Software Projects – What are failures?

Why do projects fail?
– The projects are not the same and will always have a different degree of failure.
– The varying degree of failure will decide the criticality of the project.

Project classification
– We can classify projects as Type I and Type II projects.

Type I projects
Let’s take an example of a flyover bridge.
– This bridge is visible and has an intrinsic value.
– This bridge is visualized as an end product. It also has a class (2 way lane, 4 way lane and so on)
– More the classes and features, more is the complexity associated with the project.
– Since the features are discussed and focused upon in the initial phases, the success of these kind of projects is more.

Type II projects
We shall consider the example of a politician trying to being in a societal change.
What are the problems the politician faces?
– Trying to visualize a plan in order to initiate the societal change.
– Trying to put across the idea to multiple stakeholders. Not all stakeholders will agree with her/ his idea.
– Trying to garner support among the masses.
– Trying to get in the much needed finance.
– Trying to initiate the project.

Since the end product is not viewable, it is very difficult to get all these people along to believe in the idea, support it, execute it to generate the output.
Therefore the chance of failure occurring is higher. Higher the risk, higher the failure.

What about the Software Project? (Which type is it?)
It falls under the category Type II, hence failure is high.

What are the reasons for failure?
– Any project with multiple powerful stakeholders will definitely run into confrontational issues.
– The project at any stage has no intrinsic value (It depends on time)
– Ownership and/ or Sponsorship normally change hands (A Manager/ Lead may leave the project at any moment and will be replaced by another person. This leads to criticism of the formers methods and techniques).
– Due to this change in ownership, the interpretation will change (It depends on how experienced, managerially and technically sound the new person is).
– Also to be noted is the fact that most projects are affected by external factors (such as money market, business prospects, country’s progress, terrorist attack which spells doom for the business and so on).
– These reasons spell danger for the project hence the failure is VERY HIGH for TYPE II projects.

Root Cause for project failures.
– Over optimism (We want to make the business successful and are charged to take it up from the beginning itself. We try to do more in the least possible time and we encounter problems. Our confidence is dented)
– Trying to garner as much as we can (So confident that we want the entire section of business to buy our software or we want to be leaders in the selected business).
– Risk contingencies are not considered properly.

Ensuring Project Success
– Manage and monitor your RISKS properly to minimize failures, if not to eliminate
– Identify the deliverables (internal workproduct and workproduct to be delivered to the client)
– Plan accordingly (with the right level of details – WBS helps a lot)
– Use good estimating practices
– Optimal and judicious use of resources (Capacity planning)
– Have basic organization structures in place to share and support best practices (avoids similar mistakes in the future and ensures predictability of the outcome)
– Every project should have a mechanism for introspection and learning through experience (done through Project Closing meet)
– Associate accountability to each resource within the project. It brings in a sense of responsibility to fulfill the desired objectives.


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