Why 45% of the software features are never used?

Most people when they look at this research see a problem in software development. Based on empirical data, that is usually not the case.

Let’s say you have a ₹4,00,000 to build a software product. After much effort to identify funding sources and justify future benefits, you decide to try to maximize the return on the budget by going through a traditional buying process.

So you have your team of 2 people who will be spending the next two months building out a long list of requirements including functionality, integration, scalability, security, and requirements for the vendors. This 25K internal cost is justified by the creation of an RFP. This RFP will be sent out to whoever the organization has worked with in the past and several others.

To make sure the vendors have enough time, a 3-week timeframe is laid out including questions due week one, a vendor Q&A week two and responses due week 3. Some vendors did not ask any questions and others suggested different approaches than what was suggested in the RFP. Each of these was eliminated since obviously, they can’t follow instructions.

Of the four responses, two suggested an initial estimating or discovery phase before an exact quote could be given.  Since there was a cost to this, these responses were rated lower. The remaining two responses each had fixed bid responses and required a meeting to confirm expectations and next steps. The decision was to bring these two vendors back in and play them against each other to potentially lower their bid to ₹2,50,000. Great!  ₹125,000 buffer or savings available.

After negotiation, contracts, legal and scheduling… a kickoff is scheduled. In the kickoff, a project schedule is communicated with high-level milestones every 3 months.

Prior to Milestone 1, a design session has occurred to make sure the look and feel are right. Also, implementation and integration discussions have occurred and an application architecture has been approved. Documentation has been presented and everything seems to be going well. At Milestone 1 – the vendor presents a summary of the work performed in PowerPoint with architecture diagrams, screenshots of the application and feature summaries. It looks good so far so the second invoice is approved.

Whether the rest of the project goes perfectly or not, in this model… almost half of the budget has been spent. To date, no functionality could be released to users to return value on the investment. The risk that the remaining budget can deliver the functionality of value is huge. Whether the selected team or vendor is using agile software development, waterfall or no process, this is a failure by the organization stakeholders to create an effective decision making process flow.

The majority of projects at this point will go longer than expected, have quality problems and cost significantly more. Also, the waste in negotiating scope, who said what, when and other pain may still not get anything of value to production. This is why 45% of software features in production today are never used (or deliver NO value).

At a minimum, please ask why, a few times when a large project is pushed forward using a big process. You might find that there are no good answers and you can help improve the value of features delivered for the investment.

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