The purpose of this paper is to present a few plausible answers to the incommodious question confronted by organizations today – how to forecast and evaluate success for the time and money invested in software development projects. A considerable percentage of organizational resources and operating costs is used up by software development projects today, and accordingly, it is utmost important to ensure the Return on Investment from such projects.
Regrettably, most of the organizations haven’t so far devised any method or technique that would be helpful in forecasting the success of such projects and thus justify the huge investments being made. This paper discusses what various scholars have concluded regarding the criteria for software development project success, considering the two aspects– Successful Project Execution and Product Acceptance by the market.
On the basis of the studies reviewed, recommendations have been made which will facilitate the organizations to model their systems to successfully provide solutions of the business problem confronted by the software development projects. Successful IT Project Implementation Introduction Gartner had predicted that by 2006, total investments in software development projects would exceed $2600 Billion US globally.
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For the large majority of organizations, investments made in software development projects is one of the largest, however the previous record of software development projects points out considerable challenges in successfully achieving a return on investment on many of such projects.
The present paper reviews success in software development projects from a scholastic and industry’s viewpoint, reviewing the literature to present a picture of the current state as found in the Standish Group Chaos surveys conducted from 1994 to 2003, then examining various models deployed by the present day industry for evaluating and forecasting software development projects and market acceptability of the product developed primarily on the basis of the works of Delone & McLean, complemented by the review of works of many other scholars.
In the final section, recommendations have been made which can be helpful to the management in categorizing the projects, which are more likely to succeed and provide changes to be made in the course of action to increase the chances of success for the overall system. The Present State – Software Development Projects Measured As per the findings of the Standish Group in their Chaos Surveys that are carried out every two years, software development projects have a miserable record with below thirty percent of projects actually meeting their set objectives.
Software Development Project Success 1994-2000 The above figure has been based upon data collected over a period of eight years from over thirty thousand software development projects. A successful project is the one that met all its objectives, failed project has been classified as a project that was terminated before any yield was obtained from it and the third category-challenged projects are those which met only some of the set objectives and were only partially successful.
Considering the dismal picture portrayed by the above findings, nobody will prefer to make any investments in such projects considering their low success rate. What makes situation grimmer for certain organizations is that their business models are totally dependent on success of their software development projects. As a matter of fact, it becomes a question of survival for such organizations. Therefore, these projects must succeed for the prosperity and survival of the organization. This creates an anxiety and stress on software development project implementations to achieve success in wake of adverse scenarios.
In view of such critical situations, it is highly essential for the software development stakeholders and project implementation teams to understand how the project success is defined. What are the parameters to be achieved, in what time frame these are to be achieved, what are the costs involved and the expected yield from the project. Success Criteria To define success in software development projects, different authors have presented their own definitions and success parameters. However, a detailed analysis of their works provides a common platform where one can judge the success of these projects.
Broadly speaking, the success has to be measured in two areas- successes at implementation level and market acceptability of the product developed. Project Implementation This success criterion is an evaluation of the efficiency of the organizations’ procedures, methods or practices for implementing new software development projects. This begins with system design at the developers’ end and ends at product deployment at the user level. It encompasses all the project interrelated actions to ensure - Timely completion of the project - Project completion within assigned budget
- Final products meets all the targeted features from users’ point of view - Quality standards are adhered to as per specifications. Rob Thomsett (2002) in his works lists seven criteria, which are highly important and organizations need to achieve a balance among them when executing and administering such projects. These seven criteria broadly provide a framework for establishing and implementing a software development project. Thomsett Sliders Organizations need to evaluate these seven essentials and settle on what is more important as compared to the other criteria and where it should be placed as compared to others.
The central point is that is that only one of the above depicted “sliders” can be at the extreme right “On” position and that will be the decisive factor for decisions and trade-offs for all the aspects of the project. For instance, in a project that requires compliance of some new governmental legislation, the Legal Requirements will be the criteria where the slider will be at “On” position where as for other parameters, the slider will be somewhere in middle or at still lower values. Thus meeting the legislative requirement will be highlighted as the top priority in the project.
Project implementation success is only one constituent of overall software development success. Considering that the project is aimed at developing a working product, the successful integration of the product with overall organizational needs and business objectives or market acceptability becomes another vital factor for the project success. Market Acceptability Market acceptability is the assessment of the worth the developed system gives to the organization, on successful completion of the development and implementation stages.
Delone & McLean (1992,2002) have provided with the most widely used software development project success model. The Delone & McLean model of software development success has been extensively accepted as an authoritative and effectual demonstration of the factors, which coalesce to fashion success in software development projects (Delone & McLean 2002). The original model that was presented in 1992, suggested many contributing associations that together deliver an Organizational Impact from the execution of a software development project.
In the revised version (Delone & McLean 2002) they have reviewed a number of researches, which have endeavored to authenticate the contributing aspect of the model and verify if the diverse factors actually follow in the succession as projected. The Original Delone & McLean Success Model The important factors as described in the earlier model that were projected to be causatively associated in the recent study are: • “System Quality - Individual Impact” • “System Use - Individual Impact” • “Information Quality - Individual Impact”
Other associations were established as statistically authenticated and the authors sum up, “Taken as a whole, these empirical studies give strong support for the proposed associations among the IS success dimensions and help to confirm the causal structure in the model. ” (P15) On the basis of the various researches carried out in the previous decade, Delone & McLean (2002) amended their previous model by clubbing individual and organizational impacts into one category called “Net Benefits”. They also added a new dimension of Service Quality and revised the model as depicted in the following figure.
The Updated Delone & McLean Success Model With respect to latest e-commerce based projects, Delone & McLean (2002) further improved the definitions of the different aspects when concentrating on the implication. For example, they defined System quality, Information quality, Service quality, Usage, User satisfaction and Net benefits specifically for projects related to e-commerce. They have considered factors such as usability, accessibility, dependability, flexibility and response time as important system qualities.
Similarly, web content quality and security issues constitute the information quality. Support provided to the customer forms the service quality, usage provides various statistics about the site, user satisfaction is the measure of how customer friendly experience the site provides and net benefits are the measures of success. Many other authors have also drawn from the Delone & McLean model and included it into their own study and extended the model with supplementary factors that are considered significant for successful execution of new software development projects.
For instance scholars like Adekoya (2005), Bokhari (2005), Bondarouk & Sikkel (2005), Chen & Chen (2004), Fisher & Howell (2004) and Sugumaran & Arogyaswamy (2003) have recognized two broad classifications of success norm, first, User Satisfaction and second Technology Acceptance. Other authors like Wixom & Todd (2005) offer a combined perspective that relates these two directions of research into a single consolidated perspective. More or less, all these scholars share a common view on certain issues such as: • “Effective technology” that is easily available and comprehensible to the intended audience
• “Sustainable system” that can be preserved and improved as the business requirements change • “Design elements” those are suitable to the intellectual and societal structure of the intended addressees • “Systems” that support the values of the targeted addressees regarding worth and effectiveness and can deliver precise, valuable and appropriate information to the correct stakeholders in an aptly appropriate manner • Practical expectations of the payback and distinctiveness of the new software development system • Genuine and substantial benefits from the execution of the software development system, including but not restricted to:
a. Better productivity b. Better Service delivery c. Better Service quality d. Higher gross revenue e. Reduced cost f. Higher profits More success factors have been identified by Segars (1998) and some of the important ones are listed here below: - There should be an alignment of objectives in the organizational strategy, software development projects and end product. - Identification of the actual business needs and strategy to achieve those - A teamwork among all the groups associated with the business towards achievement of the objectives. - Marked visible impact on the organization’s performance due to the new developments.
- The newly developed product should be able to adapt to the evolving organizational needs. All the factors discussed are in fact in agreement with the Delone & McLean model, and can be planned with the diverse constituents of the amended model with effortlessness. Based on these factors, recommendations can be worked out which can help the organizations to monitor the success of their software development projects. Project Implementation The Standish Group surveys present a robust framework for project implementation success. This framework is restructured after every survey.
(Standish Group 1998, 2001) The most recent “Chaos 10” framework classifies the following weighted issues for project implementation success: Standish Group Chaos 10 (2000) According to Yourdon (2004), software development and implementation projects are reliant on a considerable number of interrelated factors; these ten are not intended to be a all-inclusive evaluation of all the contributory elements of software development and implementation systems, but they do offer an important framework for forecasting project success, and thwarting the commencement of another “death march” project.
He further provides a complete study of a number of failed software development projects. According to him. “In many death march projects, the most serious problems were not so much technical as they are political, social, cultural and people orientated” (p147). This is same as “What has become clear . . . is that people and process have a far greater effect on project outcome than technology. ” Finally, it boils down to the people in the organization.
Behind every successful project, there is a team. They are responsible for the successful products as well. According to Highsmith , managers who are responsible for the project as well as profitability, have to ensure an environment that is favorable to project success and the project team members are give power to in reality realize success. After the project’s success, one can focus on the integration of the newly developed product into the organization’s business process.
It is only after that one can eventually accomplish plans for payback through product success thus getting a return on investment. Market/User Acceptance According to DeMarco (2004), one of the most significant suggestion that can be made regarding the integration of a new software development system into the business strategy of an organization is the concept of “slack”– time to incorporate the new techniques of doing things, and the psychological break to acclimatize to the new circumstances.
Karl Wiegers has provided with a graphical representation of what happens when organizations employ any process enhancement initiative; initially, there is a decline in the productivity as the organization incorporates the new techniques of doing things and modifications are made in the manner the business is carried out. The Productivity Curve Apart from the initial cushion period allowed to the new software development system to become successful, it is vital that all stakeholders advance towards the product execution with mutual esteem and an understanding of the practical paybacks the product can bring.
The Delone & McLean model of software development success is a framework that has been authenticated in numerous researches and one that can be successfully applied to the execution of a new software development system. It may be noted that impractical expectations along with poor assessment are one of the most important grounds of project failure. Conclusion In this paper, a synopsis of some of the aspects that constitute success in software development projects has been carried out.
The subject has been examined from the viewpoint of both project implementation success (all the steps that are required to create a new software development system) and Market/user acceptance– the steps required to integrate the new software development system into the organization’s normal business processes. These two viewpoints are associated in such a manner that the success of the finally developed product is impossible without first achieving project implementation success. In the process, one has to take care of the concerns of two different categories of stakeholders.
For project implementation success, the studies that have been observed provide a framework, which can be used, with a prominence on the human factors in the project execution teams. The Delone & McLean model of software development system success has been scrutinized as a structure for success in the execution of the developed product; the fundamentals of this model have been authenticated as being significant for deriving the business paybacks from the new software development system.
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