Have a read of this article on the NYTimes - http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/09/technology/air-force-stumbles-over-software-modernization-project.html about a failed US Air Force project. Failed to the cost of US$1.3 Billion, 6 years and with nothing to show for it. Nada. Zip. Diddly squat. Zero.

austin_powers_mike_myers_as_dr_evilTake a few moments to get over that sick feeling you have in your stomach and then ask yourself “When will people learn?”

I’m still shaking my head over this article.  And more so over statements like “did not succeed in imposing the short deadlines of 18 to 24 months”. 2 years is short? Seriously?

What about this; “We’ve never tried to change all the processes, tools and languages of all 250,000 people in our business at once”? Or this; “We started with a Big Bang approach and put every possible requirement into the program, which made it very large and very complex,”. It appears people still haven’t learned that the only thing you will likely get from a big bang approach is a loud explosion, lots of smoke and debris and, if people are involved, there’s usually plenty of blood on the walls. There’s always people involved.

Unfortunately I know of far too many projects right now that are still taking the big bang approach and hoping it will work. Note that key word there – “hoping”.  Hope, as one of my former CEO’s used to love to say, Hope is not a business strategy.

Companies should be learning the painful lessons of other organisation’s #FAILs and taking on more agile approaches.  Steve Denning has put together an interesting write up of the whole fiasco and the organisational impediments that prevented such an approach from being undertaken let alone being successful. Maybe the scale of waste in the project will be just the catalyst the military needs to genuinely improve, and maybe people will learn that COTS like Oracle or SAP or any of those consulting-ware packages combined with old-school systems integrators like CSC really aren’t worth the money they charge.  Then again, maybe not. #sigh