This article is reproduced with permission of the
Cutter Consortium, Copyright 2006.
Published here April 2007.

Introduction | First Things First 
Adopting the Right Targets | Counterproductive

Jim Highsmith is Practice Director, Cutter Consortium Agile Project Management Practice. He has 25-plus years experience as an IT manager, product manager, project manager, consultant, and software developer. He has consulted with IT and product development organizations and software companies in the U.S., Europe, Canada, South Africa, Australia, Japan, India, and New Zealand to help them adapt to the accelerated pace of development in increasingly complex, uncertain environments. He is the recipient of the 2005 Stevens Award, in recognition of his work on Adaptive Software Development and agile processes. Jim can be reached through or by email care of Kara Letourneau, Group Publisher, Cutter Consortium, by typing in kletourneau[at]cutter[dot]com.

Editor's Note

This short article, received in a recent weekly electronic briefing from Cutter Consortium's Agile Project Management Advisory Service will be of interest to software development readers and project managers. It was originally published as an Agile Project Management E-Mail Advisor and is reproduced with the permission of Cutter Consortium.


The Standish Group's Chaos reports (the 1994 original study and the recent 2001 update) have caused a tremendous waste of IT dollars. Just look at tool site after tool site - project management, collaboration, software development, modeling tools - the numbers from the Chaos report are given as a key reason for buying particular products. These reports are heralded as verification that the software development community is in a sorry state of affairs and that we must all be unprofessional, undisciplined, and immature. Every time I see these reports referenced, I get a gagging reflex.

If software is in such a sorry state of affairs, why are three of the richest (at least before the recent market slide) people in the world software people - Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, and Paul Allen? Why is software the driving force behind nearly every technology, from the Web to bioengineering? According to the Chaos reports, in 1994 82% of all projects were "challenged" or "failures." In 2001 we got a lot better - only 72% were "not" successful. How can we reconcile the overwhelming intrusion of software into every nook and cranny of our corporate, governmental, and personal lives with a 72% "not successful" rate? We can't. Maybe it's time we seriously challenged these numbers.

But before we begin, a quick caveat: software development, just as anything we undertake - from accounting to manufacturing - has room for improvement. Many of the suggestions proposed by the Standish Group and others have a lot of merit. But it's time to forget the scare tactics - they just don't jibe with reality.


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