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Barry Boehm, "Software Risk Management: Principles and Practices," original version of IEEE Software, Volume 8, Issue 1, January 1991, pp. 32-41 (pdf)

Like many fields in their early stages, the software field has had its share of project disasters: the software equivalents of Beauvais Cathedral, the S.S. Titanic, and the "Galloping Gertie" Tacoma Narrows Bridge. The frequency of these disaster projects is a serious concern: a recent survey of 600 firms indicated that 35% of them had at least one "runaway' software project [I].

Most post-mortems of these software disaster projects have indicated that their problems would have been avoided or strongly reduced if there had been an explicit early concern with identifying and resolving their high-risk elements. Frequently, these projects were swept along by a tide of optimistic enthusiasm during their early phases, which caused them to miss some clear signals of high-risk issues which proved to be the project's downfall later.

Enthusiasm for new software capabilities is a good thing. But it needs to be tempered with a concern for early identification and resolution of a project's high-risk elements, so that people can get these resolved early and then focus their enthusiasm and energy on the positive aspects of their software product.

Added June 24th, 2008

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