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Running head: STANDISH CHAOS REPORT AND FACTORS AFFECTING A SUCCESSFUL

PROJECT 1

Standish CHAOS Report and Factors affecting a successful project

Ravi Gudemalla

[Institutional Affiliation(s)]

Author Note

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Abstract

The Standish CHAOS report has been a basis to identify the factors affecting the success of a

project. The first report concluded that the iron triangle – scope, time and budget were responsible

for a successful project. This idea has changed over time and has resulted in the introduction of

various other factors that affect the success of a project like the approach, size/complexity of the

project, the team skillset, customer feedback and much more. This paper explains about the factors,

according to the author, that also influence the success of the project apart from the iron triangle

based on solid facts, personal experience and CHAOS report statistics.

Keywords: CHAOS report, iron triangle, statistics


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Standish CHAOS Report and Factors affecting a successful project

"All success is rooted in either luck or failure. If you begin with luck, you learn nothing

but arrogance. However, if you begin with failure and learn to evaluate it, you also learn to succeed.

Failure begets knowledge. Out of knowledge you gain wisdom, and it is with wisdom that you can

become truly successful." -Standish CHAOS Report 1995.

According to the Standish CHAOS report, 1995, a successful project is the result of proper

scope, time and budget management. After evaluating various companies in different scenarios,

the report stated that the three (scope, time, budget) are the pillars of a successful project also

known as the iron triangle.

The Standish CHAOS report has been published every year since its first edition and each

year has provided different conclusions based on its studies. Over the years, the CHAOS report

found out that the iron triangle is not sufficient to improve the success of a project, and a project

must delve deeper into other aspects to improve its success rate. According to me, the iron triangle

is a narrow-minded approach to a successful project. I believe that restricting the variables

responsible for a successful project to scope, time and budget eradicates the impact of various

other factors such as the human skill factor, the size of the project, the approach used, customer

feedback and much more.

“We found that both satisfaction and value are greater when the features and functions

delivered are much less than originally specified and only meet obvious needs.” -

Standish CHAOS Report 2015

The 2015 Standish CHAOS report took into consideration the customer feedback besides

the iron triangle by viewing the product through a customer’s perspective. The results showed that

the success of a project dropped by 7% when considering customer feedback. This implies that to
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improve the success of a project, the customer’s review must be given much more importance to

enhance the success rate of a software project. These results incline with my thoughts about the

impact of customer’s feedback on the success of a project.

Apart from the customer’s perspective, I believe that the approach and the size of the

project are also instrumental in deciding the success of a project. Through my experience and my

knowledge in this subject, I have studied and applied both the approaches of managing a project –

the waterfall approach and the agile approach. According to theory, the waterfall approach is a

preplanned, rigid and irreversible process, which can only be reviewed in the SDLC (Software

Development Life Cycle). On the other hand, the agile approach is highly flexible, and has a give

and take approach, which means, the reviews given by the customers and the QA team are a

significant part of the agile approach to project management. My experiences in the field of

Software Project Management has proven it to me that the agile approach has a much higher

success rate to a project. The CHAOS report of 2015 has proven that the agile approach has higher

success rates compared to the waterfall approach. According to Shane Hastie and Stephane

Wojewoda, “With the take up of agile development methods over recent years it was possible to

compare project outcomes between agile and traditional waterfall projects. Across all project sizes

agile approaches resulted in more successful projects and less outright failures.” This was the

conclusion the obtained from the results of the 2015 CHAOS report.

Not just the approach, but the size of the project also plays a key role in the success of the

project. A small project has few factors that affect a project and are of a manageable magnitude.

This give more control to the team responsible for the project, hence improving the success of the

project. A large project has huge investments but have a low return value compared to multiple

small projects. Inferring from the CHAOS report, for large projects, the agile approach is close to
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6 times better than the waterfall approach. Thus, it is better to have small projects with the agile

approach. According to Jennifer Lynch, the advantage of having the agile approach to a small

project is that, the project fails earlier and can be restarted faster. This in turn reduces the

complexity of the project too.

Finally, I believe that investing in the human factor of a project has a huge effect on the

success of the project. “Moving investments from PM tools and other worthless activities should

improve success and value rates. Everyone is looking for a quick fix, but investing in people takes

time, but offers a much bigger payout in the end.”, according to Jennifer Lynch regarding the skills

of the project team. Investing in the skills of the personnel, as stated by Jennifer can be a slow

process, but has huge benefits over time regarding the success of the projects.

Apart from the skills of the team, emotional maturity, that is, soft skills also play a role in

a successful project. Communication skills amongst team members is crucial while taking

decisions about a project, especially in an agile approach. This is because, the agile approach is a

high paced and flexible method, thus a lot of innovative ideas and suggestions keep bouncing

around the team. Thus, communication and soft skills are crucial for a successful project.

Therefore, I believe that the old-fashioned iron triangle is not enough for the success of a

project. A successful project depends on various factors as mentioned above. Apart from what I

have mentioned, there are various other factors that [play a crucial role, such as executive support

– financial and emotional, project optimization – time and budget, skilled resources – labor and

technology and many more. To identify the perfect method for a guaranteed success of a project is

not possible, but the above factors can highly increase the success of a project and eradicate

outright failures.
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References

Hastie, Wojewuda, Lynch, Q&A Standish CHAOS report, 2015

Weber,2015, key lessons from standish's 2015 chaos report.