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I'm thinking of whether it is possible trying to apply project management methods and frameworks, e.g. PMBOK, PRINCE2 or something like RUP for software applications, that are still under active (iterative) development, but do not have a specified ending . As I've learned, a project is always a temporary endeavor, so something that is not terminated is not a project. What do you think?

In project management a project consists of a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result. (Project Management Institute. A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK Guide), Third Edition.)

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    It depends what your goal is. Iterative development generally involves producing working towards some kind of deliverable by the end of that iteration (which may be "working software", but also it might simply be Documentation, Proof of Concept/Prototype, etc.). From that perspective, you could treat iterative development as simply being a series of many short projects, each lasting just a few weeks or less. However, If your goal is to try to estimate/plan many months/years worth of work up-front, then iterative development is highly likely to deviate from those plans. – Ben Cottrell Sep 4 '17 at 18:38
  • Thank you @BenCottrell, I really appreciate your idea of seeing an iterative development as a series of many short projects. – Stefan Eike Sep 4 '17 at 19:45
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If it is not a temporary endeavor, I think the term "project" does not fit well.

But you did not only ask if the term "project" applies, but also "can these project management methods and frameworks be applied?". Sure, you can probably try to use a full-blown project management approach for iterative software development by interpreting each cycle as a mini-project. However, this is IMHO somewhat the wrong question, because it gives you a misleading answer.

The real question you should ask is: does this make any sense? Or are you just shoehorning a situation into some kind of management method which does not really fit?

What you describe is what I would call "product development", as opposed to "project development". To my experience, product development, especially when done with a small team and in cycles of length of 3 weeks at maximum, simply does not require lots of the heavyweight stuff from the project management methods you mentioned. Especially anything like "several hundred pages requirements specs", "a monthly status reports of a dozen pages" or "tracking progress using large GANTT diagrams" are mostly obsolete if a product is evolved in small cycles.

That does not mean there is never a need for "project management" in product development. Especially when you start with a new product, or when you plan a new "major release" or a new module for the product with a given specification, defined goals and a fixed time frame, then this can require classical project management methods. However, at least when such a new version or module is "finished", and maintenance as well as short-cycle evolvement starts, these methods are seldom helpful, and agile methods like Scrum will be much better suited.

  • I totally agree, this is not something what I want. This is something my prof wants to be applied vor my master thesis. But I'll speak with him and try to take this project management stuff out completely. – Stefan Eike Sep 5 '17 at 9:43
  • @StefanEike: do you have to develop some kind of software as part of your thesis, or are you writing your thesis about project management and/or software development processes? – Doc Brown Sep 5 '17 at 18:20
  • I'm writing my thesis about a real-life project and have to analyze/optimize its processes. – Stefan Eike Sep 6 '17 at 14:51
  • @StefanEike: about a real-life project, or a real-life product which is constantly evolved and maintained, without a fixed ending? And yes, I think you have learned the term correctly, if it is not a temporary endeavor, it is not a project (at least I would not call it so). And if that is the case, you may check your thesis if you used the term "project" correctly in there. – Doc Brown Sep 8 '17 at 13:10
  • Its a software, that is being developed for more than 10 years and has no end-of-life announced. I'll discuss this with my prof. – Stefan Eike Sep 8 '17 at 13:42
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Yes. Unless they've changed it since I last studied in about 2004, the PMBOK definition of a project does require the endeavor to be finite in duration with solid objectives and scope. That being said, I think that modern software projects can be treated and managed effectively as a "project". There is nothing in the PMBOK definition of a project that says there can never be a follow on project to extend a previous project with new objectives and scope, and to achieve that by re-using the output of another.

The continuous development/iterative "project" still should be structured with finite goals and timeline of each iteration. But this type of project doesn't need the ramp-up time or end transition time you would expect on a project that is not picking up where another left off so there are economies gained.

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