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Managing the software enterprise

The acquisition or development of new software and the maintenance of existing business-critical legacy applications all present serious managerial issues which this module will help you tackle. Bridging software engineering and project management topics, this distinctive module covers aspects of management that are particular to software acquisition, development and maintenance. The study materials contain real life examples highlighting the complexities of resourcing, change control, quality control, and risk management. It will prepare you for the challenges of seeking to satisfy stakeholders with different technical, legal, and economic concerns while needing to motivate the development team, and manage organisational knowledge.


Start End Fee
- - -

No current presentation - see Future availability

This module is expected to start for the last time in May 2014.

What you will study

Computers and the software that they contain are now an integral part of most enterprises, such that these organisations are critically dependent upon that software. This module is intended to provide a well-balanced understanding of how complex software systems fit into organisations, and how software systems are procured, developed and maintained, while considering the business context of any proposed software. It is particularly appropriate if you are working professionally with software (either directly or indirectly) as a developer, as a user or in a management capacity – for example if you are a:

  • developer or user of software who wishes to move into a managerial role
  • manager or supervisor of software development or software maintenance teams
  • manager of business processes that are supported by software
  • researcher interested in the processes of software production and deployment
  • professional from another discipline who want to move into a software-related occupation
  • or if you have a software-related professional background and are interested in software management.

The module is divided into three parts. Part one considers that working in an organisation involves working with software, and how it is important to understand the relationships between the software, the organisation it serves, and its wider environment or context. The module analyses such relationships by looking at the social, economic, and legal context within which software is produced and used. Part one also considers that software embodies part of the knowledge of the organisation and enables other knowledge management processes. Furthermore, contacts between the enterprise and the external world are often mediated by software, and the enterprise has a responsibility to the wider community that may be served by, or jeopardised by, this software. This wider community is also discussed in part one of the module, including, for example, the professional bodies and trade unions to which the employees may belong, with their codes of ethics; the standardisation bodies, with their standards; and the law, which may restrict or mandate particular practices.

Part two looks at the processes of acquiring and evolving software, which may themselves be varied. Software systems may be built ‘bespoke’ (whether in-house, outsourced or offshored), and this is the view taken in many software engineering and information systems modules. However, increasingly the software system might be acquired off-the-shelf as a complete solution that is used ‘as is’ or with some limited customisation, or as a number of partial solutions that need to be integrated. The solutions may be purchased commercially, or might be acquired as open source, or even be bought as a service across the internet. In part two you will learn about all these varied approaches. Within such options, the process of software development is considered and approaches ranging from waterfall to agile methodologies are discussed. Furthermore, the organisation, the software and their environments are subject to change pressures, and part two examines how these lead to the maintenance process and to the challenges of continual software ‘evolution’.

In the third part of the module you will consider the management processes which play an important role in bringing success to the process of software acquisition and maintenance covered in part two. The cost of the software needs to be estimated and its development or adaptation scheduled in the context of available personnel. People need to be managed, quality issues are pervasive and changes need to be controlled and tracked so that confusion does not arise. Risks need to be identified and properly handled and the last part of the module deals with the vital topic of risk management.

This module will help you to:

  • understand how software fits into an organisation and relates to the context of the organisation
  • introduce practices into your organisation appropriate to the relationship between the people and the software involved
  • be aware of what motivates people to work, of the cultural factors and of their relationship to working practices and processes
  • understand the role and impact of the regulatory ‘context’, including the need for ethical decision-making, the role of professional and standard bodies, and the law relevant to software (e.g. copyright, contracts)
  • make decisions about the appropriate means and processes for acquiring and maintaining software for an organisation
  • estimate, plan and manage a project involving software development, choosing appropriate lifecycles and methodologies
  • achieve an understanding of the importance and scope of change control, quality frameworks and risk management in software organisations
  • critically read real-world case studies and research papers from the literature, gaining insights and expressing your own points of view based on evidence, and writing for a knowledgeable audience.


There are no formal entry requirements, but we do assume that you have already studied to HNC/HND level or have equivalent experience from your employment. The module does not assume a working knowledge of any particular computer systems or management methods, but you should feel comfortable with studying text material and understanding simple diagrams. The module also involves simple mathematical expressions for the topic of software estimation. We expect you to be working, or planning to work, in a software-related occupation, perhaps as a software developer or a software user, possibly in a management capacity so that your connection to software is indirectly through the people you manage. The assignments on M882 ask you to reflect on case studies of real software projects, applying what you have learnt during your study, so this connection to software-related employment is important.  If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please seek advice from the University’s Student Registration & Enquiry Service.

If you would like more information about the Postgraduate Computing programme as a whole, you can visit the programme website. This site includes additional information about the programme, details of new modules and qualifications that are being planned, some samples of study materials, FAQs and links to descriptions of current modules and related qualifications.

You do need to have a reasonable standard of spoken and written English to study successfully with us. Poor language skills will make study more difficult, and it will take longer. The normal requirements for English language skills are explained on our website.

If you have any doubts about whether your level of English is good enough for you to study this module you may find it helpful to look at our Skills for OU Study site.

Discount for Open University Graduates

If you are a graduate of The Open University (holding either an undergraduate or masters degree), you are eligible for a discount of £100 towards the cost of this module. You can claim this discount when you register, please contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service.


M882 is an optional module in our:

This module can also count towards C02, C69, D69, E10, E19, F05, F26, F37 and F43, which are no longer available to new students.

Some postgraduate qualifications allow study to be chosen from other subject areas. We advise you to refer to the relevant qualification descriptions for information on the circumstances in which this module can count towards these qualifications because from time to time the structure and requirements may change.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the Module Regulations and the Student Regulations which are available on our Essential documents website.

If you have a disability

Use of a computer and the internet will be required. Some of the study materials are only available from the dedicated website in Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF) format. The written study material is available in comb-bound format. Alternative formats of the study materials may be available in the future. 

The module also involves use of simulation models on CD-ROM. Therefore, you might need to spend a portion of the time using a personal computer and the internet. If you have a computer with screen reading and synthetic speech functionality you will need to check that these will work with the study material and software well in advance of starting the module. Some Adobe PDF components may not be available or fully accessible using a screen reader.

If you have particular study requirements please tell us as soon as possible, as some of our support services may take several weeks to arrange. Find out more about our services for disabled students.

Study materials

What's included

Module text, access to related case studies and research papers from the OU library database, other printed and online materials, CD-ROM with simulation models and software, dedicated website, optional online tutor-moderated forums.

You will need

Access to the internet is essential, since some study materials are available only on the M882 website. You also need to use the internet to submit your assignments to your tutor.

Simulation software and data sets are provided on the CD-ROM. The simulation software will only run in Windows.

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will be responsible for monitoring your progress on the module, marking and commenting on your written work and whom you can contact for advice and guidance. There is usually a lively student online forum. Contact our Student Registration & Enquiry Service if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details can be found in the facts box above.

You will be expected to submit your tutor-marked assignments (TMAs) online through the eTMA system unless there are some difficulties which prevent you from doing so. In these circumstances, you must negotiate with your tutor to get their agreement to submit your assignment on paper.

TMAs are partially based on provided case studies and papers which you will need to read and understand before analysing them using the concepts and intellectual tools learnt on the module. You will take your examination in one of the University’s examination centres.

Future availability

The details given here are for the final module start in May 2014. A new 30-credit module – Software engineering (M814) –  is available from November 2014.

How to register

We regret that we are currently unable to accept registrations for this course. Where the course is to be presented again in the future, relevant registration information will be displayed on this page as soon as it becomes available.

Distance learning

The Open University is the world's leading provider of flexible, high quality distance learning. Unlike other universities we are not campus based. You will study in a flexible way that works for you whether you're at home, at work or on the move. As an OU student you'll be supported throughout your studies - your tutor or study adviser will guide and advise you, offer detailed feedback on your assignments, and help with any study issues. Tuition might be in face-to-face groups, via online tutorials, or by phone.

For more information about distance learning at the OU read Study explained.

Course facts
About this course:
Course code M882
Credits 15
OU Level Postgraduate
SCQF level 11
FHEQ level 7
Course work includes:
3 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
No residential school

Student Reviews

“Very good course. Recommended! I am a software engineer, and the course introduces refreshing ways of thinking about software development....”
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