The Silent Graveyard of Software: Why the Path to Innovation is Paved with Failures


It’s been thirty years since I took my first steps in the professional world of software. I was just 22 years old and was bringing to life my first commercial application, a novelty for that time: a CAD that allowed previewing hairstyles and haircuts. Today, with the revolution brought by artificial intelligence, this might seem almost trivial, but back then it was a real innovation, in an era where information was scarce and the internet “did not exist” yet. The digital world was my realm, a universe where I sought refuge to express creativity and experience personal and professional growth. I had no idea that a simple software could lead to a startup, at that time I didn’t even know what that was and often developed for free, driven only by passion.

In 1996, at 24 years old, after continuing with software sales for the educational sector, my career took a decisive turn with my entry into the world of the internet. At that time, I worked as a technical manager at an internet provider, an experience that offered me a unique opportunity to experiment with emerging technologies in the field, opening doors to new creative freedom.

In that environment, I was able to experiment with and understand the fascinating world of networking by designing and developing pioneering solutions and my first “web portal”, a hotel booking system for Campania, a precursor in Campania and perhaps a competitor of what would become platforms like Venere and Booking.

All this to say that, after years of efforts, dreams, failures, and successes, creating and closing companies, I’ve gained experience and perhaps credibility that today offers me the freedom to express a qualified opinion on this sector.

Like me, many have sailed the same waters, navigating the sea of technology, creating innovative software and solutions.

Behind the bright stage of a few successes, there is, in fact, a lesser-known backdrop: a true silent graveyard of software. These are the hidden shadows of the computer world: products developed with great enthusiasm and passion, but for various reasons, never reached the vast public. The question arises spontaneously: why does this happen?

In the complicated journey towards success, every software hides countless challenges that creators must face with courage and determination. These challenges are not limited to pure technique but extend to a broader scenario that includes organizational, financial, and market issues. Understanding these challenges means not just being aware of them but deeply assimilating them in every aspect.

It is said that success is paved with failures, but I think failure is often caused by ignorance, in the most literal sense of the word, meaning to “ignore” fundamental elements and knowledge for the goal.

For this reason, I wanted to examine this phenomenon more closely, to understand its breadth and implications. To give you an idea of what I mean, I leave you the link to two interesting resources: “Startup Graveyard” and “Startup Cemetery”, where you can find countless projects that are the offspring of this process. These sites offer an idea of the complexity and challenges encountered in bringing a project to success, with a failure rate that exceeds 90%. It is important to emphasize that producing valuable software is not equivalent to successfully launching a startup; however, even software projects that do not aspire to become startups face numerous difficulties, ranging from planning to execution.

The “Chaos Report” by the Standish Group reveals a worrying statistic: only 29% of software projects are completed successfully, and most face various obstacles, including difficulties in management, defining correct budgets, and requirements often not clearly defined or formalized or subject to frequent changes.

According to an analysis conducted by IEEE, in fact, project requirements change on average by 25% during their development, a figure I consider physiological, but these variations can be even greater, especially if you are facing a project founded on an unclear vision, in which case flexibility can become synonymous with entropy.

In addition to requirements, there are other factors to consider, such as managing the development team. Fred Brooks, in his famous “The Mythical Man-Month”, highlighted how poor staff management can generate significant problems. Increasing resources in a team does not automatically guarantee success; on the contrary, it can even lead to delays in an already struggling project. This happens because the increase in personnel introduces complex dynamics of communication and understanding of the work context, especially when times are not compatible with an adequate training process. Ineffective communication, in fact, within the team or with stakeholders represents a huge risk factor.

A lack of clarity, insufficient feedback, and inadequate collaboration can lead to misunderstandings and a wrong direction of the project. Developing, in fact, software that does not meet requirements and that does not solve real needs is one of the most common causes of failure. In this context, it is essential to recognize the difficulties that teams can encounter, often focused on specific details and not on the overall objective.

Such an approach can easily derail a project from its main purposes, compromising its market acceptance.

A critical and often underestimated factor in software projects is the lack of a clear vision, which proves to be the main cause of failure.

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