[SIGCIS-Members] software modernization failures

rncharette at ieee.org rncharette at ieee.org
Mon May 29 09:45:51 PDT 2023

Hi Jonathan (et al.),


You might be interested in the piece I did for IEEE Spectrum in 2020 “Inside the Hidden World of Legacy IT Systems <https://spectrum.ieee.org/inside-hidden-world-legacy-it-systems> ” – at the end you’ll see a short list of legacy-related failures going back a decade. I also did a podcast <https://spectrum.ieee.org/legacy-system>  regarding the article as well.


You can also refer to a multi-piece set of articles I wrote for IEEE Spectrum in 2015 that was a follow-on to the 2005 “Why Software Fails” article Lee mentioned titled “Lessons from a Decade of IT Failures <https://spectrum.ieee.org/lessons-from-a-decade-of-it-failures> .” You’ll see a number of IT modernization project failures discussed.


If you are focused on government IT systems, you might like to peruse the article I wrote for IEEE Computer, “Dragging Government Legacy Systems Out of the Shadows <https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/abstract/document/7562333> ” in 2016. A May 2023 US Government Accountability Office (GAO) report titles, “Agencies Need to Continue Addressing Critical Legacy Systems” <https://www.gao.gov/products/gao-23-106821>  illustrates not much has changed from what I highlighted.


BTW, I’ll also be doing a podcast for Red Hat on legacy software later this summer.


The short answer to your question as to why modernization Failures are so common and remain so is, as Les Hatton Emeritus Professor of Forensic Software Engineering, Kingston University said long ago, “The most significant reason software fails is that we don’t learn from our mistakes.”




Bob Charette


From: Lee Vinsel <lee.vinsel at gmail.com> 
Sent: Monday, May 29, 2023 11:23 AM
To: Jonathan Coopersmith <j-coopersmith at tamu.edu>
Cc: SIGCIS <members at sigcis.org>
Subject: Re: [SIGCIS-Members] software modernization failures


Hi, Jonathan! and all,


If there is a good book on why software adoption/modernization fails so often I have missed it, but I have really enjoyed the work of Robert Charette on the topic. I think his first piece on it was simply titled "Why Software Fails <https://spectrum.ieee.org/why-software-fails> " and was published in IEEE Spectrum. He has written several follow ups since then. Bob is easily approachable via email and has a wealth of knowledge about these topics. By the way, he is also the author of the recent 12 part series "The EV Transition Explained," which was also published as an ebook <https://spectrum.ieee.org/ev-transition-explained-ebook>  and demonstrates his characteristic insights into system dynamics. 




On Thu, May 4, 2023 at 7:58 PM Jonathan Coopersmith via Members <members at lists.sigcis.org <mailto:members at lists.sigcis.org> > wrote:

Any suggestions for a book or article on software modernization failures, especially for large projects?  Why do they seem common -- and apparently remain so?

Thank you.


Stay sane, 




Jonathan Coopersmith

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