Sunday, December 27, 2009

Duke Nuke'm - cashing it in after 12 years

Wow. I liked Duke Nuke'm, but wouldn't call myself rabid by any means. However I was looking forward to their next release. For years.

I'm not that surprised a project could go 12 years without a release... well, 12 years is a heck of a long time, so yes I was!!

Several companies I've worked for have doubled their original estimates or more. 14 months got another 14-18 months tacked on as the project developed. Often it was feature creep. In some cases, it was just that management didn't believe it was going to take that long and set shorter targets than anyone believed.

I spent almost 3 weeks in 1-3 hour daily meetings on one project while mgmt tried to reconcile the team's 3 month estimate into the 1 month target. Yes, meeting, not working.

Some of the engineers I worked with on that project were some of the best estimators I've ever worked with. Even in my role, I couldn't get any traction with leadership. After that kind of ongoing pressure, the engineers finally caved and rolled with the 1 month estimate. The project took 3 months. Many engineers worked hard on that project, putting in a lot of hours. The project team was generally somber, as you can imagine.

StickyMind's Better Software, Sept 2008 issue has an article on estimating which included some interesting statistics. They compare software to construction, and software does not compare well. They claimed that only 29% of all software projects are successful.

Wow. Less than 1/3 of all software projects are "successful" - whatever that means. I don't like metrics like this since they're very grey. I've been on a few projects which were discontinued. In many cases I was wondering why the project even got off the ground, and had raised my concerns early on. I would call the discontinuation of such projects a "deferred success".

This is in contrast to the UK's plan to rename "failure" to "deferred success":

So, 12 years in, Duke Nuke'm calls it a stop. And then, only because they ran out of funding. I have a feeling we'll see something get released since they can't be that far from being able to release something. Or can they? :)

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