The Deadline: A Novel About Project Management Review

The Deadline: A Novel About Project Management
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Like economics, the discipline of software development suffers from a weakness that prevents the resolution of competing theories, in that it is generally impossible to perform controlled experiments. It would take anextremely brave manager to ever try out two competing development theoriesby having two teams build the same product simultaneously. However, it ispossible to borrow a technique from theoretical physics and perform thoughtexperiments. Such an experiment would involve having more than one teamdevelop the same product simultaneously, but using different techniques.That type of experiment is the premise of this novel.
The maincharacter is a recent victim of downsizing who is kidnapped and taken to aformerly communist country where the educational level is high and thecosts are low. Once there, he succumbs to his fantasies and agrees toperform the experiment of his dreams. With six products to build and alarge staff of developers, he splits them into eighteen groups where eachproduct is being built by three teams simultaneously. Each group of thethree then uses a different development method. Throw in impossibledeadlines and you have a microcosm of software development.
It wouldappear that such a premise would guarantee a boring book, but nothing couldbe further from the truth. The book is entertaining and enduring, asdevelopers will recognize most of their development problems, albeitcouched in somewhat unique circumstances. Many of the leading figures inthe theory of software development management make cameo appearances,including a certain very rich man. The end result is a true stroke ofgenius that has somewhat of a surprise ending, but actually quite natural,given the current climate in the computer business.
It is rare when abook about the management of software development is not as dull as bakeddirt, and this book is indeed the exception. Not only is it entertaining,but you can even learn some management skills in the process.

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