Your software project was estimated to require 10,000 hours, but after 10,000 hours of work, only 50% of the functionality is complete, and the project has already exceeded the original budget.
Your CFO is yelling, “This has to stop!”
Your COO says, “We have to get this new functionality in place.”
Here are five questions to help you decide whether to pull the plug on the project or keep going.
1.Does the software work so far?
If your project manager is telling you that the system is 50% finished, but you’re still waiting for the first opportunity to test the system, stop the project now.With the tools available today, you should have the ability to test the first screen or module of your new system shortly after the design phase is complete. If it’s late in the project and you still haven’t had the opportunity to test working code, there’s a very low chance that you’ll end up with a working system at the end.
2. Will the finished software address the business goal?
Based on what you’ve seen so far, will the finished product work as planned to solve the business problem? If the software is late, can you still take advantage of the business opportunity as planned? If not, cancel the project now. If the product doesn’t look like it’s going to meet your needs when it’s 50% complete, it’s not likely to meet your needs at 100%.
3. Are there good reasons for the project to exceed planned time and cost?
Did requirements change? Were new requirements added? If so, it’s reasonable to change the original time and cost estimate. If the requirements didn’t change, did your software project manager explain the time and cost overruns and provide you with an updated estimate of the time and cost to complete? Can the additional time and cost be justified? If so, consider continuing the project.
4. Can the team deliver a sound final product?
Software – even software packages with 1000’s of users – always has bugs. When you find bugs, are they tracked and fixed? Are you able to test the corrected code in a reasonable time? If what you’ve tested so far works reliably after the developers fix your bugs, it’s likely that the final product will work reliably, too.
5. What does your gut tell you to do?
Do you trust the project manager and the team to deliver? Do you feel optimistic about the final outcome of the project? Something inside is telling you whether to proceed or stop, and you need to factor that into your decision. It’s not easy to decide whether to pull the plug on a project into which you’ve invested time and money. If you answered NO to question 1 or 2, you have tangible reasons to stop your project now, but if you answered YES to questions 1 through 4, you’re going to have to rely on question 5 – and input from trusted peers and those involved in the project – to make a decision.
Ultimately your software should be a valuable corporate asset that helps you achieve your business objectives. Anything less isn’t worth your investment.