Issues In Professional Ethics In Software Project Management

To make a clear introduction we may start by discussing professional ethics and S.P.M.

Professional Ethics

Professionals are capable of applying their skills and making judgments in their particular profession. Professional ethics is defined as the personal and corporate rules that govern behavior within the context of a particular profession.

Many organizations define ethical approach to their professionals. These include:

  • Honesty
  • Transparency
  • Confidentiality
  • Accountability
  • Obedience to the law
  • Objectivity
  • Respect
  • Integrity
  • Loyalty

In our project we will discuss issues related to these ethical approaches in software project management.

Software Project Management

Software project management is the sub-discipline of project management in which software projects are planned, implemented, monitored and controlled.

Software Project Management

Time, cost and quality are the main constraints of any software project. Software project managers plan, deal and implement software projects by taking these constraints in their mind.


Many software companies are very small; they have only 1-10 employees. In developing countries these companies play an important role as they are providers of software and services to customers both in locally and in other parts of the world. They have to deal with national and international clients so, ethics matter a lot. And in small companies people are not provided with good training about ethical values and way of dealing.


We are going to discuss issues in ethics of software project management. All the software project management belongs to the software industry so; here we begin by analyzing the software industry. One of the issues that we are discussing is in professional ethics of software project management.

Digging down into ethics and project management we come to know that,

  • Leadership is dependent on ethical choices.
  • Fairness, respect, honesty and responsibility are the values that drive ethical conduct for the project management profession.

Great leaders have great ethics.

Things to be discussed,

  • Problems caused by issues in professional ethics in S.P.M
  • Main issues in professional ethics in S.P.M
  • Discussion on issues in professional ethics in S.P.M
  • Codes of conducts in solving ethical dilemmas
  • Conclusion

Target introduction

Main ethical issues in software project management are in:

  • Honesty
  • Transparency
  • Confidentiality
  • Respect
  • Loyalty

In this section we are going to discuss problems caused by these ethical issues in S.P.M and in next section we will discuss that why these issues occurs. And what are the specific issues related to SPM.


Honesty is the trait of a good leader. But in the software industry a dishonest project manager causes lot of damage to his or her organization. A software project manager who is not honest will cause damage in the following ways:

Informal Managerial Processes

If he is not honest with his organization and due to lake of professional ethics he will use informal practices to do his tasks and made informal plans to complete the task.


Dishonesty sometime leads to corruption, as the project manager is also responsible with project costs. An unethical project manager shows his dishonesty and does dishonest things with funds. He will take the cost of a small project to very high level only due to frauds and corruption in funds.


Transparency is the main pillar of good governance. Software project management must be transparent about all their activities, as this will build  thetrust of employees to the management team. But in project management activities are only limited to management team and no one knows about this. Sometimes employees are talking about suspicious activities of project manager and in other cases employees are not clear about project scope because it is not fully explained by top management.


Confidentiality includes rules, promises and restrictions that limit access of information to specific person or place.

A Software project manager must be a trustworthy person because he has lot of information about ongoing projects, their time, budget and they also knows about company weakness and strengths. In some cases management team is provoked by other competitors to leak the confidential information of their company.


Respect is a feeling that is expressed to admire someone or something due to their qualities, achievements and abilities.

Software project management team is a bridge between clients and employees of a company; they must respect their employees in order to get better results from them. But in some organizations software project managers don’t know how to respect their employees. They just give deadlines and want that work on the given deadline. They don’t know that admiring someone is the key to getting more work done.


Software project manager must be loyal to his work and to his employees. He is the main person or software project management team is the main department to be responsible for successful completion of their work so, they must be loyal to each other with their juniors and with their clients in order to make everything done and achieve excellent results.

Discussion about actual work

As mentioned in the topic name our actual work is to find the issues in professional ethics in S.P.M. In the above sections we will discuss ethical problems and also discuss some of the main issues in software project management. Now we are going to discuss two main things in each ethical problem faced by SPM which are:

  • Reasons
    Why this specific ethical problem occurs in SPM.
  • Effects
    Harmful effects or worst outputs generated by this problem.

In above section we identify some ethical problems. These issues are,

  • Honesty
  • Transparency
  • Confidentiality
  • Respect
  • Loyalty

We discuss these ethical problems in detail. We also identify some of the main ethical problems which are purely related to SPM which are,

  • Use of Pirated Software
  • Compromise on Quality
  • Privacy Violation
  • Ignoring Safety Standards
  • Issues in Planning

Use of Pirated Software

Use of pirated software is the most common ethical issue in software project management project managers use pirated software without thinking it as unethical act.


Pirated software is mostly used in small I.T companies and project managers use pirated software in small projects where the budget is not high. So, in order to complete the project within a given budget they prefer using pirated software instead of buying it. They use illegal copies of software and they also use software that doesn’t use any licensing. Companies use pirated software and consider it as their standard approach of doing the business. Sometimes project managers are disagreeing with this unethical approach but if they are also involved in this; then it means they are doing work that is against the law as well as the code of ethics.

Pirated software is also used to lower development costs and to lower software prices.


Using pirated software’s cause legal problems and are also risky for users.

Effects of using pirated software’s are as follows,

  • Sometimes software will fail completely.
  • No access of software documentation
  • No technical support or upgrades in software.
  • No warranty of software
  • Increase risk of viruses
  • Pirated software’s are subjected to fines of copyrights
  • No bug fixes and customer support

In some cases pirated software leads to the failure of the project.

Compromise on quality

Compromising on quality in also an issue in software project management. In order to meet the given deadline software programmers are forced by upper management to compromise on quality standards and complete the given task as soon as possible. For the sake of meeting their deadlines programmers may skimp phases of software quality assurance and software testing. By skipping these two main phases many bugs are produced and are not detected which leads to failure of software in future. Quality assurance is the main aspect of software development and compromising of it is an unethical act of software project management.


Project team compromises on quality of software in order to increase quantity of product they are producing in specific time.

To meet their given deadlines they compromise on quality of software.

Another main reason is to reduce development cost.


In products where defects are not removed at the initial stage it may increase the bug fix cost at higher stage. If bugs are not removed at testing phases than it may cost more to fix that bug.

This is also explained by BOEHM’S CURVE.

Software Project Management
Cost of defects at the initial stage is lower than the cost at a higher stage. Project management team that compromises on quality will face more problems in maintaining and upgrading their software.

Privacy Violation

Software project managers have data of their team working with them. They collect personal data of employees. And employee data is not safeguarded and sometimes this will be harmful for an individual. Information like personal contact, CNIC number and bank accounts of employees must be in the hands of authorized personnel and the system that contains this information must be completely secure but at some points these systems are leaved by project management team to be used by other employees which is against the code of ethics.

Privacy is also violated by organizations that share data with each other and merge their databases.


Privacy violation of personal data of employee is due to less secured systems and also due to unethical manager which doesn’t take care of his employees and also don’t take any look at data security.

Project manager can’t secure their employees personal database by sharing their database with other organizations.


  • Less secured systems are hacked and used by hackers for illegal work.
  • By data sharing; other organizations also benefit from employee data and will know the personal reputation of company.
  • Employees are black mailed by other people which have their personal data

Ignoring Safety Standards

Software project management doesn’t take care of safety standards by making their software. Many small companies don’t have resources to handle security issues of a software product. And project management teams don’t want to increase their project cost by measuring these standards. This is also a big issue in software project management teams. Software products that also have some hardware to use are made by keeping safety standards in mind but SPM fails to do so.


By measuring safety standards and following them the product cost will increase and Companies don’t want to build a costly product.


By ignoring safety standards in products like fire alarms, medical machines, laptops, air traffic control systems and engine control systems may cause serious injuries, environmental harm and damage/lose of equipment.

Issues in planning

Project management teams are responsible for planning phase. Most project managers in small companies don’t want to waste their time in the planning phase. Poor project planning raises ethical issues because the projects that are not well planned may leads to a waste of resources and money.


  • Wrong work plans
  • Poor estimates
  • Poor scope control
  • Less time spent on planning phase

Issues in planning are due to unethical and dishonest project managers who don't want to waste his or her time in the planning phase and haven't done  planning by keeping project costs and deadlines in mind.


  • Additional cost
  • Later delivery
  • Rework

Planning is the starting and main phase of the project to be done and wrong planning may lead to additional cost on work and work is delivered late. This may cause ethical issues and questions directed to the software project management team about their poor plan.

Codes of conducts in solving ethical problems / Solutions

What code of conduct do project managers follow to overcome these ethical issues?

We divide ethical code of conduct in three levels. A base level, professional level and engineering level code of conduct.

Base Level

Base levels of ethics are,

  • Don’t cheat
  • Don’t lie
  • Don’t hurt
  • Don’t steal

Professional Level

Professional level ethics are to serve the public which is related to the profession. These ethics include a professional commitment to serve the public.

Engineering Level

In software engineering this level of ethics for a project manager includes his commitment to quality of work. For a project manager this quality of work starts from planning phase to the phase of implementation of project or project delivery.

“The basis of ethical leadership is being an ethical person”

Ethical Code of conduct for software project managers

  • He or she must follow all three levels of ethics.
  • Project manager should be honest in his or work.
  • Always do proper planning before starting any project.
  • If Project manager is at fault for something he or she must admit it.
  • Support all team members and he or she must keep their personal information secure.
  • Always use registered software for development.
  • Project manager must prefer quality of work instead of quantity.
  • Always use safety standards.
  • Testing and Software quality assurance phases must be done in order to remove more bugs.
  • Project manager is always thinking to sign more projects but he should take following things in his mind that:

Are team members capable to do this project?

If they are not then ethical issues and the failure of the project is blamed on specific department or team members.

Are they capable to done the project in given time?

If time is short then the project manager doesn't do proper planning and starts other phases and improper planning leads to unsuccessful projects.

Is the given budget is enough to make to the project?

If the project budget is short then they use pirated software and they don’t use any safety standards and start compromising on quality and software testing process which is not an ethical way to behave.


Many companies, in order to reduce product cost, use pirated software and compromise on quality of work which is not an ethical way to behave. And in small companies software project managers are not honest in their work and spend less time in the planning phase which is an unethical code for a software project manager. Companies should focus on quality of work and project managers must focus on an ethical code of conduct in order to make their company environmentally friendly and also to satisfy their customers.

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