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Projects, Tests, and Statistics

Steve Gilde July 22, 2021

While there is still some way to go before we can declare the COVID crises to be officially over, the rush is clearly on to find a new normal. Consumers are desperately anxious to get out of the house again and get to a ballgame, see a concert, or take that long-delayed vacation.

At the same time, businesses are working hard to re-open, re-stock and re-staff to meet the renewed demand. Of course, things are really not the same as they were before and there is a lot of additional work being done to adjust to changes in consumer behavior, health guidelines and security protocols. For most companies, that means a lot of project work and a lot of competing priorities.

What this means from a practical perspective is that resources are getting assigned to work on multiple projects, adding additional risk to an already risky proposition. Some deeper analysis into this risk factor and the overall success and failure rate for projects led me to some interesting information:

More than 100 years ago, Mark Twain said in his inimitable way, “Figures often beguile me…”, and this was certainly how I felt here: beguiled. (It was also Twain who popularized the now famous line: “Lies, damn lies and statistics.”)

One thing that I quickly learned as part of this research exercise is that there is a lot of material available about projects:

  • What makes a project successful
  • Why projects fail
  • How to manage projects
  • How not to manage projects
  • What projects cost

It was actually this last bullet item that I was most interested in. Every financial services organization is currently managing multiple projects of every shape and size. In the aggregate these projects take a significant amount of time, resource and money.

More specifically, the testing and QA component of an IT project is considerable: According to the recent research, in 2021 the budget for the quality assurance (QA) is going to reach 40% of the whole IT project budget.

In research conducted in 2020 by Perforce, 47% of respondents indicated that testing is the primary cause of delays in the development process. The Perforce survey responses also identified manual testing as the most time-consuming activity within a test cycle (72%).

Of course, the cost of a project can be calculated in many ways. In their recent report, The Cost of Poor Software Quality in the U.S., the Consortium for Information & Software Quality (CISQ) says that in 2020 “…unsuccessful development projects, cost an estimated $260 billion”, an increase of 46% since 2018."

According to the Project Management Institute (PMI) successful projects are those that meet three simple mandates: they are delivered on time, on budget and on target. Unfortunately, the PMI also reports that an average 11.4% of project investment is wasted due to poor performance.

While a few hours of internet research should probably not be considered definitive, sorting through the available statistical data (from sources like PMI, McKinsey, Gartner and CISQ), can only lead to the conclusion that IT projects are universally:

  • Time consuming
  • Expensive
  • Risky

McKinsey says “The COVID-19 crisis has had a significant and widespread effect on global payments across sectors. The most striking and potentially lasting impact is an accelerating pace of change in the industry.” Given the sheer number, size, and scope of project activities generated by these changes, it seems prudent for organizations to make strategic investments to ensure that they get the most out of the time and money invested in any project.

In the next installment in this series, we’ll take a closer look at how using the right testing tools in a project can help foster collaboration, increase resource efficiency, expand test coverage, improve quality, and minimize risk.


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