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Pawel Brodzinski on Software Project Management

Chaos Report 2009

Standish Group has just released CHAOS Report 2009. News is spread pretty fast and there are many skeptic opinions about value of CHAOS Reports, including these which call the publication as useless.

Personally I consider the report as a valuable source. Not that I don’t see flaws of Standish Group publication, I just take it as every statistic, with proper distance, and I come into my own conclusions.

A few numbers revealed in press release show little difference from what we saw in CHAOS Report 2006:

• Only about one third of projects can be considered as success

• Less than a half projects are challenged (I always loved the term)

• More than 20% projects failed

I don’t really care much whether we dropped a few points in success rate or which nuances moved several projects from “challenged” to “failed” group. The main conclusion is the same and it isn’t very positive:

Nothing changes.

We still are poor at delivering projects. Yes, we are. Oh, yes we are. Yes… well, never mind. Hey, agilists, where is your silver bullet? Seems it doesn’t work. Sorry, couldn’t refrain myself.

Why it is so? I think the problem isn’t located in any specific, flawed project management methodology. I think everybody got used to it. Actually statistic customer expects that half of their projects will be challenged and only 3 out of 10 will succeed. And they’re cool about it. Oh, they will play their role of enraged client, that’s for sure. Then they’ll tell you to cut your next schedule in a half because last proposition isn’t acceptable. And guess what, there will be another challenged project to add to the statistic.

Another part of the picture is that vendors don’t care much either. I know only few teams which actually try to learn how to prepare reliable estimates which are prerequisite to deliver more or less on time and on budget. Most of schedules for software projects should be read as “our rough guess is that we’ll deliver it on 3rd quarter.

What we learn from CHAOS Report then? These results are here to stay. Another three years won’t change things much. We’ll be adopting new trendy techniques and it’ll end up as always – in struggle.

A minority which is able to deliver what they promise will differentiate from the rest every now and then. Seems like a pretty good strategy for me.

in: project management

3 comments… add one

  • Team Teleox May 2, 2009, 9:07 am

    Your blog is brutally honest in many fronts. And that is truly great.

    Once a manager informed (above 10 years in industry) – I do not know how a project comes to a closure.

    From experience, we can say that:

    1. A dedicated set of team who are driven

    2. A strong value system in the company and customer orientation

    3. A leader who loves his/her people and open/fair

    4. A senior management team who is not ego driven, rather have gone through the highs and lows of product development

    5. Good technical know-how.

    Rest just fits in. We have worked with some of the toughest customers from Japan and never get delayed on time or budget.

    Though we love to talk about plan, estimation, analysis, EVM, DTA etc. – truly it is the people who if motivated can do wonders.

    It may be some other factors, but so far as we have seen, it is the people and people and people …all the way.

  • Pawel Brodzinski May 4, 2009, 12:20 am

    Yes, it’s all about people. If you have a problem it’s most likely people problem. Unfortunately people won’t change dramatically in a moment. On average they’ll suck as often as they do now.

    Of course there are organization which are able to gather great teams and their success ratio is most likely higher than average. Of course there are customers where people understand which actions are counterproductive and rarely force them which increase chances for success. But these organizations are not the only ones which count in statistics.

    Vast majority of problems can be reduced to people. On the other hand there’s no single answer for a question how to deal with people.

  • Lee Fischman May 8, 2009, 12:07 pm

    Since the CHAOS results are so controversial, I’ve decided a grass roots effort might be interesting. I created a single-question survey here:


    And will be posting results here:


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