider his/her own personal investment in a project is actually too tied to ego or confidence.

    I’ve worked with some amazing developers who care greatly about their craft and others who are simply paying the bills and have no real passion for technology. The developers who code to pay the bills are very good at disconnecting with their work at the end of the day. They have little problem seeing things as a success if the goals of the business are met. I’m not saying it isn’t worth investing yourself in your code, but rather, sometimes as a software developer it can be a good practice to recognize when your personal coding goals may not be that of the project. I know it has helped me in the past get over any personal disagreements I might have with the direction and helped me to appreciate the results according to the metrics provided instead of my own personal measure.

  2. Patricio July 18, 2011 at 1:37 am - Reply

    elarson: Excellent reply. Very well articulated. I think you are right in drawing focus to our perception of the process and product. I sometimes conclude that paying clients also suffer from incorrect assumptions. I’m not 100% on that though.

  3. Anonymous August 26, 2011 at 6:56 am - Reply

    I heard LinkedIn was done sanely, 8-5, little burn out, etc. Not sure if it’s true or not.

  4. Anonymous January 25, 2012 at 10:26 pm - Reply

    you suck

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