Still problems with software development

There is a new 2009 Chaos Report from the Standish Group. It still shows the poor success rate for software projects, and that many are still challenged with budget and delivery issues. Things are not any better since the 2006 Chaos Report either. They are somewhat better than the original 1994 (or at scribd) report at least.

  • Successful projects (on time, on budget with requested features): 32% in 2009, 35% in 2006, 16.2% in 1994
  • Failed projects (cancelled prior to completion):¬† 24% in 2009, 19% in 2006, 31.1% in 1994.
  • ‘Challenged’ projects (over budget, missing features, late deliveries): 44% in 2009, 46% in 2006, 52.7% in 1994

According to the above the situation has actually gotten worse, except that now fewer are ‘challenged’ than in the past. We are not deliverying more successful projects, and the likelyhood has increased that the project will fail.

On the one hand, it is sad that these sorts of results still appear, despite the trends towards more adaptable and flexible project management and software development practices such associted with agile. You’d hope and assume that best practices would spread around the industry and we’d all get better at building software applications. Obviously not, if you think about the UK NHS software project and it’s ongoing mess.

On the other hand, as pointed out by Glen Alleman, we don’t know the basis of the Chaos Reports: how many firms were questioned, how many replied, is this a real sample of all projects, or of just the ones covered in their survey? We don’t know, so we can take the results with a pinch of salt.

As Pavel Brodzinski argues, everyone knows about these reports, so the results don’t make a big impact. Only a few teams, he says, will bother to train themselves to be better.

If you think about it though, that is sad too. People are stuck in a rut and like to stay in their comfort zone.

It does present an opportunity though for those firms which do finish their projects on time, and on budget and with the features requested by the customer. They have new stats to use in their marketing. They should also be able to keep bringing in clients on a regular basis if they can show a proven track record of successful projects.

Update 19 May 2009: Found a reference to a paper given by Jim Johnson of the Standish Group at XP2002 on ROI that had results of Chaos Report 2000, that were just as dire as others. The idea pressed here was to focus on early results, customer involvement and to keep the project small if you want to be successful.