Bottom Fed Failure

The following entry is part of the Pattern Library. The Pattern Library records the common patterns of behaviours and events that have the potential to lead to project failure.

Pattern name : Bottom Fed Failure 

In brief :
Substandard work at the implementation level results in poor quality deliverables that lead to project failure

Description :
A product is only as good as its implementation and bottom fed failure occurs when the quality of the deliverables being created is allowed to fall too low. 

Bottom fed failure occurs in one of two ways;

  1. Pre-deployment failure
    The project team become aware of the quality problems prior to production release (usually through testing) but the cost to correct the problems is so high that the project is abandoned
  2. Post-deployment failure
    The quality problems are not identified until after deployment.  Post deployment failures can be among the most costly to correct because the organization is faced not only with the rework cost to fix the project deliverables, but also the costs due to the service disruptions that typically occur when low grade deliverables are deployed into the operational environment

Bottom fed failures typically occur when a lack of skills at the implementation level are combined with a lack of technical oversight.  Bottom fed failures are also characterized by a lack of quality management practices and a focus on schedule and budget rather than quality.

Examples :

  1. Lhufthansa Systems – FACE system (pre-deployment failure)
  2. Her Majesty’s Revenue Collection – Child tax credits – total loses up to $5.6B (post-deployment failure)

Note: In some situations even a minor flaw in the deliverables can cause significant loses.  The Ariane 5 rocket is an example of a bottom fed failure that involved just a single line of code.

Negative effects :

  1. Significant rework costs as organization tries to rescue the situation
  2. Write-off of investment should full cancellation occur (pre-deployment failure)
  3. Chaotic deployments and service disruptions for customers (post-deployment failures)
  4. Additional serivce recovery costs and other costs (post-deployment failures)

Related patterns

  1. Quality kaboom

Suggested Actions :

  1. Use smaller incremental delivery strategies where possible
  2. Establish effective technical leadership and ensure the technical leadership oversee the quality of the work done at lower levels
  3. Implement appropriate quality management and quality assurance practices
  4. Select Vendors based on quality performance and make Vendors financially responsible for quality flaws at the implementation level

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