People and Process > Prescription and Technology

Factors that affect software systems development project outcomes: A survey of research by Laurie McLeod and Stephen G. MacDonell. ACM Computing Surveys (CSUR) Surveys Volume 43 Issue 4, October 2011 Article No. 24, DOI: 10.1145/1978802.1978803.


Determining the factors that have an influence on software systems development and deployment project outcomes has been the focus of extensive and ongoing research for more than 30 years. We provide here a survey of the research literature that has addressed this topic in the period 1996–2006, with a particular focus on empirical analyses. On the basis of this survey we present a new classification framework that represents an abstracted and synthesized view of the types of factors that have been asserted as influencing project outcomes.

As with most survey work, particularly ones that summarize 177 papers, this is a long article, some fifty-six pages.

Let me try to tempt you into reading it by quoting from Angelica de Antonio’s review of it (in Computing Reviews, Oct. 2012):

An interesting discussion about the very concept of project outcome precedes the survey of factors, and an even more interesting discussion follows it. The authors stress the importance of institutional context in which the development project takes place (an aspect almost neglected in early research) and the increasing evidence that people and process have a greater effect on project outcomes than technology. A final reflection on what projects still continue to fail—even if we seem to know the factors that lead to success—raises a question on the utility of prescriptive factor-based research and leads to considerations that could inspire future research. (emphasis added)

Before you run off to the library or download a copy of the survey, two thoughts to keep in mind:

First, if “people and process” are more important than technology, where should we place the emphasis in projects involving semantics?

Second, if “prescription” can’t cure project failure, what are its chances with semantic diversity?


Comments are closed.