How many dot-bombs have you survived?
- It only counts if it was a job that you got a pay check, no joint-venture equity stuff;
- The bigger the bankruptcy, the more points;
- It has to have an Internet component to it or it doesn't count - be creative if you have to be (just like the clowns who mismanaged it were, right?);
My top 7
- Network manufacturer (9-figure final losses, and no, it wasn't Nortel);
- Point-of-Sale software;
- Internet and web services;
- Point-of-Sale software redux;
- Satellite communications hw/sw;
- Finance portal;
- Streaming real-time video hardware/software;
What were the causes of failure? Most of the time, it was a combination of one or more of the following:
- management infighting,
- a lack of planning (no fixed requirements - we all know how that always works out so well),
- allocating more resources to marketing and sales than to initial product development ("You sold the demo? They want the final product in 2 weeks? R U insane?"),
- lack of a target market ("throw enough s**t at the wall and hope some of it sticks"),
- unrealistic deadlines,
- high turnover (people exposed to unrealistic deadlines mostly using their job as a launch-pad for finding a job elsewhere, where hopefully things will be better),
- inadequate funding,
- lack of physical resources (cube farms are the worst places to do the deep thinking required to prevent miss-steps)
- poor communications.
In these scenarios, it doesn't matter that you actually meet your deliverables - you're doomed.
Top 10 list
- When the projector goes on, leave the room. Nothing good will come of it, whether it's a Powerpoint presentation or yet another hopeless demo;
- People whose paycheck depends on believing that "this time it's different" or "it will work this way because we're different" are also circulating their resumes because deep down they know they're wrong, and they want to be gone before the big fail;
- When they propose to salvage their idea by including user-created, user-rated, user-shared porn to draw more eyeballs to their "new social networking platform", try not to laugh - they get upset easily;
- When management buys into the idea and makes it (the previous item) your #1 priority, they obviously have no clue that Internet == free pr0n, or that paid pr0n == huge legal issues;
- The more secretive they are about their "great new idea" and the less they want to discuss the actual requirements of the job, the more likely that it's been done before - LOTS of times.
- Get any promises or commitments in writing - otherwise they're not worth the paper they're not written on;
- Avoid people who spend all their time drawing pretty diagrams. They do *not* know how to normalize a database and will take it to a really ugly extreme. The do *not* understand what a race condition is - their flow chart doesn't permit the concept. They do *not* understand that "just code this" is only the beginning, not the end.
- "I want you to copy X". Sorry, they spent millions building that, and you want a clone for how little? And how soon?
- Objective-C? Are you willing to post a bond to guarantee 6 months pay in advance? Did you know that more than 99% of all iPhone apps make less than the cost of the dev kit? Oh, you didn't? Did you check to see if someone else is selling the same thing? You did. Why will people pay you when all those other ones are free? Because it's only $20? That's not a reason.
In retrospect, the 80-some-odd percent implosion rate pretty much accords with the anecdotal figure of 83% that we hear all the time. Things are improving, but only because there's less need for new build-out. Companies that are laying off don't need new software to manage new processes - they're going to make do with what they have, or buy the carcase of a competitor for next to nothing. They'll make do with the inefficiencies of running multiple systems because it's in the best interests of the people making the decisions - fixing the problem can make them redundant, and even trying can expose them to the risk of failure.
So yes, in the future fewer software projects will fail, but much of that is because fewer projects will be attempted as most businesses retreat further into "it's good enough - don't touch it" mode. We haven't arrived at the "good enough computing" on the software side yet, but certainly as we approach it, investment and jobs are both dropping dramatically.
Those jobs aren't coming back
Unemployment will rise - note: The projected decline in tourism and hospitality showed up in August's stats up here.
A repeat of 1980
IT unemployment, already higher than other white-collar jobs, will rise
That's one of the problems with history - it repeats itself. 1980, 1991, 2001, 2010