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Programming IT Technology

Is Your Development Project a Sinking Ship? 494

gManZboy writes "Everyone knows that some software development projects succeed and other fail -- the question has always been 'why'? I'm sure we all have our favorite (likely anecdotal) explanations. Well, these guys decided to actually go out there and do a formal survey, and they've got some real data on why projects actually fail (as reported by development project managers -- care to guess where 'changing requirements' ranks?). They've developed a diagnostic formula people can use to gauge the likeliness that the project they're working on right now is (or isn't) going to fail."
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Is Your Development Project a Sinking Ship?

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  • So... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Blue-Footed Boobie ( 799209 ) on Tuesday January 04, 2005 @04:31PM (#11257227)
    "They've developed a diagnostic formula people can use to gauge the likeliness that the project they're working on right now is (or isn't) going to fail"

    So, if I know it is going to fail, do I still have to try?

  • The formula (Score:5, Funny)

    by superpulpsicle ( 533373 ) on Tuesday January 04, 2005 @04:34PM (#11257266)
    Fair management expectations
    + Well allocated budget
    - Patch fixing firedrills
    - unnecessary marketing spinoffs
    + free donuts
    = success

  • Cosmo Quiz (Score:5, Funny)

    by brw215 ( 601732 ) on Tuesday January 04, 2005 @04:38PM (#11257321) Homepage
    Is this simply the nerd version of the ages-old cosmo quiz? I fail to see how "The one-minute risk assessment" is any more comprehensive or meaningful than the "Does he think you are fat"-type quizes that make their way through women's magazines.
  • Re:So... (Score:5, Funny)

    by 2A ( 841921 ) on Tuesday January 04, 2005 @04:42PM (#11257370)
    but what will really bake your noodle later, is would the project still have failed, if I hadn't told you it would?
  • by Kenja ( 541830 ) on Tuesday January 04, 2005 @04:45PM (#11257410)
    No, what I want to know is where "linking your project to a slash dot article" ranks.
  • Re:So... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Neil Blender ( 555885 ) <neilblender@gmail.com> on Tuesday January 04, 2005 @04:46PM (#11257429)
    but what will really bake your noodle later, is would the project still have failed, if I hadn't told you it would?

    Dude, Oracle jokes are so next week.
  • by smooth wombat ( 796938 ) on Tuesday January 04, 2005 @04:52PM (#11257496) Journal
    is to develop a sinking ship, isn't that another name for a submarine?
  • by dj42 ( 765300 ) * on Tuesday January 04, 2005 @05:03PM (#11257616) Journal
    In my experience, it is usually drugs, alcohol, too much sleep, unconcerned management, or a combination thereof that causes projects to fail. Have you ever tried to project-manage after 8 double vodkas, a short nap, and a full rack of ribs?
  • Well... (Score:3, Funny)

    by abb3w ( 696381 ) on Tuesday January 04, 2005 @05:13PM (#11257739) Journal
    So, if I know it is going to fail, do I still have to try?

    Yes, but you should be working harder on updating your resume than on the project.

  • Re:So... (Score:2, Funny)

    by tiredwired ( 525324 ) on Tuesday January 04, 2005 @05:23PM (#11257858)
    If you do not make a plan then there is no plan to fail.
  • by Matt Perry ( 793115 ) <perry,matt54&yahoo,com> on Tuesday January 04, 2005 @05:42PM (#11258051)
    Peg: Al, does this dress make me look fat?

    Al: No, Peg. Your fat makes you look fat.

  • Answer (Score:5, Funny)

    by bonch ( 38532 ) on Tuesday January 04, 2005 @05:44PM (#11258066)
    "Is Your Development Project a Sinking Ship?"

    Why yes, we make submarines. Hoo-hah!
  • by crazyphilman ( 609923 ) on Tuesday January 04, 2005 @10:46PM (#11260521) Journal
    Let me tell you a tale of woe.

    I inherited a project from a consultant who had spent several months (I'm guessing six) doing mostly nothing other than whipping up some mock-ups of how the web pages should look. He read Indian newspapers a lot, pretended to be busy, and did nothing much. When he got caught, he got asked to leave and the project dropped into my lap.

    A new project manager came in, a stubborn old man who was really into old style structured programming. He kept talking about "functional decomposition" as if it was completely sufficient to model an object oriented project (we had shifted to VB.Net for this one). He dragged the user meetings on for SIX MORE MONTHS. My deadline kept getting closer. First, I had six months. Then four. Then three. Then, two. By the time he got done farting around with endless meetings, I had ONE MONTH to develop, design, AND implement the ENTIRE SYSTEM. He started trying to push me.

    We had vicious fights in which I would tell him his project schedule was a work of fiction. He would try to threaten me, force bizarre changes on me, he'd refuse to modify the database schema even when it was obviously insufficient to meet a design problem. I kept fighting for more time.

    Over about four months (three in which I was overdue and constantly nagged/harassed), working 80-100 hour weeks, I actually got a big chunk of the system built. A month into the actual development, he left for other projects because he didn't want to get tagged with the failure of this one (I got a new manager, someone much more modern in his thinking, comfortable with OOP, etc). By the end of the four months, management was getting seriously annoyed at me (like this was all MY fault somehow) and demanded a realistic schedule. We determined it would take me 71 more days to complete at the rate I'd been going, assuming I went back to a more normal work week. I was so burned out I said I'd like to transfer to another location when the project was finished, management realized I was being fried, and they relented -- they gave the project to a team of several consultants to finish. There was a brief period in which management investigated, to see whether they should dump the blame in my lap, but everyone who looked at my code called it brilliant, so I was spared. I didn't feel too lucky, though. Actually I felt like I'd been run over by a truck.

    Long story short, they redesigned the project using a framework (CSLA) and it took them nine more months. At least it got finished, and works, so I guess that's something.

    This project was the worst thing that has EVER happened to me. I almost destroyed my health over that four month period. It was HORRIBLE.

    In MY view, project managers can make or break a project. If you get a guy who's nuts, and thinks you can magic him up a whole system in a month, just run away. Get off that project ASAP.

    I'm lucky, though; my management has since given me a more normal project to work on, and things have settled down. The project manager screwed us, fucking off to Florida and leaving us in the lurch on a few projects, so I don't have to look at HIS ugly mug, either. It all worked out, I guess.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @02:49AM (#11261573)
    The project I've been assigned to as QA replaces the COBOL-we've-been-using-for-fifteen-years production software with a modern GUI'd, rules engine based, fully OOP enterprise-class system. It was requested by Ops for inhouse use. Since all we have are COBOL programmers, we hired an outside company to send in a few ex-dot-com Visual Basic programmers and a QA; they work onsite. Inhouse QA wasn't up to the task, but I'm newly hired and was put on the project.

    The project has been going for a year, but QA is being added three months before the release date, which will *not* be missed since not missing release dates is pretty much the only thing that upper management is judged on for bonuses. No, I'm not kidding.

    We've got one upper managment guy for all of IT and his prior experience was...an actuary. Doesn't want the QA, programmers and Business Analysts to *ever* communicate or have meetings since "it's not cost effective, just a waste of time. They each know their job". Classic waterfall, except there is *no process* formally put in place. None. I yearn for the old days of sneakernet when at least you knew where the *correct* code to be tested was physically located! Specs? Oh, yeah, there are plenty, many differently-named ones out in many folders on many servers; pick the one that uses the prettiest font and follow that until someone makes a new one to match the latest new requirements. Just be careful when you do a filename search because different people call the project by different names; not even the working name has been standardized.

    There is no middle management. There is a project manager, (well we actually use our Business Analysts as Project Managers), but she said in our first (of three total for the project) meeting "I'm more of a conduit for communication, so I am going to stay hands-off". Wanna know who is actually running the entire project for us? Yup, the hired guns that are doing the programming.

    Oh, did I mention that two months before implementation into production we have yet to receive a stable prototype? Have I forgotton to mention that as a company, we have no version control and no issue/bug tracking? Oh, and we don't get merit raises, just a match to the lower 1/4 of the salary for the position for the region.

    Soooooo, do you still think you have it that bad?

  • by smokestacklightning ( 550330 ) on Wednesday January 05, 2005 @03:20AM (#11261678)
    That I will be alotted an absolutely reasonable and appropriate amount of time to actually to complete a project. I have a dream that my ptototypes will not be scattered around the country in various states of "production". I have a dream that I will someday be able to look at a project in CVS and proclaim - that is the damn freaking good code - I am proud that my name is on this application ( and mean it ).

    I have learned to live with disapointment this long - back to the next fire ...

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