Surprisingly, more than I thought. When setting out on a large-scale software development program the high level business objective is usually clear, otherwise the money to do the project would not have been signed off in the first place. In the global debate on climate change most stakeholders are settled on a target of keeping the global temperature rise below 1.5C, even though the cost of doing so is far from fully understood or agreed.
In any large software program, there are many different perspectives and agendas. Without strong leadership the business side invariably thinks that the solution is more costly than it needs to be and the benefits should be available much sooner than the technical team is agreeing to. Meantime the technical team feels that the business does not fully understand either the risks or the complexity of what they are being asked to undertake.
What follows is much discussion between the two parties before a compromise on delivery date, resource allocation and technical requirements is reached. It is not quite the lofty goal some wanted but it is an acceptable outcome for all. Initial progress is invariably slow as the team gets to grips with new applications, bedding in new resources and finding the best way to work together. To date the global warming response has been moving along a similar vein for the last 5-10 years.
Next comes the crunch point where the project stakeholders know what needs to be done, but none of them wants to undertake or experience the measures required to ensure success. Allied to this is how the success is to be achieved. As is the case in the global warming response, some will favour the delivery of regular, incremental improvement, others will prefer to opt for the big reveal at the end, especially if the latter buys them some time before needing to make unpalatable decisions.
As the pressure mounts to meet the target and the deadline, the cost and resources needed to keep the project on track start to climb. At some point realisation dawns across the business that inaction and avoidance of making the decisions needed to ensure success means the project objectives are unlikely to be met in time. At this point one faction within the business will seek “innovative solutions” that they hope will deliver the objective whilst enabling them to avoid making any of the unpalatable decisions they have so far put off making. The other faction will seek to move the deadline further out and lower the objectives for the project.
If you have a software development project that is sounding increasingly like the one described above and temperatures are rising, that is something we are experts at fixing. If on the other hand you are looking for someone to fix global warming then the best we can say is that we never say never.