Software Project Management Lessons From Open Source

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Via Slashdot, I recently read an article entitled What Corporate Projects Should Learn From Open Source by Andrew Stellman and Jennifer Greene.

This article is a wonderful complement to the book on managing open source projects I mentioned recently as it focuses on what corporated projects can learn from successful open source projects.

Among many factors, one key factor they discuss is how the lack of strict hierarchy and transparency in an open source community is a key component to an OS project’s success.

Features and changes cannot simply be added or changed on the whim of some VP who has no clue about how software development works and is unwilling to expose his or her reasoning. If someone proposes a big change, it gets discussed and weighed on its merits in an open forum. The marketing team does not drive the schedule in an open source project.

Another striking quality of successful open source projects is that despite the tendency towards an agile approach to development, they are at the same time very disciplined. Every project profiled had fairly well documented and detailed rules about the procedure for committing code, how a release is packaged, how a bug is triaged, etc...

I believe this turns the notion that open source projects are undisciplined chaotic bucket of bolts endeavors while commercial projects are finely tuned tightly run machines on its head. In fact, it is the commercial projects that could stand a bit more discipline.

Unfortunately, I believe that some of these lessons may never reach the right ears, as pride and arrogance tends to bring about the downfall of many a corporate project.

In any case, I encourage you to read it and sneak it under the door of the stakeholders of your various projects.