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Pawel Brodzinski on Software Project Management

Chaos Report 2006

David Rubinstein from SDTimes gives us a little preview of last, yet to be published, Chaos Report 2006 from Standish Group. Although numbers have improved I wouldn’t say they are anywhere close to where they should be. OK, we have two times more successful projects than 12 years ago. Wow. It’s still only one third overall. And the figure I’d like to know (but is not published in the article) is how many projects delivered 100% features they had intended to? This statistic is also a part of Chaos Report. Back in 1994 it was less than a half of projects labeled “successful” with pathetic 7,3% doing what they should do.

Yes, we are improving, that’s for sure. If we keep our pace I’ll probably see more than a half successes in projects before I become a grandpa. And successful project would look like a car without two wheels, if I’m lucky.

Coming back to the Chaos Report 2006, thing which doesn’t change significantly over all those years is percentage of projects with time or budget overrun. It still oscillates around 50%. It means that you’ll face this kind of projects by the way. But it also means that there’s common approval for overrunning deadlines and budgets.

A couple of examples. One of our biggest customers, after choosing our offer was delaying the moment of signing the agreement for almost two months. Deadline remained unchanged and when we tired to move it further explaining that project start date was changed, we faced holy indignation. That way we formally lost almost the half of the time planned for our work. Of course we couldn’t make it and we slipped two and a half months and, what a surprise, it wasn’t a major problem. That way, it was perfectly OK.

Another customer asked for offers for some video solution. Deadline for submitting the offer was really tight, because they wanted to implement solution within a quarter since request for proposal was issued. It was May 2006. Few days ago we found out that they haven’t even chosen a vendor yet. What a rapid process. I’m stunned. I’m also happy that we haven’t gone through to the second round.

I guess you see it every day. You see deadlines impossible to meet or those which no one really cares about. You see salesmen who agree to promise impossible things just to get the deal. You see development teams constantly lied about project dates. How can you expect that number slipped projects will be shrinking? I believe Chaos Reports will show constant improvement in next years. Slight improvement. To see a significant change we’d need a mental change, which I don’t see actually happening.

in: project management, software business

5 comments… add one

  • JanetMorrison January 22, 2008, 10:42 am

    I have been in systems management since I was 22 (I’m now 57). I became the CIO of a pharmaceutical company and now consult with a major media company in NY. I have a lot of experience, and a similar outlook to yours – just say how things actually are! I feel your stories are so on target! In fact, over the years, I have developed ways of either exploiting or sidestepping these very identifiable patterns and even learned to have some fun with it. But I also found our advice on hiring very good, managing a career extremely good. You’re a smart guy, maybe one of the smartest around. I just wanted to tell you I enjoyed your comments. Nice site and nice of you to be generous with your advice to younger people. It’s important. Thank you.

  • Pawel Brodzinski January 22, 2008, 2:08 pm

    Thank you for warm words. I’m happy to see more people (especially experienced ones) share that common sense approach to project management.

  • Javo February 22, 2009, 1:49 pm

    Although I have not read your other articles, I particularly focus on this and ask about what things have you done to manage the projects that do not fall within these dire statistics. Otherwise we should assume that “what saves us and release” is the inability of our customers.

    It is true that the improvement may be occurring, at least I hope so fervently. In my case, I work with hybrid methodologies of software development and management based on Scrum.
    Think most of the problems reported by the Chaos-Report can be solved with AGILE methodologies?
    Any opinion?

    Best Regasrds, Javier Santillán.

  • Pawel Brodzinski February 23, 2009, 3:45 am

    My approach is that agile isn’t a silver bullet. No methodology is. I agree agile methods suit to specific environments while in others there are better methods to do the job. I like to point Glen Alleman and his articles about project management methodologies as an example you should always look for solution individually. There are projects which should be managed in different than agile way.

    On the other hand Chaos Report omits many small projects which, this is my wild guess, fails with similar frequency. However in this case agile can often be a solution which helps to achieve success, as far as business environment you work in supports these techniques.

  • Lee Fischman May 8, 2009, 12:14 pm

    I’ve decided a grass roots effort might be interesting counterpoint to the Standish report. I created a single-question survey here:


    And will be posting results here:


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