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Big Software Projects Are Failing

I have worked on projects that missed the deadline by years. It’s soul-crushing.

Whats worse is that it sounds like it’s endemic. Big projects are failing all over the place.

Most IT experts agree that such failures occur far more often than they should. What’s more, the failures are universally unprejudiced: they happen in every country; to large companies and small; in commercial, nonprofit, and governmental organizations; and without regard to status or reputation. 1

Its important to know things like this because sometimes optimism about success is what can make people do crazy things. Here is a post about the failed Digg v4 launch.

“We’ve already started reprovisioning the v3 servers.” We had so little capacity that we had decided to reimage all our existing servers and then reprovision them in the new software stack. This was clever from the perspective of reducing our costs, but the optimism it entailed was tinged with madness. 2

Sometimes it’s required learning. I hope though as we mature as a profession, we can do a little less trial by fire.

My only real advice is figure out who the customer is and make sure they are happy.

I guess I have one other piece of advice, keep digging, keep trying to understand why things that feel wrong. Ultimatley, if you can’t figure it out, and you’ve tried your best it’s okay to leave. Systems have a way of working things out, but that doens’t mean you have to be there.

  1. https://spectrum.ieee.org/computing/software/why-software-fails ↩︎

  2. https://lethain.com/digg-v4/ ↩︎