When a person states that big software projects (over 5,000 function points) are risky or not possible, I think about Charles Lindbergh’s historic solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean.
In the early days of aviation pilots had few navigation aids. Pilots relied upon their judgment more than anything else. Often pilots would fly with a map between his legs and this become known as flying by the seat of your pants. Long flights over the Atlantic or Pacific oceans were difficult and some thought impossible. While some aviators like Charles Lindberg were successful, other aviators like Amelia Earhart were lost at sea. In 1927 when Lindberg crossed the Atlantic solo he only had a compass to guide him. The next year there would be thirty attempts to match Lindbergh’s historic achievement and twenty pilots lost their lives. The failure rate of pilots crossing the Atlantic was around seventy percent. Ironically, 70% is the crash rate of large software projects too. The point I want to make is the success of Lindbergh was due to his heroic abilities. Too many software projects rely on heroic abilities instead of clear navigational guides.
The reasons pilots could not fly long distances was not because it was impossible. It was due to the fact that there were not adequate measurements and navigational aids in place. The field of aviation has evolved and now there is a world of measurements. Pilots have the aid of radar, satellites and air traffic controllers to assist them. Pilots flying solo across the Atlantic is relatively common today. As a testament to this Marion R. Hart made seven solo flights across the Atlantic, the last when she was 83 years old.
If a software organization is getting ready to embark on a large project they need to bring in project managers that have experience implementing large software projects! They need managers with knowledge of how to implement projects with navigational devices. Theses managers need to know how to implement the necessary navigational aids to make sure the project stays on plan; otherwise, the project is destined to crash!
Charles Lindberg (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Lindbergh)
Marion Hart (http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9C0CE5DA1030F937A35754C0A966958260)
Function Points (http://www.SoftwareMetrics.Com)