Project From Hell

A few years ago, I was hired to work as a consultant on a software project for a large French tech company. What I have witnessed there is beyond everything I could possibly have imagined in terms of software engineering. Far more serious than just a lack of professional competence was the utmost contempt for human dignity which at some point made me compare the whole experience to (what I imagine can be) jail. What I relate here is a selected list of topics that should illustrate my point, but check out by yourself.

Scope

Develop a piece of software for a government agency. Low complexity, with a few twists.

Government pays a few million Euros upfront, development is scheduled for two to three years. Company hires a couple of developers to start the job, and keeps doubling team size every 3 months or so as cash starts flowing in.

7 years later, the project is still not in any decent shape. Penalties are running in several thousand Euros per day. Management decides to reduce costs and fires all experimented people, hires people with little or no software experience.

10 years later, given the disastrous state of the project, middle-management decides to hire some people with software engineering experience to get back on tracks. Average turn-over for the newcomers: 3 months, the legal time to leave your job in France.

12 years later, the project is still active. The company recovers daily penalties by billing ever-increasing change requests to the government. The year is 2008.

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