Software Development Failures
290 pp., 6 x 9 in, 5 illus.
- Published: August 1, 2003
- Publisher: The MIT Press
An empirically based study of why software development failures happen, and the lessons we can learn.
Failed or abandoned software development projects cost the U.S. economy alone billions of dollars a year. In Software Development Failures, Kweku Ewusi-Mensah offers an empirically grounded study that suggests why these failures happen and how they can be avoided. Case studies analyzed include the well-known Confirm travel industry reservation program, FoxMeyer's Delta, the IRS's Tax System Modernization, the Denver International Airport's Baggage Handling System, and CODIS. It has been estimated that one-third of software development projects fail or are abandoned outright because of cost overruns, delays, and reduced functionality. Some consider this an acceptable risk—that it is simply the cost of doing business. Ewusi-Mensah argues that understanding the factors involved in development failures will help developers and businesses bring down the rate of software failure and abandoned projects. Ewusi-Mensah explores the reasons software development projects are vulnerable to failure and why issues of management and organization are at the core of any failed project. He examines these projects not from a deterministically technical perspective but as part of a complex technical and social process; he proposes a framework of factors that contribute to the decision to abandon a project and enumerates the risks and uncertainties inherent in each phase of a project's life cycle. Exploring the multiplicity of factors that make software development risky, he presents empirical data that is reinforced by analyses of the reported cases. He emphasizes the role of the user in the development process and considers the effect of organizational politics on a project. Finally, he considers what lessons can be learned from past failures and how software development practices can be improved.
For anyone who has ever wondered why software development is so prone to failure and what can be done about it, Ewusi-Mensah's work provides valuable insights. This book makes a compelling argument for learning from software development failures, so that the same mistakes aren't repeated in future projects.
Mark Keil, Professor, Department of Computer Information Systems, Georgia State University