Category Archives: Time Management

Why software project management is like painting a Rebrandt (or, knowing when done is done)

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (July 15, 1606 – October 4, 1669) was a Dutch painter.   When you see his paintings you can’t help but be amazed by their detail and lifelike nature.  The problem with paintings, especially the ones that are based on classical realism, is that there’s always one more stroke of the brush you can add. The painter is never finished. So too with software. There’s always one more test case to try, one more error scenario to trap, and one more use case to cover.   That’s why, left to their own devices, software projects never end.

Does everyone have a clear understanding, and does everyone have the same understanding of “done”? Ask around in your team  – I absolutely guarantee that in most organizations people do not!  

RED FLAG WARNING: Software developers love to say things are “basically done”.  The problem with “basically done” is that it usually translates to 90% ‘functionally’ done, but the last 10% of the work could take more than 50% of the time. As they say, the devil is in the details and the details are always in the final 10%.

Because there’s no such things as exhaustive development (and in particular, testing with full branch and code path coverage) one of the most important steps a software project manager can take in driving a high-efficiency team is to make sure that everyone in the organization understands the definition of “done” for the pieces they are working on. When is the code done? When is testing done?  It’s not as easy as it sounds, but it’s an effort well worthwhile. 

More on secrets of software project management in Chapter 15 of Making it Big in Software: Get the job. Work the org. Become great.

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ITWorld’s interview with author Sam Lightstone.

Columnist and author James E. Gaskin interviews Sam Lightstone for ITWorld.

“Career advice: Making your mark in software programming”

http://bit.ly/aDYva6

Alone in a crowded room (and other email addiction problems)

Avoid the urge to do email during meetings. Laptops and BlackBerries have made it possible to do email almost anywhere and anytime. While it may seem like an efficient use of time, doing email (obviously) distracts you from what brought you into the room in the first place: the meeting! All too often, hard-working people schedule meetings to present important updates or proposals, or to review and discuss key issues, while the audience is clearly heads down in their laptops doing email. The speaker is literally alone in a crowded room. 
Not only is this extremely rude, but from a business process model, if you consistently do email during meetings, you will effectively not be present in most of the meetings you attend. As a senior person in an organization (or one aspiring to be), your attention at meetings is, believe it or not, frequently required.  

  

The optics on this kind of behavior are also pretty bad. To build an image of yourself as a person who is informed, engaged, and engaging, keep yourself focused on the meeting, not on the email.   

Making it Big in Software: Get the Job. Work the Org. Become Great.

Making it Big in Software is now available for pre-order on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.  Three years in the writing, I’m absolutely delighted with how the book has turned out.

Discover how to:  •Get your first job in software development •Master the nontechnical skills crucial to your success •Understand the “sweet science” of software R&D •“Work the org” to move up rapidly •Successfully manage your time, projects, and life •Avoid “killer” mistakes that could destroy your career •Move up to “medium-shot,” “big-shot,” and finally, “visionary” • Undestand the “Law of Promotability Inversion” • Even launch your own winning software company.

Featuring exclusive interviews with leading personalities from industry and academia including Microsoft’s CTO, Salesforce.com’s CEO, the inventor of Java, the inventor of email, the coinventor of the Internet, an IBM Fellow, and many more.