It Ain’t like Building a Brick Wall, Man.

Software projects aren’t like other projects.

Project managers still tend to look at creating a new piece of software as though it’s like building a brick wall.


To build a brick wall.. you need x number of bricks, y amount of mortar, p number of people over t amount of time.


If your project manager wants to know when the brick wall will be done given the current number of people, you can just count the bricks needed for the wall, figure how long it takes to lay a brick, and multiply.  Voila the brick wall will be done in 2 weeks ( or whatever).

If the project manager or stakeholders need it faster, fine –just hire more bricklayers.

But a software project isn’t like building a brick wall.  It’s more like inventing the lightbulb.  It’s a totally different question –and there’s no equation for it, just a lot of rough guesses that are obsolete by the next project.


“Da f#%$ you mean “when can we demo the light bulb?”

When the manager asks:  “When’s the light bulb going to be invented?” the conversation goes something like:

Manager:  “When can we demo that light bulb”

Developer: “Well we tried a couple of different fibers for the inside and they burned out.  Bob says we should try tungsten so we have some ordered… It should get here next week…”

Manager: “So can we demo the light bulb next week?”

Developer: “No.  Maybe.  We don’t know if Bob’s right until we try it.  Also we’re trying to increase the pressure on the vacuum to keep it from oxidizing and adjust the voltage…”

Manager: “So when can we demo the light bulb?”

Developer: “um…   4 weeks.”

This is a complete lie. No one has any idea when or even if it will work. Ever.  And if it does work we don’t know if it will be compatible with the new electrical power grid coming out or if this is the best way to do it at all.



Manager puts the date in MS project and moves to the next question:

Manager:  “So if we hire more inventors, can you get the light bulb invented in 2 weeks?”

“They’ll be some time getting the new people up to speed on the project. “

“So what?  3 weeks?”

“Uh… yeah…Sure…”


“da f$% did he mean, “when can we demo the light bulb?”


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