In the 1970s and 1980s, the software industry grew very quickly, as computer companies quickly recognized the relatively low cost of software production compared to hardware production and circuitry. To manage new development efforts, companies applied the established project management methods, but project schedules slipped during test runs, especially when confusion occurred in the gray zone between the user specifications and the delivered software. To be able to avoid these problems, software project management methods focused on matching user requirements to delivered products, in a method known now as the waterfall model.

A software development process is concerned primarily with the production aspect of software development, as opposed to the technical aspect, such as software tools. These processes exist primarily for supporting the management of software development, and are generally skewed toward addressing business concerns. Many software development processes can be run in a similar way to general project management processes. Examples are:

Interpersonal communication and conflict management and resolution. Active, frequent and honest communication is the most important factor in increasing the likelihood of project success and mitigating problematic projects. The development team should seek end-user involvement and encourage user input in the development process. Not having users involved can lead to misinterpretation of requirements, insensitivity to changing customer needs, and unrealistic expectations on the part of the client. Software developers, users, project managers, customers and project sponsors need to communicate regularly and frequently. The information gained from these discussions allows the project team to analyze the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) and to act on that information to benefit from opportunities and to minimize threats. Even bad news may be good if it is communicated relatively early, because problems can be mitigated if they are not discovered too late. For example, casual conversation with users, team members, and other stakeholders may often surface potential problems sooner than formal meetings. All communications need to be intellectually honest and authentic, and regular, frequent, high quality criticism of development work is necessary, as long as it is provided in a calm, respectful, constructive, non-accusatory, non-angry fashion. Frequent casual communications between developers and end-users, and between project managers and clients, are necessary to keep the project relevant, useful and effective for the end-users, and within the bounds of what can be completed. Effective interpersonal communication and conflict management and resolution are the key to software project management. No methodology or process improvement strategy can overcome serious problems in communication or mismanagement of interpersonal conflict. Moreover, outcomes associated with such methodologies and process improvement strategies are enhanced with better communication. The communication must focus on whether the team understands the project charter and whether the team is making progress towards that goal. End-users, software developers and project managers must frequently ask the elementary, simple questions that help identify problems before they fester into near-disasters. While end-user participation, effective communication and teamwork are not sufficient, they are necessary to ensure a good outcome, and their absence will almost surely lead to a bad outcome.