Thursday, July 28, 2005

The Disconnect Between People and Process

Earlier today, someone mailed me a link to the Construx course schedule. Construx is the company founded by Steve McConnell, author of Code Complete and The Software Project Survival Guide, along with several other great titles on software development. The courses offered by Construx have titles like:

Code Complete Intensive: Practical Software Construction
Software Project Management Boot Camp

I'm interested in software project management, so I checked out that link. The course covers topic areas like:
  • Defining software project success
  • Using a software project plan template
  • Controlling change
  • Effective conversion planning
I'm reading this and thinking to myself, "What does this do for me?" Ask yourself -- of software projects you've been on, when did you think "Gosh, this project could be a wild success if we could just define success! Maybe we need a software project plan template?" Not very often, I'll wager.

On the other hand, how many times have you thought "This project could be a success if..."
  • ... I could just convince <team member X> to {stay focused|test his own code|stop playing ping-pong all the time}
  • ... I could show my boss that we just need a few more {weeks|people|machines}
  • ... we had a real {testing plan|development environment|business model}
  • ... our company could attract the most talented developers in the world.
Where is that material in courses on software engineering management? Process is nice, but people matter. We have to start admitting that getting the best people is hard, important, and relevant to software success. If you want to create a process that captures that, all the better, but please stop talking about process as though it can abstract away all impact of people.

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