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Communications of the ACM


The Death of Big Software

The Death of Big Software, illustration

Credit: Alicia Kubista / Andrij Borys Associates

Why would anyone undertake a multi-year software project today? Or upgrade an in-house-hosted legacy application? Or build—or use—anything that behaved like a monolithic software application? Big software project failure data is legendary.11 There are myriad horror stories with titles like "9 VERY Scary ERP and ERP System Implementation Statistics."12 The Standish Group actually labels their annual technology project analyses as "Chaos Reports."14 They reported that 66% of all technology projects completely or partially failed in 2015.

So assuming that management is reasonably well informed, it knows that big software projects are likely to fail. Yet in the 1990s and early 21st century there were still companies willing to try their hand with big software and prove they were unlike the others who failed so spectacularly. In spite of this unjustifiable optimism, many of these companies also failed. Even the U.S. Defense Department failed spectacularly.6


Alexander Todorovic

Fantastic article!

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