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Program managing software development

Raja Venkateswar | May 27, 2010
For a long time, I have been mystified by the breed of program managers who come and run complex software development programs with as much knowledge of coding and testing as I have about Greek.

For a long time, I have been mystified by the breed of Program Managers who come and run complex software development programssome even successfully, perhaps even very successfullyarmed with PRINCE and PMP certifications, exceptional people and process skills and with as much knowledge of coding and testing as I have about Greek.

I always wondered how Program Managers manage programs without understanding what is being programmed or the programming language being used and for a long time, I used to wonder if we would trust building a bridge (well a normal civil engineering bridge, not just a bridge across waterfall methodologies) to a person who has not been certified as a civil engineer. They may be the best people manager with the finest articulation skills and ability to track programs but still, would you want to trust building a bridge to them?

I would imagine an unequivocal answer would probably be: an emphatic no. Can we trust building something as complex as a bridge, which would have zillions of complexities in terms of design, materials, cement and steel, weather etc and whichin case of any unforeseen accidentis capable of causing significant distress or even bring about calamity to a community? Well, if the answer is an emphatic no for a non-civil engineer to program-manage building a bridge, why is the answer so often an easy yes to a non-software engineer to program manage a software engineering program?

The parallels

The parallels are easy to comprehend substitute the complexity due to weather dependence in civil engineering by environment complexity in an application, material complexity can be substituted by process and coding standards, size, scale and shape of the bridge by class objects, design patterns and coding language eccentricities and so on. The one common denominator seems to be the interpersonal skills bit and while I admittedly have never even remotely been involved in constructing a bridge, I daresay this plays a more critical role in software engineering than in civil engineering.

I know I am probably developing a bridge across troubled waters and hope I dont have to hear sounds of silence as response to this blog. I could have chosen a more non-controversial topic to kickstart what promises to be an exciting time for me and I hope to hear from everyone and get educated why program managers, who have never programmed, make good program managers for software engineering programs well, at least most of us think they do.

Well, I dont mind being told that the best program managers for software engineering projects are those that have a programming background well, I have one to start with.


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