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by Mark Trescowthick - GUI Computing
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The Software Project Survival Guide

This is probably the easiest book to review imaginable. I could do it in 13 words : 'If you read and found useful Steve McConnell's two previous books, buy this'. That seems a bit of a cop-out though…

Steve McConnell is the author of two of the bibles of modern software development, Code Complete and Rapid Development. With his latest book, he takes his common sense and development experience and applies it to software project management, to excellent effect.

Steve is specifically looking at projects in the 3 to 18 months and/or 3 to 25 developers range but even if you fall outside those boundaries, this book will still be a great resource. The book specifically documents Steve's preferred Staged Development approach (which suits me because that is the methodology we most often use) but even if that isn't the way you're doing things this book still has plenty of great information and lots of techniques that any project will find handy.

As is typical with Steve's work, the book rarely if ever strays away from being readable and fast-paced, which is no bad effort for a book on project management that extends to nearly 300 pages and covers the full gamut of projects, from Requirements Specification to Release. From my perspective, some of what Steve advocates we'll never use, largely because he tends to assume C++ or some similar development language and we tend to use VB or Delphi, which inherently work slightly differently, and which require slightly different techniques, especially during the detailed design and construction phases. But that said, making those sorts of compensations is easy, and certainly doesn't detract from the worth of the book as a whole.

Steve has some great ideas for making project documentation easier and more visible, like establishing a project intranet site, and we are already moving to make that a standard for all projects of any significant size. When it's not proposing neat new ideas, this book is in some ways restating what might be considered the "essentials" of software project management. But it's doing so in ways updated to take account of new tools and techniques, and from a 100% commonsense perspective.

There's also a handy set of templates for most of the major documents that Steve recommends (and they're available from his web site for download.

I could go on and on, but I'm just going to sound gushy. Basically, if you're managing software development or responsible for it in any way (even as an end user) get this book. At less than $60, it's the best investment you'll make this year.

By Steve McConnell
ISBN 1-57231-621-7
Microsoft Press

Written by: Mark Trescowthick
August '98

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