Periodic Status Assessments

Managing risks requires continuous attention to all the interacting activities of a software development effort. Periodic status assessments are management reviews conducted at regular intervals (monthly, quarterly) to address progress and quality indicators, ensure continuous attention to project dynamics, and maintain open communications among all stakeholders. The paramount objective of these assessments is to ensure that the expectations of all stakeholders (contractor, customer, user, subcontractor) are synchronized and consistent.

Periodic status assessments serve as project snapshots. While the period may vary, the recurring event forces the project history to be captured and documented. Status assessments provide the following:

• A mechanism for openly addressing, communicating, and resolving management issues, technical issues, and project risks

• Objective data derived directly from on-going activities and evolving product configurations

• A mechanism for disseminating process, progress, quality trends, practices, and experience information to and from all stakeholders in an open forum

Recurring themes from unsuccessful projects include status assessments that are (1) high-overhead activities, because the work associated with generating the status is separate from the everyday work, and (2) frequently canceled, because of higher priority issues that require resolution. Recurring themes from successful projects include status assessments that are (1) low-overhead activities, because the material already exists as everyday management data, and (2) rarely canceled, because they are considered too important.

Periodic status assessments are crucial for focusing continuous attention on the evolving health of the project and its dynamic priorities. They force the software project manager to collect and review the data periodically, force outside peer review, and encourage dissemination of best practices to and from other stakeholders. By standardizing the format and the metrics that are reviewed, an organization can also enable project-to-project comparisons and dissemination of best practices far more efficiently.

The default content of periodic status assessments should include the topics identified in Table 9-2. The only content the software project manager should have to generate from scratch for each review is an assessment of the top 10 risks. Even this will be predominantly an update of the previous assessment. A good rule of thumb is that the status assessment charts should be easily produced by the project manager with one day's notice. This minimal effort is possible if the data exist within an automated environment. The topic technical progress, shown in the table, is discussed in Chapter 13.

Table 9-2. Default content of status assessment reviews
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