Day: 19 September 2021

Parkinsons Law applied to Software Projects

While recently listening to a BBC podcast I learned about Parkinson's law and realised how it simply explains why traditional software project which work to deadlines, fail so often. Simply put, the law states "work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion". This year I had to help work on an estimate used to promise a delivery date to upper management. We use SAFe at this organisation (where I work as a system architect in a troika managing an agile release train), and did an agile estimate, so it was based on previous features and we tried to estimate just their complexity rather than say hours, and we added factors to handle risks and added additional reserves for other unknowns. The date we named was roughly 6 months ahead of the estimation date, based on work done in the 18 months prior. That date was communicated both to our 8 software development teams, and upper management. So the expectation of when to finish had been set. According to my interpretation of Parkinson's law, it doesn't matter how much work there really is, because if there isn't enough time you trim optional features or quality that nobody is really counting on.  On the other hand, if there is too much time, you do things like write more automated tests or little scripts here and there, those things you always wanted to do but never had time to do. I've seen our various teams doing these things, and sometimes both, depending on where…

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