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Defining IT Project Success

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  • Scott Ambler
    My December column, Defining Success , is now posted at http://www.ddj.com/architect/202800777?cid=Ambysoft. It summarizes the results of an August survey
    Message 1 of 4 , Nov 2, 2007
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      My December column, "Defining Success", is now posted
      at
      http://www.ddj.com/architect/202800777?cid=Ambysoft.
      It summarizes the results of an August survey that we
      did at Dr. Dobb's Journal which explored how people
      actually define success for IT projects and what the
      actual success rates are. Some of the findings:
      1. Agile projects have a 71.5% success rate,
      traditional projects a 62.8% success rate, and
      offshoring a 42.7% success rate.
      2. 61.3% of respondents believe that delivering when
      the system is ready to be shipped is more important
      than delivering on schedule.
      3. 79.6% of respondents believe that providing the
      best ROI is more important than delivering under
      budget.
      4. 87.3% of respondents believe that meeting actual
      needs of stakeholders is more important than building
      the system to specification.
      5. 87.3% of respondents believe that delivering high
      quality is more important than delivering on time and
      on budget.
      6. 75.8% of respondents believe that having a healthy
      workplace is more important than delivering on time
      and on budget.

      The survey measures success as defined by the
      respondent, it does not force a definition of success
      on them. As a result these figures vary significantly
      from those of the Standish Group’s Chaos Report which
      reports a 34% success rate and a 51% “challenged”
      rate. Standish defines success as “on time, on
      budget, meeting the spec”, but that definition doesn’t
      seem to hold when we ask people what they actually
      value. I’m not convinced that it’s appropriate to
      force a definition of success on people, regardless of
      how easy it would be to process the resulting data.

      It's interesting to note that people's definition of
      success, including business stakeholders, is much more
      closely aligned to agile values and principles than it
      is towards traditional ones.

      As usual the full source data (without identifying
      information), the questions as they were asked of
      people, and a summary slide deck is posted is posted
      at http://www.ambysoft.com/surveys/success2007.html .
      I'm a firm believer in opening up work such as this as
      much as possible. We've potentially been misled as an
      industry for quite awhile by the results of a closed
      survey, and I suspect that it's harmed our reputation
      as professionals. Enough is enough.

      - Scott

      Scott W. Ambler
      Practice Leader Agile Development, IBM Methods Group
      http://www-306.ibm.com/software/rational/bios/ambler.html
      Agility at Scale: http://www.ibm.com/rational/agile/


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    • Nicholas Cancelliere
      Yeah, I agree with Scott. I think though the Standish Group defined success as they had because the PMI does so by the same standard. I also would think more
      Message 2 of 4 , Nov 2, 2007
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        Yeah, I agree with Scott. I think though the Standish Group defined
        success as they had because the PMI does so by the same standard.

        I also would think more traditional minded upper managers would tend
        to evaluate on scope, on schedule, on budget.

        It is good to see people starting to think of project in more
        pragmatic terms.

        Nicholas

        --
        Nicholas Cancelliere
        Austin, TX

        Sent from my Apple iPhone



        On Nov 2, 2007, at 8:53 AM, Scott Ambler <scottwambler@...> wrote:

        > My December column, "Defining Success", is now posted
        > at
        > http://www.ddj.com/architect/202800777?cid=Ambysoft.
        > It summarizes the results of an August survey that we
        > did at Dr. Dobb's Journal which explored how people
        > actually define success for IT projects and what the
        > actual success rates are. Some of the findings:
        > 1. Agile projects have a 71.5% success rate,
        > traditional projects a 62.8% success rate, and
        > offshoring a 42.7% success rate.
        > 2. 61.3% of respondents believe that delivering when
        > the system is ready to be shipped is more important
        > than delivering on schedule.
        > 3. 79.6% of respondents believe that providing the
        > best ROI is more important than delivering under
        > budget.
        > 4. 87.3% of respondents believe that meeting actual
        > needs of stakeholders is more important than building
        > the system to specification.
        > 5. 87.3% of respondents believe that delivering high
        > quality is more important than delivering on time and
        > on budget.
        > 6. 75.8% of respondents believe that having a healthy
        > workplace is more important than delivering on time
        > and on budget.
        >
        > The survey measures success as defined by the
        > respondent, it does not force a definition of success
        > on them. As a result these figures vary significantly
        > from those of the Standish Group’s Chaos Report which
        > reports a 34% success rate and a 51% “challenged”
        > rate. Standish defines success as “on time, on
        > budget, meeting the spec”, but that definition doesn’t
        > seem to hold when we ask people what they actually
        > value. I’m not convinced that it’s appropriate to
        > force a definition of success on people, regardless of
        > how easy it would be to process the resulting data.
        >
        > It's interesting to note that people's definition of
        > success, including business stakeholders, is much more
        > closely aligned to agile values and principles than it
        > is towards traditional ones.
        >
        > As usual the full source data (without identifying
        > information), the questions as they were asked of
        > people, and a summary slide deck is posted is posted
        > at http://www.ambysoft.com/surveys/success2007.html .
        > I'm a firm believer in opening up work such as this as
        > much as possible. We've potentially been misled as an
        > industry for quite awhile by the results of a closed
        > survey, and I suspect that it's harmed our reputation
        > as professionals. Enough is enough.
        >
        > - Scott
        >
        > Scott W. Ambler
        > Practice Leader Agile Development, IBM Methods Group
        > http://www-306.ibm.com/software/rational/bios/ambler.html
        > Agility at Scale: http://www.ibm.com/rational/agile/
        >
        >
        > Be smarter than spam. See how smart SpamGuard is at giving junk
        > email the boot with the All-new Yahoo! Mail. Click on Options in
        > Mail and switch to New Mail today or register for free at http://mail.yahoo.ca
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      • John Roth
        Quite interesting. A few things jump out at me: 1. All three groups defined importance in the same order: scope, time, money, with staff floating depending on
        Message 3 of 4 , Nov 2, 2007
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          Quite interesting. A few things jump out at me:

          1. All three groups defined importance in the
          same order: scope, time, money, with staff
          floating depending on the group. I'm mulling the
          notion of running the rankings through a Condorcet
          filter to see what comes out.

          2. There is, as noted, a preponderance of IT
          staff, and a dearth of actual stakeholders. It
          would be really interesting to see a major consultancy
          redo the survey.

          One interesting point is that XP defines time
          as more important than scope; maybe we should
          think about this?

          John Roth


          ----- Original Message -----
          From: "Scott Ambler" <scottwambler@...>
          To: <ambysoft@yahoogroups.com>; <agilemodeling@yahoogroups.com>;
          <extremeprogramming@yahoogroups.com>
          Sent: Friday, November 02, 2007 6:53 AM
          Subject: [XP] Defining IT Project Success


          > My December column, "Defining Success", is now posted
          > at
          > http://www.ddj.com/architect/202800777?cid=Ambysoft.
          > It summarizes the results of an August survey that we
          > did at Dr. Dobb's Journal which explored how people
          > actually define success for IT projects and what the
          > actual success rates are. Some of the findings:
          > 1. Agile projects have a 71.5% success rate,
          > traditional projects a 62.8% success rate, and
          > offshoring a 42.7% success rate.
          > 2. 61.3% of respondents believe that delivering when
          > the system is ready to be shipped is more important
          > than delivering on schedule.
          > 3. 79.6% of respondents believe that providing the
          > best ROI is more important than delivering under
          > budget.
          > 4. 87.3% of respondents believe that meeting actual
          > needs of stakeholders is more important than building
          > the system to specification.
          > 5. 87.3% of respondents believe that delivering high
          > quality is more important than delivering on time and
          > on budget.
          > 6. 75.8% of respondents believe that having a healthy
          > workplace is more important than delivering on time
          > and on budget.
          >
          > The survey measures success as defined by the
          > respondent, it does not force a definition of success
          > on them. As a result these figures vary significantly
          > from those of the Standish Group's Chaos Report which
          > reports a 34% success rate and a 51% "challenged"
          > rate. Standish defines success as "on time, on
          > budget, meeting the spec", but that definition doesn't
          > seem to hold when we ask people what they actually
          > value. I'm not convinced that it's appropriate to
          > force a definition of success on people, regardless of
          > how easy it would be to process the resulting data.
          >
          > It's interesting to note that people's definition of
          > success, including business stakeholders, is much more
          > closely aligned to agile values and principles than it
          > is towards traditional ones.
          >
          > As usual the full source data (without identifying
          > information), the questions as they were asked of
          > people, and a summary slide deck is posted is posted
          > at http://www.ambysoft.com/surveys/success2007.html .
          > I'm a firm believer in opening up work such as this as
          > much as possible. We've potentially been misled as an
          > industry for quite awhile by the results of a closed
          > survey, and I suspect that it's harmed our reputation
          > as professionals. Enough is enough.
          >
          > - Scott
          >
          > Scott W. Ambler
          > Practice Leader Agile Development, IBM Methods Group
          > http://www-306.ibm.com/software/rational/bios/ambler.html
          > Agility at Scale: http://www.ibm.com/rational/agile/
          >
          >
          > Be smarter than spam. See how smart SpamGuard is at giving junk email
          > the boot with the All-new Yahoo! Mail. Click on Options in Mail and
          > switch to New Mail today or register for free at http://mail.yahoo.ca
          >
        • Ron Jeffries
          Hello, John. On Friday, November 2, 2007, at 11:40:30 AM, you ... I suggest strongly that the scope time notion is a developer one. I think we d find that
          Message 4 of 4 , Nov 2, 2007
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            Hello, John. On Friday, November 2, 2007, at 11:40:30 AM, you
            wrote:

            > One interesting point is that XP defines time
            > as more important than scope; maybe we should
            > think about this?

            I suggest strongly that the scope > time notion is a developer one.
            I think we'd find that the business side people need things soon,
            and that if they knew how to ask for things incrementally they would
            ship sooner, not later, and would likely drop a bunch of stuff.

            Most would-be Agile teams that I visit are not yet good at the
            done=done thing, and the results of this include:

            - not ready to ship until [much] later;
            - system not readily demonstrable to business;
            - system certainly not usable by business;
            - reduced value of scope control by business,
            because it doesn't really run anyway.

            If the above state of affairs holds on a project -- and as I say, it
            does hold on most of the projects I see -- that project isn't even
            doing Scrum, much less real Agile, much much less even an
            approximation to XP.

            I've done a lot of projects and taken a lot of heat. In future, I
            would automatically hit the date with whatever highest priority
            functionality I could glean. And I'd work iteratively, so that the
            gleaning would be done by the business side people, not the techies.

            Ron Jeffries
            www.XProgramming.com
            I could be wrong, but I'm not. --Eagles, Victim of Love
            (this one wasn't random)
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