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Manage It!

Johanna Rothman
Published by Pragmatic Programmers
0-9787392-4-8 351 pages
£ 24.99
Published: 29th Jun 2007
reviewed by Raza Rizvi
   in the September 2007 issue (pdf), (html)

The reader of this probably already does some project management alongside a hundred other activities that go towards delivering a software project or building a multi-person piece of code. In that sort of role one does the best that one can because there isn't anyone else there to do it instead. In that case this is a perfect non-prescriptive guide to pretty much the entire remit of a project manager.

I say non-prescriptive because this book really does being with the basics of what might constitute a project in the first place. There is no single methodology forced on the reader and in fact things come over as being logical natural sense, one after the other in a very easy to understand flow. In that sense the book of course starts with an overview of projects and how one would use life cycles to understand the flow of information within a project, and the internal/external pressures that determine when the software product can actually be produced.

Project managers know the question they get asked the most is ``when?'', and chapter 5 is devoted to the subject of estimation. This follows hand-in-hand with project 6 which very clearly and amusingly with the scheduling tactics employed by those who have to get the product out of the door and who therefore influence, cajole, and trick the project managers into adding that extra feature in the same timescale, or bring forward the release date. This chapter alone is testament to the experience of the author as she gives both the description of the technique used and how one might counter the argument validly. Having been in large-scale coding environments (for billing systems, though luckily not in recent years as a coder) I chuckled as each one reminded me of the past misdeeds of managers.

Keeping the project on time and the updates flowing form the middle portion of the book, as it tends towards the management of ever larger projects and programs before concluding with project completion. There is a comprehensive bibliography (with many of the authors own works cited...)

Overall, Manage It! does project management with a relaxed style that makes the read a pleasure rather than a chore. It is well illustrated with figures, diagrams, cartoons, side-bars, and practical case-snippets from real people in real projects. This latter feature really illustrates the author's experience in teaching the subject as a practical (and essential) part of the development process rather than as a theoretical, academic exercise. I can see this book being of use to more than those involved day to day in software production. The advice is adaptable with relative ease to (non-software) product and process development, and the chapter on managing meetings deals with issues all businesses have of getting the most information in the smallest amount of time!

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