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Find project success in simplicity

In 2002, Jim Johnson of The Standish Group made a presentation at the eXtreme Programming (XP) 2002 conference. The focus of the talk was Return on Investment (ROI) of IT projects. The presentation was very valuable and information packed, and one part of the presentation in particular, I believe, holds one of the most important keys to project (or product) success.

The presentation shares research that The Standish Group performed related to the Feature & Function use in software systems. The results are depicted in the following graphic.

The research produced some remarkable results: of the features & functions in software systems 45% are never used, and 19% are seldom used.

If you think that this statistic is overstated, try this simple experiment. Open up Microsoft Excel and look through all of the various menu options. How many have you used? Open up the Help facility and look at the available functions. Again, how many have you used? I’m not picking on Microsoft Excel; it’s a fantastic tool. The point is there is an extreme amount of functionality that most people, even ‘power users’, simply never use or need.

Consider the cost associated with the development and maintenance of these features.

Building complex systems or products using a traditional approach, where everything is defined and ‘finalized’ in up front specifications can result in the propagation of never used and unused requirements. An Agile (iterative and incremental) approach where features, prioritized by ROI, become available to customers to use early with additional features being added over time is an alternative approach. Does it work? Consider this op-ed piece entitled ‘Less is More’ the iPad Paradox. I’m not betting against Apple’s iPhone proven approach.

As the saying goes, “recognizing that you have a problem is the first step to recovery”. So were do your projects stand?

Thoughts on “Find project success in simplicity”

  1. Pingback: Success in simplicity | iPad News and Reviews

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Vernon Stinebaker

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