The scope of work within any project should be accurately planned and controlled; otherwise, the result will fall short of expectations. Software engineering projects are not an exception: they require talented managers who can skilfully organize the collaboration of team members, allocate resources and stay on track, dealing with obstacles in order to achieve set goals.
Let’s discuss the essence and importance of software project management in the modern IT landscape.
Software Project Management Definition
The process of software product development has its peculiarities:
- Close team collaboration
- Frequent iterations
- Continuous issue tracking and product updating
- Continuous customer feedback analysis
Software project management is about finding the balance between planning, scheduling, supporting team cooperation, task monitoring, keeping documentation and communication with clients in order to meet specified requirements.
You can leverage various methodologies and tools to manage your software project. The Waterfall model is a traditional one that used to be popular among software engineers and PMs a decade ago. Currently, the Agile approach is a widely used practice for managing IT projects, as it allows teams to keep up with frequent changes and release high-quality products on time.
We at SaM Solutions adhere to the Agile philosophy of software development. We’ve been applying it to our solutions for more than a decade, using management frameworks such as Scrum, Kanban, Lean and XP.
The Role and Responsibility of a Software Project Manager
If you think that a project manager is an easy job, you are wrong. This position requires a person who can keep the software development scope of work within given constraints (budget, time and quality) and at the same time achieve expected results.
More specifically, a PM should ensure that the development process stays on schedule, expenses don’t exceed the allocated budget and product quality meets the required standards.
What exactly is a project manager responsible for? The following are the seven core duties of a PM.
The management process starts with resource and activity planning. A PM creates the project blueprint and sets out the timeline by defining the scope of work, estimating available resources, team capabilities and risks. Considering unpredictable circumstances that may occur at any moment, the plan should leave opportunities for variation.
Good software project managers apply their leadership skills to organize the team around themselves, reach out to each team member and establish trusting relationships. At this phase, their main task is to motivate the team to reach their full potential for future success.
Based on the defined plan, a manager controls the execution of each stage: progress and failures, schedule compliance, obstacles during the development and their mitigation.
Cost estimation of software creation is another task for the project manager. PMs develop the budget and carefully monitor each development phase to stick to that budget. One of the primary measures of success for any project is avoiding significant overruns.
Effective and continuous communication with clients is a must for software project development since only fulfilling clients’ needs leads to success. One of the key tasks for the PM is to involve the customer in the production, keep them up to date with the progress and adjust the product to changing requirements. Professional project managers know how to ensure customer satisfaction.
It should be noted that deviations from the initial plan are inevitable since conditions and even target goals may change along the way. That’s why project managers should keep pace with the rapid changes and continuously analyze the situation to overcome hurdles with minimum losses.
7. Keeping Documents
Comprehensive project documentation is just as important as the product itself. Firstly, it contains information about all the requirements, tasks and stakeholders, making it possible to trace the history and see what occurred at what point. Secondly, documentation can be used for similar projects in the future, which will streamline the process and help avoid mistakes. Experienced managers always keep valuable reports.
Why Do You Need Software Project Management?
The importance of project management has increased over the last decade due to the increased complexity of software solutions. If a project involves multiple stakeholders and has multi-layer functionality, centralized monitoring is the only way to complete it successfully.
CIO magazine calculated that companies that use popular PM practices save 28 times more money than their counterparts who do not implement project management in their business processes.
However, the adoption of PM software solutions is still not widespread. According to Wellingtone, only 23% of organizations leveraged digital solutions for project management in 2020.
It seems odd because PM practices have evident advantages:
- Realistic planning and achievable goals. Without a PM, team members focus on their tasks but don’t always keep the ultimate goal in mind. Experienced managers draw the whole picture of the development process, considering all critical factors and constraints that can affect the outcome. Therefore, they can set realistic goals that the team can achieve with the given resources and specifications.
- Consistency. Project management aims at keeping processes in alignment with the defined development strategy. In this case, there are no performance gaps and tasks are executed consistently, which reduces errors and improves results.
- Proactive management. It’s always better to anticipate issues and prevent them than try to handle them when they arise and struggle with consequences. PM practices are based on risk estimation and proactivity, so they help avoid many problems, ensuring high product quality and quicker time to market.
- Reduced costs. Clear objectives, consistency and proactivity during software development save much money and effort. This is a weighty argument in favor of hiring a project manager.
Best Project Management Software 2021
You can find a variety of software solutions for project management on the market. They may differ in functionality and price policy but all of those solutions bring value to the development process as they help build a transparent and smooth workflow.
In 2020, the project management software market was valued at $5.37 billion and is expected to reach $9.81 billion by 2026, growing at a CAGR of 10.67% over the forecast period, according to Mordor Intelligence.
Two main factors explain the growing demand for PM software systems:
- The increasing complexity and size of projects require an all-in-one digital solution to coordinate workloads and resources.
- The COVID-19 pandemic forced most software development companies to switch to remote work; that’s why digital project management systems have become obligatory tools to govern distributed teams.
In 2021, according to statistics by Datanyze, the project management software market leader is Jira, with a 36.57% share; Jira is followed by Microsoft Project (19.78%) and Smartsheet (5.17%). Some other popular software systems are Asana, ClickUp and Wrike. Let’s compare them.
Software Management Activities
Software project management is a long-lasting process that comprises several tasks and functions a manager is supposed to handle. We’ve compiled a list of these activities for you to understand the whole PM life cycle clearly.
Planning is the initial task that precedes the actual beginning of product development. Without a clear and detailed plan, it’s impossible to manage the product creation and complete it successfully.
At this phase, the manager documents the client’s requirements, estimates capabilities and risks and evaluates the scope of work to create a realistic schedule. Thus, there are two subtasks: scope management and project estimation.
At this stage, it needs to be defined what should be done during the project implementation, including all processes and deliverables. It’s essential to know the scope of work for further timelining and budgeting and for keeping within those limits. Scope management also helps divide the project into parts for organizing a more convenient workflow.
While planning the project, it’s necessary to estimate the following parameters:
- Size — the number of code lines or function points
- Effort — person-hours needed to create software
- Time — the total time in hours or days required to complete all tasks
- Cost — the total sum of money needed to complete all tasks and get the desired outcome
Correct estimation helps avoid excessive costs and meet the deadline.
Resources are what you use to create a product:
- Employees or human resources
- Financial assets
- Software tools
- Hardware components
The PM’s task is to estimate the availability of all needed resources, allocate them adequately and control their use at every stage to avoid shortages or overuse.
Any task is associated with predictable and unpredictable risks that may arise at any time due to changed requirements, market fluctuations, staff turnover and other reasons.
That’s why a PM should always consider risks and manage them. To cope with this task, they should:
- identify all possible risks related to your scope of work at the planning stage
- categorize determined risks into groups by the level of the potential impact on the project
- analyze the possibility of risks at every stage and decide on actions to avoid them or minimize their impact on the project.
- monitor factors that indicate the possibility of risk and get ready to mitigate the aftereffects.
Execution and Monitoring
Continuous monitoring of the project implementation ensures that the process goes according to the plan and timeline.
A project manager should check activities within every task on a daily basis and generate status reports (for example, once a week) to mark tasks as completed, in progress, or pending. This practice allows a PM to synchronize the execution with set phases and complete the project in time.
At all development stages, communication is the essential factor for a successful outcome. The task of a project manager is to support effective communication between team members, clients and other participants to avoid misunderstandings and set the right goals.
Communication management may include:
- the selection and usage of appropriate communication tools
- sharing of up-to-date information
- feedback collection and analysis
- summing up and sharing conclusions after the project ends.
A final product is defined by a set of characteristics, both physical and functional. These characteristics are called configuration; to achieve the right configuration, a project manager together with developers and clients should control all changes during the development process and compare them with the project goals.
Configuration management implies reviews and audits to ensure that the outcome complies with configuration requirements. Its goal is to improve efficiency and reduce errors.
Note: the Agile methodology assumes that the initial product configuration may be blurred; it is highly modified as the project develops.
Don’t Overlook Management Possibilities
Professional project management can make a big difference to the result. You should know that you will contribute to visibility, consistency and efficient team collaboration by hiring a project manager.
Highly specialized managers at SaM Solutions know how to do things right: they allow team members to focus on their direct tasks, make business processes run smoothly and keep everything under control, despite any challenges.