Software Project Owner Responsibilities

Short

If you lead a software project, remember that the role entrusts you with more than the craft or sullen art of software construction. You also need to manage project delivery and ensure code quality. Most developers understand what these mean but it helps to breaks these down to concrete tasks, so here goes:

Managing Delivery

Professional software is written for users and we must ensure it gets delivered to them, predictably. This requires us to:

  • Define a versioning scheme (or pick one).
  • Define relevant delivery channels (e.g. beta, stable, nightly, snapshot, etc.).
  • Commit to a release cadence on each active channel (e.g. a beta release every two weeks).
  • Communicate upcoming and released changes.
  • Maintain an up-to-date bill of materials.

The software we deliver, transitively delivers, third-party libraries. Our software supply chain must only use reputable vendors and we’re responsible for tracking and relaying relevant changes (e.g. security fixes) in our supply chain to our users.

Ensure Code Quality

Project source code, like a cherished garden, requires constant upkeep and weeding to maintain its quality. Quality is a compound attribute that includes overall design adherence, code-style conformance, automated test coverage, known defect counts and many other things. Well meaning contributors can compromise quality unless we:

  • Automate static code analysis (use bots and linters) to focus code-reviews on substance.
  • Measure and track automated test coverage diligently.
  • Enforce a commit acceptance criteria.

The key to a stress-free quality guard is enabling local evaluation of the acceptance criteria. That is, contributors should be able to verify, in their own work-space, if their proposed changes meet the project minimum quality criteria.