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The Impact of a Delayed Software Project on Product Launch Coordination: A Case Study

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An increasing number of today’s products include software as their key component. This means that more and more product launches are depending on software projects, which are infamous for delays. While the impacts of delays are well studied in the scope of a software project and the company itself, the impacts on the management of launch activities are not very well understood. This study addresses the gap by an in-depth case study of one delayed software project. The results show that the delays may increase the cost of a product launch, as well as decrease the scope and quality of the launch activities. These impacts are influenced by key personnel’s motivational factors, which in turn cause lost working time and postponing the work until it is too late to act as planned.
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The Impact of a Delayed Software Project on
Product Launch Coordination: A Case Study
Jurka Rahikkala, Sami Hyrynsalmi
Department of IT
University of Turku, Finland
{juperah, sthyry}utu.fi
Marko Sepp¨
anen
Department of Pori
Tampere University of Technology, Finland
marko.seppanen@tut.fi
Ville Lepp¨
anen
Department of IT
University of Turku, Finland
villep@utu.fi
Abstract—An increasing number of today’s products include
software as their key component. This means that more and more
product launches are depending on software projects, which are
infamous for delays. While the impacts of delays are well studied
in the scope of a software project and the company itself, the
impacts on the management of launch activities are not very
well understood. This study addresses the gap by an in-depth
case study of one delayed software project. The results show
that the delays may increase the cost of a product launch, as
well as decrease the scope and quality of the launch activities.
These impacts are influenced by key personnel’s motivational
factors, which in turn cause lost working time and postponing
the work until it is too late to act as planned.
Index Terms—software product management, product launch,
project delay, change management
I. INTRODUCTION
The global software industry has emerged to a significant
business segment in a couple of decades [1], and there are
no signs of slowing down in sight [2]. Software is applied in
an increasingly wide spectrum of business, and it has been
claimed that now every company is a software company1.
Thus, most companies must deal with software projects and
product launches, depending on them. This new situation is
also a challenge for companies: while the timing of the market
introduction is critical for the product’s success [3], software
projects tend to overrun their schedules [4].
This study focuses on the coordination between the software
project and related product launch activities. A product launch
refers to activities needed for bringing a new product into
the market; a product launch strategy should define what to
launch, where to launch, when to launch and why to launch
[5]. Timing and good management of key aspects of the
launch, such as marketing plans and overall launch direction,
have been found as critical success factors for the launch
success [6]. However, because of the nature of coordination,
launching a product involving software is depending on the
outcomes from the software project [7]. While the frequency
and impacts of software project delays have been widely
reported [4], [8] and the success factors of a product launch are
known [6], there seems to be a gap in the pool of knowledge
in how to successfully manage launch activities in case of
1Kirkpatrick, D. Now Every Company Is A Software Company.
http://www.forbes.com/sites/techonomy/2011/11/30/now-every-company-is-
a-software- company/#1505e9a21100.
a delay. Regardless of the frequency of delays, high product
failure rates [9], [10] and reports about focusing on product
development on the cost of market launch management [10],
[11], we were, surprisingly, not able to locate a single study
addressing the situation.
The research objective of this study is to address the
following unanswered question:
RQ What is the impact of software project delays on manag-
ing the related market introduction in terms of cost, scope
and quality of the launch activities?
This paper reports in-depth findings from one delayed soft-
ware project and contributes to the field of product innovation
management and software product management. The results
demonstrate the impacts of delays on cost, scope and quality
of product launch activities. Additionally, the significant role
of motivation as a moderator of the impacts is considered.
Improved understanding of the dependency between a software
project and product launch activities may help top managers,
product managers and researchers.
The remaining of the study is structured as follows. Sec-
tion II presents the background and related work of market
entry studies. Section III describes the case study subject and
research design. It is followed by presentation of findings.
Section V discusses the results and concludes the study.
II. BACKGROU ND
PIMS studies (e.g. [12]) were the first ones among the
studies trying to identify profit impacts of marketing strate-
gies. These studies developed an understanding of the causes
and consequences of e.g. entry timing in order to explain
successfulness at the market. A vast number of studies has
been conducted in order to analyze the relationships between
speed to market, quality, costs, and profitability (e.g. [13],
[14]). Literature suggests that the consequences of being late
to the market are significant, causing, for instance, lower profit
margins, higher development and production costs, and less-
ening of the firm’s market value [8]. Scholars have also argued
speed keeps costs in control, is associated with high-quality
products [15], and helps to ensure early entrant advantages,
and overall profitability (e.g. [16]).
While much of the research has revolved around strategic
issues, the importance of the execution of the strategies has
also been recognized [6]. It is known that marketing and tech-
nological execution proficiency are significant predictors of
new product success [17], and, on the other hand, controllable
reasons for new product development (NPD) failure include
poor execution of marketing and technical activities [18],
[19]. Also cross-functional integration between the R&D and
marketing has been found as an important success factor in
NPD [20].
However, systematic planning and execution is not easy,
when software projects are involved: software projects tend to
be late [4]. Previous studies have found that the reasons for
estimation errors are many [21] including intentional distortion
of the estimates [22]. Estimation errors have been shown to
cause decreased customer satisfaction, team motivation and
additional work, among other things [23], [24]. The impor-
tance of estimates is well understood in the management [25],
yet the overruns continue.
To summarize, market introductions and especially their
timing are essential for product success. In addition to strategic
considerations, also launch tactics are understood to influence
NPD success significantly. Furthermore, software projects with
unreliable schedules are a challenge for the successful ex-
ecution and coordination of launch activities. Regardless of
software being involved in a constantly increasing number of
products, there seems to be a gap in the extant literature of
what are the impacts of a software project delay on the launch
activities.
The classic project management triangle of scope, costs,
and schedule is commonly used for studying the goals of a
project [26], and Dvir and Lechler have distinguished between
two types of changes: plan changes and goal changes [27].
Plan changes refer to the environment and prevent the project
from following the original plan. Goal changes refer to the
project scope: changes in requirements or inability to meet
them within the available budget and time [28]. For the
purposes of this study, we employ these commonly used
attributes, and focus on the changes in scope, quality, and
costs to see what kinds of consequences project delays may
have in a firm’s internal launch activities.
III. RES EA RC H PRO CE SS
A. Case company and project
The case company is a Finland-based medium-sized soft-
ware producing company. It has offices in several countries and
its main line of business includes selling software products and
services. The case project aimed at launching an application
tool for software developers. The product was completely new
for the company and it was seen strategically important and
generating new sales for the company.
The software project related to the launch started in mid
2014 with a prototype project. The first schedule for the
commercial version of the product was set in the end of 2014.
Initially, the project was estimated to be ready in three months.
After two months, the schedule was extended for the first
time, and the project received a late status. After 6 additional
schedule extensions, the product was finally launched in
October 2015. The launch project planning was started at the
same time as the software project, but the implementation was
put on hold before its full scale start, when the delay became
evident.
The launch activities relied on videos. The marketing man-
ager describes that video clips and YouTube were employed
for the first time in large scale in a product launch. Other
launch activities consisted of online advertising, product web
pages, webinars, tutorials and documentation, among other
things. In addition to the marketing activities, a direct sales
campaign was conducted. According to the interviewees, there
was plenty of manpower and money at disposal for the
launch. They also describe that the company’s capabilities
for making a successful product launch are good. However,
when launching new products for the new user groups, there
is still room for improvement. Generally speaking, the product
launch under the study followed the same process which
the company had used several times, when launching other
products. The interviewees characterized some of the previous
product launches as highly successful.
B. Research approach
The selection of the case study company is based on
good access to the company and the richness of the delayed
project. Thus, we employ an exploratory qualitative research
approach [29], more specifically a case study research strat-
egy [30].
The case study subject, a project, aimed to create a new tool
for software developers. The project was selected due to three
main reasons: First, the project was delayed but delivered by
the time of writing this report, which was a precondition for
studying the impacts of a delay on a product launch. Second,
the new product was highly expected in the company as it was
strategically important. Thus, the company made an important
investment into the product and it was followed carefully even
by the top management, which improves the validity of the
results. Third, the researchers were familiar with the company
and the employees were expected to speak honestly, even about
difficult topics.
The primary data gathering method for this study is semi-
structured interviews [29]. Prior to the interviews, an interview
instrument was created. The interviews were conducted by two
researchers while one of them acted as the main interviewer.
The interviews were recorded and carried out during one
week in the beginning of January 2016. All interviews were
transcripted and the results were sent to the interviewees for
review. All participated in the study voluntarily. The company
and the interviewees wished to remain anonymous in this
study. The collected data was treated confidentially.
As a secondary data source, we collected different project
related documents such as meeting minutes, and marketing
and sales plans. In total, we interviewed seven persons, and
studied 121 meeting minutes and four plan documents. The
interviewees and their role descriptions, as well as their
departments in the company, are shown in Table I. The
TABLE I
INTERVIEWEESROLE S IN TH E CO MPAN Y
Role Department Length (min)
CEO, Product Director CEO, Products 55
Key account manager Sales 35
Product marketing manager Marketing 55
Sales director Sales 35
Sales analyst Sales 25
Product owner (PO) Product management 50
Marketing director Marketing 50
analysis was conducted in a series of steps following the
guidelines given by Robson [29].
IV. FINDINGS AND RESULTS
The findings are grouped into categories, as presented in
Fig. 1. When a delay occurs, it creates a need for delay man-
agement activities, which, according to the findings, influence
marketing and sales tactics especially through motivational
factors. The impact on sales and marketing tactics is observed
through three findings categories, scope, quality and cost.
A. Delay management
1) Forums and other communication channels: Based on
the interviews and studying the meeting minutes from different
meetings of the case company, the delays were managed
primarily in four different weekly meetings:
PROD UC TS W EE KLY: Chaired by the CEO for most of the
duration of the project. Other participants were product
owners, including the product owner (PO). The schedule
was reviewed in every meeting.
MANAGEMENT WEEKLY: Chaired by the CEO, other par-
ticipants being management team members, including
marketing and sales director. The schedule for the beta
release was reviewed regularly.
MARKETING WEEKLY: Chaired by the marketing director,
other participants were the whole marketing team, in-
cluding the product marketing manager responsible for
the launch. The schedule was reviewed occasionally.
SAL ES W EE KLY: Chaired by the sales director, other partic-
ipants being the whole sales team. The schedule was
reviewed in every meeting.
The primary forum for the delay and schedule management
was the products weekly meeting, which was chaired by the
company CEO. The CEO tells that the information on the
updated schedule was available for the whole company in
the meeting minutes, and passed forward to other meetings
through informal discussions by him and the PO. The doc-
ument review confirmed that the meeting minutes from all
of the previously mentioned meetings were publicly available
for the whole company. The marketing director and product
marketing manager describe having got information on weekly
basis from the PO. The sales director got information in the
Fig. 1. The findings overview.
management team meetings and from the CEO, and passed
the information forward to the sales team members.
The interviewed marketing manager, product marketing
manager and sales analyst tell that they would have needed
updated information about the product features for their launch
related work, but this was not available. According to the
minutes of the meetings, the features of the product were not
discussed in any of the above mentioned meetings either. The
product marketing manager describes the trustworthiness of
any schedule and scope information having been low after a
couple of updated and missed deadlines and scope changes.
The PO concurs that when time passed, a lot of changes
regarding the scope and schedule were made, and the status
awareness probably suffered from that. As a result of the lack
of trustworthy information, the PO describes that he received
a lot of direct enquiries regarding the schedule, directly from
the involved parties.
2) Schedule and features information availability: The
schedule for the final release was updated seven times in the
products weekly meeting during the project, as shown in Fig.
2. The beginning of the lines represents the date when the
schedule was updated, while the right hand side end represents
the planned release date for the final product. The thick gray
lines indicate that the release date has been expressed as a
range, and no exact date has been given for the release.
The schedule was updated once in January (R1), February
(R2) and March (R3), the latest launch date being “in the first
half of the year”. Thereafter the schedule was updated next in
early August (R4), followed by three consecutive updates (R5–
R7). The interviewed sales director and key account manager
describe that no schedule information was available during the
sales campaign, which started in the beginning of August, even
if asked from the PO. This confirms the gap in updating the
schedule during the summer months. The product was finally
released in the end of October.
The CEO and PO say that the scope was pretty stable
during the whole project. However, the PO describes that there
Fig. 2. Schedule updates for the final product release.
were attempts to reduce the scope because of the schedule
pressure, but finally the original scope was restored. The
product marketing manager also names a couple of items that
were dropped from the scope early in the project. The PO and
product marketing manager conclude that all this together had
probably caused a perception of a changing scope. This was
confirmed by the interviewees from the marketing and sales
departments, who perceived that the scope of the product was
changing.
3) Decision making: According to the CEO and other
interviewees, the PO was accountable for the overall release
of the product. The PO describes that he first re-estimated
the schedule with the development team, and the updated
schedules were accepted by the CEO as such. However, the PO
adds that the targeted release dates were always known by the
team at the time of re-estimation, and that the knowledge of the
release dates had most likely affected the estimation work. The
PO concludes that “If you know that the targeted release date
is after one month, you are not likely to present an extension of
half a year in the schedule.The CEO describes the product
under the study having an important role in the company’s
strategy. He continues that the investors of the company were
also following the project closely, and that there was a high
pressure to release the product successfully, and realise the
projected sales. The PO and the product marketing manager
describe that because of the deep involvement of the CEO in
the project, the whole team was well aware of the schedule
and product related targets.
4) Summary of delay management practices: A covering
meeting structure has been in place. The schedule has been
reviewed regularly in the products weekly meeting, and the
schedule has been available in the meeting minutes. However,
the interviewees in sales and marketing describe the available
information not being trustworthy, and that there was a lack of
updated information. There were no schedule updates between
April and September, even though the schedule was slipping
simultaneously. These items seem to have created significant
uncertainty and confusion, and triggered ad-hoc enquiries to
the PO. As a response to the enquiries, the PO provided
information, which differed from the targeted schedule. The
scheduling decisions have been made by the PO, based on
the estimates affected by business targets. The scope of the
product was perceived to be changing, and although the feature
information was requested and would have been needed, it was
not provided.
B. Motivation factors
Both the marketing director and the sales director describe
that their teams have experienced low motivation during the
product launch and the sales campaign. The marketing director
attributes the decreased motivation to the overly optimistic
official schedules, not to the delay itself. Many marketing ac-
tivities, like video recordings and messages of the key benefits,
were depending on the product and its features. Without the
final product, no recordings could be done, because the product
was changing constantly. Also, the feature set of the product
was perceived to be changing, making it impossible to know,
which features and related benefits the final product would
have. Thus, aiming at a moving target caused the production
of the marketing artefacts to be postponed, since reproduction
would be considered demotivating and unreasonable.
The sales director describes that they had no monetary
targets for the sales campaign, because the product was
not ready to be sold. Instead, they were demonstrating the
product to potential customers. The sales director describes
the motivation having been low, because the product quality
was low and there was very little support for the sales from the
products and marketing. The sales was conducting a campaign,
from which they did not expect sales, but there was a risk
of losing a credibility in front of the existing customers
due to a low quality product. The interviewed key account
manager describes the focus of the demonstrations having
been in avoiding known bugs, and the sales analyst estimates
the campaign having caused lost of sales in other product
categories.
The PO and the product marketing manager had a monetary
performance bonus bound to the release schedule. These bonus
targets were not updated with the delays, and it became
obvious in an early phase that the targets will not be reached.
The PO tells having pretended that the bonus target does
not exist, and that he could not let it affect the needed
decision making: releasing something that is not ready does
not contribute to the company’s goals. He continues that many
other important aspects, such as quality, were missing from the
bonus scorecard. The product marketing manager comments
that missing a target, which was perceived as unrealistic, in an
early phase, was demotivating. The interviewed key account
manager comments that even though the sales targets were not
depending on the product, the time spent on the sales campaign
not generating sales worked against achieving his goals.
C. Marketing tactics
1) Scope: According to the CEO, the scope of the launch
was decreased significantly because of the delays. There were
a lot of planned videos, tutorials, blog posts, webinars, doc-
umentation and other material, of which a significant amount
was not ready by the product launch. This proposition gets
support from the product marketing manager, who describes
having postponed everything as much as possible to avoid
doing everything again later. According to him, the last video
edits were made in a hotel room the night before the launch
event. The marketing manager continues that the videos were
affected the most, more videos were planned.
2) Quality: The product marketing manager considered
the impact of the delay having influenced the quality of the
marketing activities the most. According to him, there were
a lot of uncertainties related to the product’s features and
related benefits, which made creating marketing messages
difficult. Long waiting times, uncertainty and noise in the
communication caused the focus to be lost and the creativity
was not at its best. Furthermore, the schedule was tight after
timeboxing the development and deciding upon the release
date in the trade show. Suddenly there was a hurry to do all
the postponed work. Considering the previous and the reported
reductions in the scope of the marketing activities, it seems
likely that the level of finalization of the marketing artefacts
was not as good as planned.
3) Cost: The marketing director describes that they lost
roughly three persons’ work effort for three months during the
summer. The team was just waiting for the technical product
release getting closer, so that they could start working with the
related marketing artefacts. The marketing director speculates
that it could have been possible to get something out of the
waiting period, but it would have been difficult to motivate
the team to do work, of which 80% would have needed to be
reproduced later. The CEO describes that the prolonged launch
required additional coordination work with e.g. an external
video production company, as well as internally. The product
marketing manager adds that the video material had required
additional editing, causing a minor cost increase.
D. Sales tactics
1) Scope: The original target of the sales campaign was to
sell licenses to the new product. Because of the delay, the
target was updated to include the introduction the product
to potential customers, collect feedback and get reference
customers. According to the interviewed key account manager,
the sales did not want to demonstrate the product to existing
customers because of the low quality, and therefore the risk
of losing credibility. This caused that not all customers were
contacted as planned. The sales director adds that reaching
customers in August was difficult because of vacations, and
they did not get reference customers. The CEO describes that
the collected feedback validated the value proposition, but
the PO assesses that the feedback started to repeat the same
problem reports quickly, and it was not very relevant. The
sales director tells that the campaign was ended prematurely
after one and a half months because of the aforementioned
problems, instead of continuing for the planned three months.
2) Quality: According to the interviewees from the sales
team, they did not have sales material, necessary training and
sales support available during the campaign, which prevented
them from giving product demonstrations to the potential
customers by themselves. The PO confirms this. He was on
vacation when the campaign started and after returning from
the vacation, prioritized other things. As a result the sales
team did not give product demonstrations, but invited potential
buyers into demonstration events, where the PO demonstrated
the product. According to the key account manager, the
discussions were also more about informing the customers of
the product instead of selling, because there had not been a
marketing campaign prior to the sales campaign, making the
potential customers aware of the product.
3) Cost: The CEO states that the sales campaign was a
waste of time, because the product was not ready to be sold.
The total lost working time in the sales was estimated to be 10
person months. The interviewed sales analyst comments that
probably also some sales of other products were lost because
of focusing on an immature product instead.
V. DISCUSSION,LIMITATIONS AND CONCLUSIONS
This study has captured in-depth experiences from a launch
of a delayed software development tool product for the global
market. As is typical for delay situations, many things did
not go as planned, and the effects of the delays escalated in
the product launch related activities. When a delay is a fact,
preventing the difficulties from escalating and mitigating their
impact on related activities becomes a priority.
A. Key findings and analysis
This study clearly shows that delays in a software project
have a remarkable impact on the cost, scope and quality
of a product launch. The most significant finding of this
study is that the uncertainty of the software project schedule
and product features makes planning and scheduling launch
activities difficult, which may decrease the motivation of the
involved personnel. The decreased motivation in turn leads to
postponing the implementation of the launch activities, until
there is not enough time for implementing them in the planned
scope and quality. The decrease of motivation is mainly driven
by the fear of needing to reproduce significant amounts of
work because of the changes in product features and related
customer benefits.
The schedule was updated by repeatedly extending the
schedule by a short period of time. The schedule extensions
seemed to be driven by the pressure to get the product out,
rather than assessing the situation purely from the project
realism’s point of view. The estimation seemed to be affected
by the business goals. Furthermore, there was a connection
between the scope and schedule [26], also making the scope
live with the schedule, although the eventual scope changes
were minor. The launch team was facing a situation where
there was no trustworthy schedule and scope available. This
created uncertainty and mistrust, and decreased the motivation
because any changes would mean significant reproduction of
the launch related marketing artefacts.
Practice for updating the schedule correlates well with the
previous findings. Excessive pressure occurs in 75% to 100%
of large projects [31], which is often caused by the response of
managers, when the schedule does not align with the business
targets [23]. The technical staff is also known for being poor
at defending their estimates [32]. Furthermore, the project
seems to have experienced the anchoring phenomena [33],
where the estimate is affected by an expressed starting point,
i.e. the targeted release date. Sometimes managers may also
want to launch products despite the fact that the products are
compromised in terms of functionality and reliability [20].
Appreciation of work and interesting work have been found
to be among the five most important employee motivation fac-
tors [34], and therefore it seems not surprising that the fear of
losing the results of the work and needing to repeat the work is
described as decreasing the motivation. The evidence suggests
that the decreased motivation and related consequential effects
might have been avoided by a more realistic rescheduling of
the launch, and publishing a clear master schedule and scope to
the software project, which would have been effectively rolled
out in the organisation, making all involved parties aware of
them. This would likely to have enabled a more effective
coordination between the software and launch projects. The
best project results are suggested to come from the most
accurate estimates [35].
Personal scorecards were seen to have decreased the motiva-
tion instead of driving towards the goals. The scorecards were
bound to the schedule of the product launch, while the involved
personnel saw other topics, such as the quality of the work and
the scope of the work, more important. Also, the performance
indicators were not updated, although the project received a
late project status eight months before the launch. This was
perceived as unreasonable. Monitoring too many conflicting
goals, like cost, budget and schedule, have been reported to
be connected to demoralized staff, and staff ignoring all of
the measures or shifting emphasis from one to another [36].
A reward becomes a demoralizing punishment, if it is missed
out.
Postponing the work lead to a lack of time to implement
the planned launch activities with the planned quality. The
activities were planned early with the assumption that there is
plenty of time to be used, but when the actual launch date was
set, there was significantly less time to be used, although most
of the work remained. This was reported to have lead to cutting
out parts of the planned actions, as well as implementing
them with a reduced scope or weaker quality. The additional
spending originated mostly from lost working time resulting
from waiting, reproducing changed items and additional co-
ordination. All of these impacts are consequential, caused by
changes in the launch schedule and scope. Coordination is
managing dependencies between activities [7]. There was a
clear producer / consumer dependency between the software
project and the launch, as further described by Malone and
Crowston [7]. The products from the software project were
pre-requisites for the launch activities. In the light of the
previous it seems clear that problems in the software project
caused consequential effect in the related product launch.
Finally, the delays caused various other impacts on the prod-
uct launch because of the previously described dynamics. For
example, under pressure a sales campaign was started before
the product was ready, and while the PO and customers were
on summer vacation. Uncertainties also caused an extensive
number of status enquiries for the PO, which prevented him
from attending more important tasks, like training the sales
and creating sales support material.
B. Managerial implications
We recommend that when a delay in a software project
is unavoidable, the escalation of negative effects to product
launch activities should be prevented or mitigated by im-
plementing effective delay management actions. Especially
important is to reduce the uncertainty by using the best effort
to prepare a new, reliable master schedule and scope for the
project, and making the involved parties effectively aware of
them. This makes it possible to also update the respective
launch plans. If done early enough, the marketing and sales
activities may be able to continue their ordinary course of
actions, until the product has reached the planned maturity
to work as a basis for the launch activities. A clear master
schedule is also likely to improve the work motivation.
Furthermore, we recommend carefully considering different
scenarios before setting personal incentives bound to a launch
date, especially in the marketing and sales activities, where
the persons have limited influence over the schedule. Consid-
ering the track record of software projects overrunning their
schedules, the scorecards bound to schedules are more likely
to do harm than good.
C. Implications for theories
This paper contributes to the body of knowledge by showing
that the delay impacts escalate easily from the software project
to the launch activities. The impacts include increased cost,
and decreased scope and quality of the launch. The reason
for the negative impacts results from a missing reliable master
schedule and scope, which decreases the motivation and makes
a meaningful planning of launch activities difficult. The reason
for the decreased motivation is an immature product and
fear towards needing to reproduce work items because of the
changes in the product. The decreased motivation itself causes
persons involved in the launch to postpone all work as long
as possible, which leaves not enough time to implement all of
the planned launch activities, and not with the planned quality.
Furthermore, the impacts of a delayed software project are
studied thoroughly in the scope of the project itself, and in the
scope of the company. However, the impacts on the company’s
internal activities have not been in the focus. This paper clearly
shows that the impacts can be significant also on the internal
coordination, and cannot be ignored. A broader and holistic
view is needed when assessing and managing the impacts of
a runaway software project inside a company. Therefore, we
would suggest the field of software product management to
pay more attention on software project delay management, as
well.
D. Validity discussion and further research
This study has certain limitations. First, the findings of this
study are subject to constraints of the research methodology.
This research studied only one software project, which limits
the generalization of the findings to similar contexts. To im-
prove transferability, we have given rich information about the
case, thus allowing researchers to compare their cases against
the one described in this study. Second, obviously mistakes
were made when managing the delay in the case company, but
nonetheless the results draw attention to the importance of the
existence of a master schedule and scope. It is recommended
that further research be conducted in different contexts to study
the delay management especially in cases, where the delay has
been managed successfully, and no decreased motivation or
impacts on the launch activities are reported.
Third, to reduce inherent subjectivity of a case study,
potential biases were attempted to reduce, e.g., by checking
and approving all transacripts and the manuscript by the inter-
viewees. The results of this study were also supported by an
exemplary trail of meeting minutes. Finally, the confirmability
of the results is partly supported by our literature review on
non-software projects. However, further studies are needed to
verify the results.
Considering the number of products containing software
today, the high share of software projects overrunning their
schedules and the importance of the product launch for the
financial success of the product, further research of the topic
is justified. Our unstructured literature review did not reveal
many studies on the impact of a software project delay on a
product launch, or on any other company internal activities for
that matter. Thus, a more thorough literature review should
focus to shed more light on possible research gaps in the
impact of a delay on company’s internal coordination.
E. Conclusions
This research provides evidence that the delays in a software
project increase costs and decrease scope and quality of
product launch activities. These impacts are mainly the results
of an uncertain schedule and scope, which causes lost working
time and reproduction of work within the launch project, and
postponing the launch activities until there is too little time
to implement all of the planned activities with the planned
scope and quality. The research suggests that postponing the
launch activities is caused by decreased motivation, driven
by the fear of needing to repeat work phases because of
changes in the immature product. The decreased motivation
was amplified by personal reward systems, which were bound
to the launch schedule. This goal was seen to conflict with
other goals, which in turn caused ignorance of the schedule.
Furthermore, the early discovered loss of reward was perceived
as a punishment instead of an incentive.
The main implications are the following: 1) A delay in a
software project may cause increased cost and decreased scope
and quality of product launch activities. 2) A new, realistic
master schedule and scope should be established immediately,
when the delay becomes evident, and all involved parties
should be effectively made aware of them. This may help
to limit the escalation of negative impacts into the product
launch. 3) A personal reward system bound to the launch
schedule may lead to conflicting goals, decreased motiva-
tion and ignorance of the goals. 4) Top managers, software
managers and sales and marketing managers must recognize
the widespread impacts of a software project delay, and
manage the situation holistically from the whole company’s
perspective, instead of individual departments’ perspectives.
Finally, the study showed the importance of the delay
management in software industry as well as noted lack of
studies in this area regarding product launch processes. Further
studies are with more companies and industries are needed to
validate the results. Furthermore, the interaction of feature and
requirement changes should be addressed in future studies.
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... This may be beneficial to limit the escalation of negative impacts into the product launch. Moreover the managerial level should be able to identify the impacts caused by a delay and should be able to manage them holistically from the whole company's perspective, instead of individual departments' perspectives [9]. ...
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