Software Development Still a Risky Business

Despite technology breakthroughs over the years, software development remains costly and error-prone. Some experts say that's mostly a people problem.

The data about software development projects is sobering -- as it has been for decades. Too many projects still end up way over budget and behind schedule.

A Standish Group study of some 10,000 software projects found that 21% of them had failed, meaning they weren't completed or were rejected by the customer.

About 37% of the projects in the study were deemed successful: They came in on time and within budget, and users accepted the result. Another 42% were found to be challenges: They were late, over budget, not meeting users' needs, or all of the above, according to the report issued earlier this year.

The stakes involved in getting software projects right can be huge, and companies are constantly seeking new ways to avoid costly failures.

To untangle messed-up million-dollar-plus projects. IT executives sometimes turn to individuals like Billie Blair, an organizational psychologist and CEO of consulting firm Change Strategists Inc.

Blair contends that dysfunction in failing software projects usually originates with a project manager. "Anything that goes awry in a company can always be traced back to the manager," she said.

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