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Joining a Software Project In-Progress July 11, 2012

Posted by Tim Rodgers in Management & leadership, Product design, Project management, Quality.
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Yesterday a question on LinkedIn caught my eye: “What are 3 key metrics you use to assess [the] health of a given project? … Do you have your own checklist to use when being added to [an] already running project?” The person who posed the question identified themselves as a software developer, so my answer assumed a software project.

If I’m limited to only three metrics, here’s my checklist:

1. Schedule status: how far behind is the project vs. the original plan? You can’t change the past, but the actions you take from this point forward depend on how far behind you are now.

2. Scope creep and requirements stability: what is the weekly trend in requirements changes? What you’re looking for here is convergence on a fixed set of requirements. On-going turmoil and failure to converge is a red flag for both schedule and quality.

3. Defect management: what is the weekly trend in new, open, and closed defects? Is the team keeping up with defect fixing, or is there a growing backlog that will eventually overwhelm them?

With this information a project manager who joins a software development project in-progress should have a good idea of the current status. Certainly there are other things that would be worth knowing, for example the “validated completeness” of individual functional requirements, as determined by test results.

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