by: Christopher R Goldsbury
“We’re never going to get this done. This project is a failure.”, and it will fail because they believe that. Put away your bag of statistics and the Standish studies on IT project success and failure for a second and ask yourself: what is the real reason software development projects fail?
Is it not enough money? Nope. Usually organizations have plenty or could acquire the necessary capital if push came to shove. Even when projects are poorly estimated or risks are not properly accounted for…the organization is usually willing to adjust the project budget when given legitimate reasons for variances.
Is it not enough time (a.k.a impossible deadlines)? No sir. The reverse is often true. A firm date trains everyone on a key delivery point for the project. Time, like money can be found and it’s uncommon for any date to be so fixed that it couldn’t adjust by a few weeks or even a month. People will rise to any challenge if so inspired.
Is it a poorly skilled team? Negative. While people of varying abilities exist everywhere…adaption and learning are human strengths. Good people do this well. Even where a bad apple has completely infected the group a remedy exists in employment termination and replacement.
What about really bad requirements? While this can hamper a project’s success, delay it, or make it more expensive…it’s never the cause for outright project failure. Bad requirements have a remedy – discussion. Following solid agile practices and routinely engaging your product owner(s) can alleviate the symptoms of poor requirements before they send the development team completely off course.
Project failure is caused by one thing: people stop believing.
The great pyramids of Egypt were a unique human endeavor unparalleled in ambition for their time. Something today we commonly believe could only be undertaken using modern mechanical equipment, fossil fuels, computers, and communications devices was completed more than 3000 years ago using pre-industrial tools and techniques. It was a project. It was a massive project and to see it to completion through potentially a decade of work required more than just money, time, and skilled people. It required belief – belief that it was possible and belief that all the obstacles, trials, and barriers could be overcome.
Those of us leading software development projects aren’t thought of as evangelists. More commonly were referred to, wryly, as ‘management’. The derogatory nature of the comment is testament to the absence of a singular quality that our projects require: leadership….and its effect → BELIEF. Successful software development projects are led well, and become self-managing machines. As development leaders it’s our duty to train ourselves in the art of fostering this. The foundation of any great structure starts with a belief in the common vision, and ends with its manifestation.
Christopher R Goldsbury is a software development manager and professional with 15 years experience in various flavored technologies as well as experience in production/operations management, project management, enterprise & software architecture, operational risk management, and human motivation. You can read his experiences and ideas at his blog or connect with him on LinkedIn or on Twitter by following @goldzee.