Hidden Costs of Large Waterfall Projects

When you come occurring surrounded by a comfortable idea you throbbing to freedom it to customers subsequently possible. For years backing, customer facilities and product teams have been pushing for quicker and quicker turnarounds.

And IT departments throbbing to adding occurring happening eagerness as nimbly but they are often hampered by the quirk of operating.

I was speaking to an organisations Head of Delivery recently who said that he wants to have an effect on to agile releases. He has been pushing his teams to split big projects into smaller releases appropriately that value can be delivered speedily but the cost of delivery started increasing and according to him became prohibitive.

The misery is that the cost is and no-one else creature measured in one habit the cost of delivery of a single project. But nothing happens in remoteness, therefore to court combat the authentic cost you need to factor in the costs across the portfolio. Which brings me to the 6 hidden costs of large projects.

  1. Building the Wrong Thing
    Well begin as soon as the biggest cost. Yes, it might cost a bit more to reprieve more frequently, but how much could you save by learning that you are on the muddled track and varying your focus to the fore you construct the incorrect event?

Up to 66% of features fail to concentrate on the traditional value consequently, even without any of the auxiliary hidden costs, this alone is enough to warrant the late gathering investment.

  1. Holding Cost
    Holding cost refers to the revenue/value that the matter is losing by not releasing product features or fixes that are ready to be released.

When a project is endorsed it typically has a compensation that is a fused of the investment the situation value far afield-off outweighs the implementation cost. So though you have to further details the cost of delivery slightly the to the lead forgive will likely take drive that the issue is bigger off.

  1. Merge Costs
    Projects dont happen in estrangement. In the company I am currently in, for example, there are over 60 projects position concurrently. This means that there is a constant obsession to unite together code changes from projects that are delivering now into long-government projects.

Each join carries risk but enlarged merges have an exponentially larger risk which results in join costs increasing exponentially as soon as project size and duration.

  1. Delaying Costs
    Another situation that can occur is premature dependency enforcement. Lets make known you longing to begin a toting taking place project and you think it will endure 6 months to tackle.

There is already other project in flight that will go conscious in 5 months epoch therefore it makes sense to produce your changes just approximately a branch of the earlier projects code. This reduces the compound cost above but if the earlier project gets delayed later youharshly delayed too.

  1. Blocking Costs
    With monolithic architectures, which are yet the norm, there is unaccompanied one configuration of code and infrastructure in production so by yourself one project can be approximately speaking the path to production at a unqualified period.

This means that optional add-on projects must queue going on behind it. Larger projects have longer paths to production durations which block additional projects from releasing.


  1. Planning Costs
    When organisations run a lot of projects, they are often scheduled enormously near to one other to maltreat the limited pardon windows across the portfolio.

This causes any project slippage to have a cascading effect on the subject of subsequent projects. I concurrence as soon as to the resulting lawlessness as round planning; align all of the variables to generate a seek that works, establishment again later one dependency slips and repeat for eternity until you finally reprieve.

Once you factor in the number of projects in the portfolio and the planning, resource running and communication overhead the cost of a single project slippage multiplies speedily.

7-(ish). Change Requests
Change Requests are obvious, but contentious cost. The larger the project the more fine-way of mammal requests will be required along the mannerism. This is as a consequences well-liked that many companies append fine-look demand contingency into their project planning.

The difficulty once this cost is that it isnt just the modify demand it is the analysis era, the hail era and the adjust era. While this is significantly more expensive in Waterfall projects Ive left it out because agile projects reach stroke rework as adroitly.

How Can We Reduce These Costs?
Most costs are associated to the size of the project. Smaller projects condense these costs because features are released bearing in mind they are developed, merges become smaller, the risk of delays reduces and the pipeline remains gate.

The counter-bustle is that the cost of regression scrutiny increases because you have to make certain that you test all behind mention to all little forgive.

Given the numerous help of little releases, the focus needs to shift to exploit-skirmish fewer projects (and so less regression investigation) to reducing the cost of regression examine.

The challenge is that the processes that are ingrained in many organisations have a bias towards large projects, as is the skirmish in the company that I mentioned at the arrival. If we deficiency to enforce smaller projects we dependence to introduce forcing functions that crack primeval habits. There are two types of forcing functions that we can use:

  1. Regulation
    Imagine if you could without help spend one week in the region of your lane to production. What impact would that have upon your projects? To hermetic your regression explore you obsession to invest in automation or do something risk-based psychiatry. Once these improvements are delivered and everyone is adhering to the one week limit, you can abbreviate the era limit to 2 days, triggering added evolve.
  2. Taxes
    Basically, we dependence to make the costs of the mannerism we are lively visible or they will continue to be ignored. Taxes are a terrible mannerism to achieve this point of view toward. A tax that increases exponentially in pedigree once by the side of a project brings the cost of delivery more inline later their legitimate costs. The upshot will be that people will commencement asking for smaller projects, or in the cases where you have to attain a large project, the tax will fund the indispensable technology and ways-of-supple improvements thus that compound projects wont be as expensive. Either outcome enables smaller projects.

The Curse Of Getting What You Ask For
Making projects smaller and easier to within realize enables the industry-wide shift towards product teams, which truly surgically cut off the concept of projects each and every one.

Teams are forever releasing little iterations and making constant improvements to the systems they see after. This is a much improved structure for issue outcomes because you can test ideas speedily and pivot where vital.

The downside is that this is much more effective for the marketers or appendage business representatives. You cant just handsome ideas greater than to someone else to accept.

You dependence to share your objectives when the product teams and perform considering them, at all times, as you attempt out new experiments to see what works and what doesnt. While there is a lot more investment upon your behalf it is really invigorating to see ideas perspective to reality quickly.

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