The Software Project Survival Guide is the natural step on from Code Complete and Debugging the Development Process. Although a Microsoft Press publication, Steve McConnell's should grace the library of any budding technology lead.

You know the feeling, you've spent eternity as one of the grunts, at the coal face cutting code. You think, you dream and it's in code - you dream of electric sheep. One day the big boss comes along and says "Buddy, you're a great coder, why don't you go and manage that team?" Now, you like a challenge but you've got to ask yourself how knowing more than anyone else in the team about virtual inheritance gives you the right to be in charge. This is where the Software Project Survival Guide comes in.

McConnell's book is the answer, the back cover asks the question you're probably asking yourself - "Congratulations, you're in charge. Now What?" - and inside is the answer. It could have been titled A Bluffers Guide to IT Project Management it's so good. And it's not just a read for the new manager - I've been managing projects of various sizes for nine years now and, although full of the obvious that I should really know, it served as a good reminder as well as giving me some new ideas. It's also worth a good browse every now and then as it has regular summaries - survival checks - that outline all the main points in a series of bullets.

The book is broken down into four sections:

  • The Survival Mind-set - This section sets the scene for the whole book. It lets you test the current health of your project and outlines what tools you need (including the obligatory reference to DeMarco and Lister's Peopleware) for survival.
  • Survival Preparations - This section deals with such nuggets as planning, risk management and quality assurance. It also talks all about staged deliveries. It's amazing how many one or two year IT projects never deliver but split into a number of staged deliveries (I try and aim for three or four months each), even huge projects seem much more manageable.
  • Succeeding By Stages - How to actually do it, this section deals with the project itself rather than the preparation. The nuggets for me here included miniature milestones (literally planning down to the day) and the daily build and smoke test. This is where the real value of the book was for me.
  • Mission Accomplished - A summary of what's come before and what to do when the project, or stage is complete.

McConnell's created a comprehensive tome that brings what is one of the most complex disciplines and techniques together in one volume. It's as readable as his other works and should stand the test of time and be part of any IT project manager's bookshelf along side other reference works in the discipline such as Peopleware and The Mythical Man-Month.

ISBN: 1-57231-621-7
Publiser: Microsoft Press
Published: 1998

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