Projects, Products, and Finishing

Chris asked in his comment,

how about using the word ‘abandoned’ for projects that are “finished”?

I just don't think of completed projects as abandoned.

Let's separate the product from the project. Projects complete. Products may never be done, but projects do finish, sometimes whether we want them to or not. I was working as a consultant when a spouse called the VP Engineering. “I'm taking Dan away on Friday for two weeks. You may want to finish that project.” The VP started to complain. She interrupted, “Look, we haven't been on a vacation in two years. I've made arrangements to drop the kids with my mother. I'll be dropping his cell phone there too. He won't be bringing his computer. I don't care what you say, we are leaving.”

The VP decided that we would release on Thursday. Dan and his spouse left and had a great two weeks in Europe. He returned refreshed and able to see a bunch of problems that had stumped him before.

That project was done. But the product wasn't even close to finished.

Products live for a very long time (we hope!). Products have a lifecycle, but it's much longer than a project. Some products even require several releases, in the form of a program, to get to a “done” place.  I suppose it's possible to “abandon” a product for a while when you rank that product's projects lower on the portfolio.I don't think of it as abandonment though. If you put the project on the parking lot or on the portfolio backlog, the product isn't abandoned, it's just not active.

Only when you obsolete a product do you kill it. And even then, the organization typically has a migration path to a new product.

I'm still not sure what to do with abandonment, but for me, projects finish. Even if they just finish an iteration and then are consigned to the backlog, the parking lot, or are killed for good. They still finished.

2 thoughts on “Projects, Products, and Finishing”

  1. Although I did write that with a small part of humor, I guess what I am getting at is the question of what is a project and what does it mean for it to be completed/done.

    My understanding of what it means for a project to be done is that there is no more funding for it. However, as opposed to killing a project, you do not throw away what you were working on, you put it to use. You decide that what you have now is good enough, and the cost of continuing working on it is higher than the value you would get. So you do something else.

    In the story you tell, the VP had some idea of what he wanted to do, before his spouse intervened and he decided to release on Thursday. The project was done, which to me sounds like the intervention made him abandon whatever did not make it into that release.

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