Program Management for Open Source Projects (PragProg)

Go beyond mere project management and improve teamwork, communication, and predictability in open source development. Make meetings and schedules work for you.


Ben Cotton @bcotton

edited by Michael Swaine @michaelswaine

Every organization develops a bureaucracy, and open source projects are no exception. When your structure is intentional and serves the project, it can lead to a successful and predictable conclusion. But project management alone won’t get you there. Take the next step to full program management. Become an expert at facilitating communication between teams, managing schedules and project lifecycle, coordinating a process for changes, and keeping meetings productive. Make decisions that get buy-in from all concerned. Learn how to guide your community-driven open source project with just the right amount of structure.

Bureaucratic processes naturally develop in large organizations, and open source projects are no different. The trick is to keep the processes intentional and in service of the project. That’s program management and you have probably been doing it even if you don’t have that title. Make your open source projects successful, predictable, and enjoyable by applying the principles and skills of program management in this book.

See how program management differs from project management. Build trust and credibility by building relationships, sharing information, and communicating effectively. Construct efficient decision-making and governance structures, with openness and clear responsibilities. Conduct more effective and enjoyable meetings. Hold the right kind of meeting for the matters to be discussed: text, phone, video, or face-to-face. Develop release lifecycles, including release planning, schedules, and go/no-go decisions, and keep on schedule. Create and manage an effective changes process. Use your bug tracker to better understand and manage the bugs and feature requests of your project. Make decisions that get buy-in from all concerned.

Develop processes that serve your open source project instead of making the project serve the process.

Ben Cotton is the Fedora Program Manager at Red Hat. He has contributed to the Fedora Project and other open source projects for over a decade. Ben’s career spans a variety of roles in the public and private sectors including system administration, software development, and marketing. He is an Open Organization Ambassador and a Correspondent alumnus. Ben holds a masters degree in IT Project Management from Purdue University.

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