Sometimes you just have to know when it's time to cancel and move on.
Now that I have your attention, I can add the caveats. Canceled development projects are not good things. They represent lost investment in terms of money and people. They generally lead to poor morale as people who have put considerable effort into a program find that their efforts have been wasted.
But the optimal number of canceled projects is not zero, particularly in the high-tech sector. There are too many unknowns when a project is launched to say emphatically that every program should go through to completion. Here are five situations when canceling a project is a good thing.
1. The project is successful
Huh? How can a project be successful before it is released? And why would you want to cancel it?
This goes to the definition of "successful". Many years ago, I attended a class taught by the software development guru Tom DeMarco. He described two successful projects. One project met all its schedules and cost goals and delivered a great product that made lots of money. The second project developed a product that was not destined to be successful. The company recognized that quickly and canceled the project before too many resources were invested into it.
The truth is that there are many technical and market unknowns for any project, and the early stages of a program should determine if a particular investment is warranted. Finding the answer quickly and canceling a program early (if the answers come back negative) is a successful project in itself.
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