Thursday, 8 July 2010

How Long is a Piece of String? The 'Dark Arts' of SOA Project Management

We are often asked "how long is a piece of string?" Well that's not entirely true, more likely the question would be something more SOA related such as "can you tell us how long it will take to define a service architecture?" However, without some greater precision of what is actually involved it is equally hard to answer either question.

Clearly scope plays a major factor. For example, is it the service architecture for the whole enterprise, a business domain, or just for a single solution? However, careful project management and estimating requires much greater precision.

CBDI-SAE becomes very useful in this respect. It isn't just that it details the necessary process decomposition that provides the work breakdown structure required for project management, but also that it provides via the CBDI-SAE meta model, a clearer definition of concepts involved. Rather than some vague notion of what a service is or what an architecture might contain, there are clear definitions of the objects and their relationships, and how they may be structured into deliverables.
This level of detail provides a much better basis for estimating and project management, as the project can be broken down much more precisely, and at the finer-grained level it becomes much easier to apply some guidelines as to how long an activity might take.
That said, there are still many variables involved, and many false assumptions that can be made.

Project Management and estimating have always been something of a 'dark art'. However, in these days of ever increasing levels of outsourcing and ever so careful cost control, having a sound basis on which to estimate the resources and effort required becomes paramount. So recently, I have begun to document some project management templates to support SOA activities and to provide guidelines for estimating the resources required.

The first set of resources have been published in our CBDI-SAE SOA Knowledgebase and made available to subscribers to assist them with these activities. To support these resources, I have also authored a report that complements them by explaining with variables and assumptions as well as any 'rules of thumb' or past experience that can be applied to estimating.

For example, there is a Microsoft Project File as shown below for the entire Agile Application Modernization Project that contains the process/task decomposition with the predecessors defined, plus also all the inputs and outputs listed as a useful reference for the project manager.

However, with over 300 tasks it might be viewed as rather unwieldy. The intention with these files was foremost to provide the decomposition in a Microsoft Project format as we recognize the usefulness of that and we have had several requests for it.
From these files it is straightforward to extract the processes and tasks required for a more narrowly focused project. The process decomposition in CBDI-SAE lends itself well to that, as many of the process units are already identified as autonomous units of work responsible for some major deliverable.

Whilst these files reflect the full scope of the Application Modernization project, locating and copying the processes and tasks to support other projects, such as the delivery of the Service Portfolio Plan or a Service Specification for example, is easy enough.

I plan on publishing further similar resources for our subscribers over the coming months.

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