The idea of project in operations management helps to understand the demand on the organization by adding the dimensions of required effort, delivery interval, objectives/ scope, client and required skills. Project planning serves to define the previous attributes, while project execution and tracking is a common way for full-filling demand.
For me, demand on software organization can be:
- Product roadmap oriented to evolve the product
- Client oriented to meet specific enhancement requests
- Failure demand oriented to pay back the accumulated technical debt
- Bug fixing
From project management point of view, I tend to perceive that the ultimate unit of demand is the MMF. This represents the lowest value-based product characteristic which can be planned, tracked and accepted by the client. A project is collection of MMFs which if complete, the demand is met.
For me, the way we projectize the MMFs is important to bring meaningful value from the projects. Grouping the MMFs can help in getting higher benefits than considering an MMF as a single project. Projects can act as vehicle for achieving the objectives of the product portfolio. This can be realized through analyzing, assessing and planning as the demand is initiated.
For me the project is conceptual grouping while MMF is a tangible deliverable which is valued to both the client and organization. Actually, management is done at the MMF level through visual tracking of the MMF, planning, daily stand-ups….
The product release consists of set of MMFs which bring economical value which justifies the transactional cost to produce the release.
Both the release and project overlap. Project’s MMFs may spread across multiple releases, while a certain release can consist of multiple projects. Project is a delivery oriented structure consisting of work management to produce the release or part of it. The release is how the product map evolves.
Can we get rid of projects?
I think we can, and probably this would be the direction at sometime. What I see till today, software organizations projectize their delivery. As these organizations become more driven by release creation and start focusing on meeting the demand as represented by the MMF; the project overhead would become less. Project managers are increasingly assume process management roles (e.g. Scrum Master, Kanban facilitators…) implementing the ideas of Flow, Lean, Theory of Constraints and others.
Projectizing is symptom of organizations which are driven by supply (man-hours) to meet the demand. In Agile and Lean world, I think we are driven by Throughput improvement to meet the demand.