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Introduction to software engineering

Table of Contents

Software Project Failure. 3

Introduction.. 3

Project – FiReControl (UK) 3

Failure of Project – FiReControl (UK) 4

The Waterfall Model 6

Introduction.. 6

Phases of the Waterfall Model 6

Advantages of the Waterfall Model 8

Disadvantages of the Waterfall Model 9

References. 10 


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Software Project Failure



IT project failure in quantitative terms can be defined as a project which exceeds the budget, the schedule, or the one which fails to deliver contracted. In other words, it could be a project that costs a great deal more than it was expected in terms of time or money, and does not satisfy the end users (Harrison & Lock, 2004). A project which does not meet its stated objective/objectives is termed as a project failure.

Project – FiReControl (UK)

FiReControl project which commenced in 2004, aimed to improve the efficiency and technology of the Fire and Rescue Service. The objective was to replace 46 local control rooms with a network of 9 purpose-built regional control centres using a national computer system. The system was supposed to handle calls, mobilize equipment and manage incidents. The project was expected to be complete by October 2009 (Riedl, 1990). The Department’s original estimates of the project costs in July 2004 were £120 million. The project did not start of on a positive note and some of the noticeable factors are as follows:

Ø  Complex and ambiguous arrangement of responsibility from inception resulting in slow decision making

Ø  Lack of Leadership and direction on the project and poor contract design

Failure of Project – FiReControl (UK)

There were few reasons for the failure of this major project of the Fire and Rescue services department. The two significant reasons for the failure of the project FiReControl can be classified as follows:

  1. Poor Architecture and Planning
  2. Poor Cost and Schedule Estimation


  1. Poor Architecture and Planning

FiReControl project was in trouble from the outset because it did not have the support of its users. The approach and regional structure of the project were not in accordance with the requirements of the project and Fire and Rescue Services. The Department did not pay attention to the need of centrally dictated standard model of emergency call handling and mobilization, operating from new purpose-built regional control centres. The concept of a regional approach in itself was a problem (Kerzner, 2003). As a result there was an ambiguity between Local Fire and Rescue Authorities and their Fire and Rescue Services regarding an increase in efficiency on adapting a regional approach. Such an approach by the Department did not encourage local Fire and Rescue Authorities to partner in FiReControl’s delivery. Local Fire and Rescue Authorities were under no obligation to use the regional facilities. The Accountability was not placed in the hands of the Fire and Rescue Authorities which led to mistrust among the departments and a poor architecture and improper planning of the project since its inception.

  1. Poor Cost and Schedule Estimation

The second major reason for the failure of project FiReControl was underestimation of the project’s complexity and costs with the overstated benefits. The Department also failed to understand the complexity of designing a system to cater to the needs of Fire and Rescue Services. FiReControl project was based on unrealistic estimates of project costs and expected local savings. The project costs were estimated at £120 million and local savings at £86 million which did not include the costs of meeting local and regional implementation, or the costs of installing equipment, and overestimated the savings that could be achieved locally (Lewis, 2000). The estimation was just a broad estimation without getting into minute details of the project costs. The first assessment costs and savings was carried out in 2007, three years after its commencement and the project cost was estimated at £340 million.

Hence, the FiReControl was cancelled by the Department for Communities and Local Government in December 2010 due to number of delays and costs escalated over its lifetime. 5 years was the anticipated delay to the deliver the project before its cancellation. The Department’s forecast of total project cost at time of cancellation was £635 million as compared to original estimate of £120 million in July 2004. The difference in costs was more than five times the original cost. Thus, the poor cost estimation comes out as a major reason for failure

The Waterfall Model


The first formal description of the waterfall model was cited in 1970 in an article by Winston W. Royce. Royce did not use the term “waterfall” in this article, he presented that model as an example of a flawed, non-working model. The waterfall model is a sequential design process, often used in software development processes, in which progress is seen as flowing steadily downwards like a waterfall    through the phases of Conception, Initiation, AnalysisDesign, Construction, TestingProduction/Implementation and Maintenance (Rosemann et al, 2003).

Phases of the Waterfall Model

As it can be seen from the above paragraph that the waterfall model has various phases, these phases can be merged into five different Phases. They are as follows:

  1. Requirement gathering and Analysis

This is the first phase of waterfall model which includes a meeting with the customer to understand his requirements. This is the most crucial phase as any misinterpretation at this stage may give rise to validation issues later. The software definition in this phase must be detailed and accurate with no ambiguities (Schlagheck, 2000). It is very important to understand customer requirements and expectations so that the end product meets customer’s specifications.

  1. Design

The customer requirements are broken down into logical modules foe the ease of implementation. Hardware and software requirements for every module are identified and designed accordingly. The interrelation between the various logical modules is established at this stage. Algorithms and diagrams defining the scope and objective of each logical model are developed. In short, this phase lays a fundamental for actual programming and implementation. This phase focuses on Data Structure, Software architecture and algorithm details. This needs to be documented for further use.

  1. Coding

Coding is a phase in which design is translated into machine readable form. If design is done in sufficient detail then coding can be done effectively. Programs are created in this phase. In this phase all software are divided into small modules and coding is done for those small modules. As a result, class and structure of whole software is made in this phase (Royce, 1970).

  1. Testing

In this phase of testing, both individual components and the integrated whole are methodically verified to ensure that they are error-free and fully meet the requirements outlined in the first phase. In this phase the whole software is tested into two parts namely Hardware and Software. There are two types of testing involved in this phase; they are (1) Inside test and (2) Outside test.

  1. Maintenance

This is the final phase of the waterfall model, in which the completed software product is handed over to the customer after alpha, beta testing. Once the software has been deployed on the client site, it is the duty of the software development team to undertake routine maintenance activities by visiting the client site. In case the customer suggests changes or enhancements the software process has to be followed all over again right from the first phase (Andrew & Jennifer, 2005). This is usually the longest phase of the software. In this phase the software is updated to:

  1. a) Meet the changing customer needs
  2. b) Adapted to accommodate changes in the external environment
  3. c) Correct errors and oversights previously undetected in the testing phases
  4. d) Enhancing the efficiency of the software and observe that feed back loops allow for corrections to be incorporated into the model.

Advantages of the Waterfall Model

  1. The water fall model is easy to implement.
  2. It is easier to develop various softwares, through this method in short span of time.
  3. The project requires the fulfilment of one phase, before proceeding to the next which results into a proper working of the model.
  4. For implementation of small systems waterfall model is useful.

The Waterfall model is most appropriate where requirements are very well documented, clear and fixed. Product definition is stable and Technology is understood and is not dynamic. For example, in case of Library Projects it is most appropriate.

Disadvantages of the Waterfall Model

  1. The requirement analysis is done initially and sometimes it is not possible to state all the requirements explicitly in the beginning.
  2. It is difficult to follow the sequential flow in software development process.
  3. It is not possible to go backtrack in this model.
  4. The customer can see working model of the project only at the end, so the customer cannot give the inputs during the process.

The Waterfall model has not been properly used in case of U.S Department of Defense due to its few ambiguous assumptions, 75% of the proects have failed.

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