When is a project not a project?
I'm regularly perplexed by the lack of precision of language used in the IT industry in general, and particularly in software development and maintenance. I have no doubt that this will be a recurring thread as this blog matures. One example that causes me grief is the use of the term "quality assurance" as a synonym for testing. At this year's SEPG conference we saw a resurgence of another old favourite - the 'P' word - being abused. I'd like to think that we generally understand what a "project" is, and whilst I quite like the definition from the PMBOK, namely "a temporary endeavour undertaken to create a unique product, service or result", I prefer the ISO 9000:2000 definition which adds some useful clarity - "unique process consisting of a set of co-ordinated and controlled activities with start and finish dates, undertaken to achieve an objective conforming to specific requirements, including the constraints of time, cost and resources". There's another definition of project from the CMMI, which goes "in the CMMI Product Suite, a managed set of interrelated resources which delivers one or more products to a customer or end user. A project has a definite beginning and end and typically operates according to a plan. Such a plan is frequently documented and specifies the project to be delivered or implemented, the resources and funds to be used, the work done, and a schedule for doing the work. A project can be composed of projects". CMMI for Services by necessity uses the term project in order to align with the common core process areas across the CMMI Product Suite. So Project Planning and Project Monitoring and Control feature as key Level 2 process areas. By its own admission the SEI recognises that this may (and already is) causing confusion for service oriented organisations who don't run projects, but manage services. The advice from the SEI currently is that, in the CMMI for Services world, the term "project" can be taken to mean work or tasks, or pretty much whatever it is that you do that isn't running projects...the term is a bit woolly! Over the years I have had enough trouble with the term project when dealing with Application Maintenance and Support functions, who quite clearly tend not to run projects. The usual comment, especially when CMMI is mentioned is, "this doesn't apply to us - we don't run projects...". It seems that now we are going to unleash the misuse of the word project in a whole new arena, and as usual it's the process people who will have to deal with the fall out.