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Software Development Insurance

The motion picture industry insures completion of their motion pictures via a performance bond, where an insurance company guarantees satisfactory completion of a project by a contractor. Laurent Bossavit ruminated (try pasting directly into your web browser because direct linking doesn't work) on what it would take to do the same for software project.

As a thought experiment, Laurent asked his readers to put themselves in the place of the insurance company, with the power of oversight and the responsibility of paying out to their clients if the software project is not delivered:

My hunch is that some of the things we get excited about - TDD, UML, MDA - would barely be on your radar. I could be wrong, but I suppose two of the important things would be story and people. By "people" I mean the project manager, product owner, developers, testers... You'd want to see the CVs of the key people involved in keeping things moving. I'm fairly sure "story", in the sense of what the project is meant to achieve for the business, whether it seems to be a serious bid at creating business value, whether its sponsors are truly committed to its success, would also be a major factor. I'm less sure that details of method or process would be investigated in any great detail, though the overall strategy could make a difference.

Another way to ask this question would be "what are the most important indicators of project completion?" Laurent guesses it is the story and the people. Most of the comments left by readers indicated agreement with Laurent's observations and a biased towards the people being the most important issue.

Laurent's musings match the results of the Standish report for 2006, where 50,000 projects were studied and reported the following reasons for success:

  1. User Involvement
  2. Executive Management Support
  3. Clear Business Objectives
  4. Optimizing Scope
  5. Agile Process
  6. Project Manager Expertise
  7. Financial Management
  8. Skilled Resources
  9. Formal Methodology
  10. Standard Tools and Infrastructure
Do these insights match your experience? And, if it is really all about people and clear objectives, what does Agile (or any development method) really add or take away from successful software development?

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