International Project Management Day




Creating the Right Software Project Organization


Quick Summary
A guideline written by an experienced software development executive, relaying a step-by-step approach for creating an effective software project organization.


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What this is

A guideline written by an experienced software development executive, relaying a step-by-step approach for creating an effective software project organization. The guideline describes how to create a work and reporting structure for all the software-related groups in a project in order to implement the project successfully and efficiently-without too many layers involved in decisions, but facilitating clear responsibility definition, accountability and oversight.


Why it's useful

Creating the right Software Project Organization is more than just drawing an organizational chart. It is a key component of good project management because it calls for (1) identifying all necessary roles to perform project tasks, (2) defining the responsibilities that accompany each role, (3) defining the authority of and between each role. It forces consideration of every task that must be done and who will do it. Progress transparency is made easier so that schedules can be tracked. Work product transparency is made easier so that quality can be monitored.

Organizational structures can unfortunately be dictated by corporate history or evolve over time such that teams end up with dynamics that are not efficient, don't lend themselves to people taking ownership of critical project pieces, and delay decision-making. Taking a proactive approach to setting up your software project organization can result in much better teamwork and much better project results.

Intended Audience:

  • Executives in smaller companies who want to create an efficient software organization
  • Heads of PMOs or Project Sponsors who want to understand the considerations of their software organizational structure
  • Functional Managers, Directors, Program Managers, and Project Managers (titled and informal) who want to make sure their software project organization considers everything necessary
  • Technical Leads who want to understand some of the thinking that goes into the creation of an effective software organization

How to use it

  1. Use this guideline to first help identify places where your current software project organizations might be operating with less than desired efficiency, ownership, and results.


  2. Follow the key steps provided in the guideline to define a software project organization for an upcoming project, or to tweak the organization of a mid-stream project that could benefit:
    • Define the software project roles necessary for this project.
    • Define the responsibilities for each role.
    • Define the authority for each role.
    • Define the organizational hierarchy that matches the roles and authority.

  3. For a new project, translate the decisions you make into whatever project deliverables your company or team uses such as team roles lists or team responsibility matrices, and communication plans.


  4. Make sure any changes in responsibilities, communication channels, or decision-making authority are communicated throughout the affected team(s), including cross-functional members who work with software, and their managers.


  5. Document for your projects any decisions you make through this process about what constitutes an optimal software project organization for this and other types of projects in your company. The process above should result in new insights into what kinds of reporting relationships and responsibility assignments greatly help all your teams!
About the Author

Anita Wotiz has held high-level management positions at a variety of companies and has transitioned from large, government research firms to small start-ups. With over 20 years of software engineering experience, she is adept at tailoring best practices to meet a company's needs, regardless of size, and at putting in place practices that will reap the most benefit for the cost. Her most recent position was VP of Engineering at a small enterprise application software company. Her years of experience allowed her to understand what works, and, sometimes just as important, what doesn't work. Anita has successfully applied her expertise in growing engineering organizations, defining ownership roles and responsibilities, and identifying interfaces between organizations for success in companies large and small. She holds a BS in Mathematics and an MS in Computer Science. She is currently the Coordinator of and an instructor for the new UC Santa Cruz Extension Software Engineering Management program.


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