Lehrstuhl für Angewandte Softwaretechnik
Chair for Applied Software Engineering

Chapter 3: Project Organization and Communication

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Abstract

Software engineering is a collaborative activity. The development of software brings together participants from different backgrounds, such as domain experts, analysts, designers, programmers, managers, technical writers, graphic designers, and users. No single participant can understand or control all aspects of the system under development, and thus, all participants depend on others to accomplish their work. Moreover, any change in the system or the application domain requires participants to update their understanding of the system. These dependencies make it critical to share information in an accurate and timely manner.

Communication can take many forms depending on the type of activity it is supporting. Participants communicate their status during regular meetings and record it into meeting minutes. Participants communicate project status to the client during client reviews. The communication of requirements and design alternatives is supported by models and their corresponding documents. Crises and misunderstandings are handled through spontaneous information exchanges such as telephone calls, messages, hallway conversations, and ad hoc meetings. As software engineering projects become large, the time each participant must spend in communication increases, thus decreasing the time spent on technical activities. To address these issues, the organization of projects into teams and the sharing of information through formal and informal channels is essential.

We first describe the basic concepts associated with project organization, such as task, work product, and deliverable. We then describe the communication mechanisms available to participants. Finally, we describe the activities associated with project organization and communication. This chapter is written from the perspective of a project participant (e.g., a developer) who needs to understand the project organization and communication infrastructure. The creation of the project organization and communication infrastructure is the task of the project manager and is the topic of Chapter 14, Project Management.