Removing value through software
Ever work on a software project where the ultimate result was simply to remove value from the company? A great sucking hole that absorbed an unlimited amount of funds until someone pulled the plug? Care to tell us about it?
In my case, the one that stands out in memory was a big consulting gig in 1998 and 1999. Salient points:
Yeah, I once worked an a $1M US debacle that only happenned because it was on a key performance indicator list of a senior manager. He got a bonus because the project was started and underway. Then he left and the project folded.
I worked on a project that attempted to re-develop a country wide POS application. Management were sold on the use of a "new" middleware technology and they paid heaps for it. When it was found that it didnt work as expected and that they had to wait 6 months for features they needed to role out into the field, management went into "arse protection" mode and adamently defended their decision to use the "new" middleware. All a long the technical people suggested (some of them very strongly) that the "new" middleware technology would not cut the mustard, but what did we know. Of course those same management people still have their jobs, but the 250 staff that were on the project are no longer. Effectively removing their value through software, or more precisely, the incorrect choice of software and managements in-ability to listen to the technical people. Those wine and dine sessions must have been awsome to get them to buy the product. At least someone got some value from the software.
There are bad projects in every company and they are bad for every reason in the book. Asimov and probably many others said that the trouble with bad ideas is that they never really go away.
A software company I worked for used to "re-invent" itself every couple of months. Basically the same technology was repackaged in some new context (with the appropriate buzzwords attached.) When questioned about this management always stated that it goes to show how nimble we are (BTW, this company is still around and has re-aligned itself yet again.)
I was product manager for a web based application. Our database wasn't cutting it, so we made a plan to replace the back end database and move to a new data model. The original was designed by a very bright guy, but he wasn't a database guru. The new model was much better.
One of Mike's points in the description of his value removal project was:
Anybody remember Taligent? A joint venture between Apple and IBM to develop a new OS, er, uh, a new "Application Environment". A $250M smoking crater. IBM later tried to recover some value by hawking the source code on CD for $99. I think the only buyers were ex-employees who wanted a souvenir.
Gary, the problem with retraining some of the existing developers on VB was that they took a team of six, gave them three days of training, and then expected them to completely rearchitect a major IT project into the new language. The training wasn't remotely enough for them to understand the ins and outs of the language.
Mike, your more detailed description makes it more apparant why there was a problem.
Businesses have to take some risks if they're going to get ahead. Some of those projects will fail. Is there anything special about software only projects? Do they get bigger or last longer before they're stopped? Should it have been obvious sooner that the project was going nowhere?
Dan you just made me cry. That sounds so much like my current situation it is unbeliveable.
Fog Creek Home