Tom DeMarco has an article in the latest IEEE Software in which he gives an example of two hypothetical software projects. Both are expected to cost around a million dollars. One is expected to return a value of 1.1 million and the other 50 million. Financial controls are crucial for the former but not for the latter. He concludes
… strict control is something that matters a lot on relatively useless projects and much less on useful projects. It suggests that the more you focus on control, the more likely you’re working on a project that’s striving to deliver something of relatively minor value.
Thanks to John MacIntyre for pointing out Tom DeMarco’s article.
3 thoughts on “Financial control and useless projects”
but if Mike Rowe (of Dirty Jobs) is right, then those “things of relatively minor value” add up.
Developers usually don’t know the expected ROI for their projects. Why not tell them? Maybe they could come up with creative ways to hold costs down. Or even better, maybe they could come up with ways to make the project more valuable.
One thing that is left out of this discussion: software to meet regulatory or legal requirements (SOX and the EPA come to mind.) The financial impact is relatively low, but it’s importance in keeping executives out of jail or avoiding large and embarrassing fines is priceless (to some at least.) If the software works and nothing happens, it’s of low importance. If it fails, the story changes. You have to evaluate a “low importance” project based on what happens if there is a failure.