The New Definition of Software Success

In a previous post on why large scale Agile and Scrum is 6X more successful than waterfall, I explain how Agile projects/products are so much more successful than waterfall based approaches like the Rational Unified Process.

What is also equally important to note, is that the Standish Group, an industry leader in the software project management survey field, has changed their definition of success.  According to Jennifer Lynch from the Standish Group:

The Standish Group has redefined project success as onTime, onBudget with a satisfactory result…we have seen many projects that have met the Triple Constraints [schedule/scope/cost]and did not return value to the organization or the users and executive sponsor were unsatisfied.

It’s important to note that this definition changed in 2015, and the new definition is applied equally across waterfall and Agile projects at The Standish Group.

A parallel development also captures this trend. is an industry leading organization focused on improving the profession of software delivery through Agile approaches like the wildly popular Scrum approach (some 90% of software teams use Scrum). has now publicly released a new software success metrics model that they call “Evidence Based Management for Software Organizations(tm)“.  The approach is free to the public, and the metrics apply to both Agile and waterfall based software delivery.  Just knowing the basics of the approach can help any organization improve.  In it, has identified around 23 key software metrics that can be used to trend whether your software investment ROI is heading in the right direction or not.  What’s important to note is that these key metrics are all just more detailed derivative metrics of, you guessed it: schedule, scope, and customer/user satisfaction.

So, the clear trend from the above two developments from industry thought leaders is that we in the software industry should take notice on how we evaluate the success of software projects.  The data strongly indicates that we have been focused on the wrong success metrics for the past 50 years in our industry.  It appears that schedule/scope/cost is now passe in the industry. It’s time to begin focusing on value delivery via the key metrics of schedule/satisfaction/cost.

3 Responses

  1. I’m glad you are discussing this. In my work experience, customer satisfaction trumps schedule, cost is sometimes irrelevant and scope is something that always changes. Think about this, if you delivered what was in scope, but customer doesnt need it anymore, or changed his mind during the sprint, he is not going to be happy. He’ll probably pay up, but will change scope for future work. Also many times customer will accept delays in delivery if it means better quality/accuracy of software. There’s so much more to this than I can say here though. Thx

  2. […] The Iron Triangle. Another key sign of Waterfall Thinking is any kind of preference for fixed date/fixed scope deliverables(aka the “Iron Triangle”). In the Agile space we call this “wishful forecasting” or “wishful thinking”. Software development is an inherently complex activity. Only 14% of Waterfall projects are able to meet the schedule/scope/cost iron triangle. Agile Scrum approaches are 3X as likely to meet the iron triangle, but this still is not a very accurate way of judging software success. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: