Hardy annuals on conference agenda

Software development's perennial concerns - deadlines, usability and getting a project payback - will all get an airing at a conference in Wellington next month.

Software development’s perennial concerns — deadlines, usability and getting a project payback — will all get an airing at a conference in Wellington next month.

Among speakers at the Software Development Conference on March 8-10 will be the author of a novel on project management, American Tom DeMarco.

Like the others, it’s a topic that’s “as old as the hills”, says conference organiser Martyn Jones, of Software Education Associates. But Jones says while they may have been constant talking points in the eight years he’s staged the event, changing circumstances ensure they remain relevant.

“There’s still a lot of work being done in all these areas.”

Apart from his novel, The Deadline, DeMarco is known for Peopleware, a book on creating “productive projects and teams”.

Jones says DeMarco will deliver a presentation on organisational agility, outlining his belief that when resources are limited, development shops need to choose between speed and the ability to adapt to new circumstances. “They can’t have both,” Jone says.

The Deadline tells the story of a project manager at a large telecommunications firm who has six projects, a huge number of developers to throw at them, and a determination to test all his theories to see which gets the best result. He sets about it by forming 18 teams and assigning three to each project.

However, project management is another speaker’s subject at the Wellington conference. It will be dealt with by Australian Rob Thomsett (pictured), who will talk about use of ad hoc teams. Jones says use of project teams of people from diverse parts of an organisation means the project manager might be supervising a group of which only a few members report directly to him, leading to “interesting dynamics”.

Jones says he has little trouble attracting big-name overseas speakers to the conference. “There’s a perception that New Zealand is a pretty interesting place.”

However, he says that’s less a comment on the software development environment than on the profile the country’s enjoying since the Lord of the Ringsfilm and associated promotional activities helped put it on the map.

Jones’ perception of the local development community is that it is staying constant in size, although its makeup is changing.

He says small development shops are succeeding in winning overseas work, and there’s potential for more of that.

“We’re well positioned in being at a midpoint in both price and quality.”

Details of the conference, which is aimed at CIOs and senior development staff, can be found here.

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