Terminated Projects and Abandoned Side Projects

Photo by Matt Artz on Unsplash

The best kind of project to work on as a software engineer is the one that you connect with. It is the one that makes you to have a sense of pride, knowing that you’re building the next awesome thing that can make an impact. Little wonder it is devastating to experience when this kind of project becomes terminated.

I’ve had my fair share of working on exciting projects that got terminated down the line. The questions “what did we do wrong?”, “where did we go wrong?”, “how could we have prevented this?” and other related questions usually flood my mind.

You see, everyone involved in a project expects a successful outcome. There’s this clear picture that occupies the minds of the team and ensures that the energy levels are high and the project is delivered on time. Then why do projects with highly motivated teams still get terminated?

Why Projects Get Terminated

There are numerous reasons why projects can be terminated and tagged as a failed project, I’ll focus on these three:

  1. Budget: When the money allotted to a project runs out or the project becomes too expensive to maintain, it becomes a serious challenge for everyone involved. A lot of times, this can lead to the termination of the project.
  2. Stakeholders: Situations when key resources has left the team, there has been a change in direction or strategy, leadership and team management becomes poor or the requirement gathering process was flawed from the start hence leading to a project with little value.
  3. Motivation: If the inspiration that trigged the birth of the project diminishes significantly, it leaves the team in an unmotivated state and the project will suffer. This can happen in a number of ways, for example, the company might be pursuing something else that seems more rewarding in the short term that is not your project.

Recovering After Your Project Gets Terminated

Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising every time we fail.– Confucius

There’s no one method of coping when your project gets terminated. It’s like depression, people handle it differently. Personally, I like to take a few days from work and probably yell into a pillow for the first few days and then find another interesting project that I can attend to — one that will make me forget about the time, energy and effort that might have just gone down the drain.

The positive part of it is that the experience gained when working on the project is left with us. We now know at least one way how not to run a project. This article by By Robert K. Hurley and Joseph T. Jimmerson talks about managing the trauma of a terminated project.

Side Projects

Side projects are a safe haven where developers can try out interesting technologies without being under pressure to deliver features within a time frame. Most side projects are projections of what we think we should be doing instead of the work that we do. Since the timeline for completing them are usually open ended, it takes a lot of discipline to complete a side project.

The motivation level when starting a new side project is usually above normal. It could be because of the list of successful side projects that we’ve seen and how we hope that our project could be on that list someday. Sustaining this level of motivation is another story.

When I learned how to write Android apps, I published a basic game, which was a side project, to Google Play Store and asked for feedback on this forum. I got a ton of useful feedback and swore that I’d incorporate them into the next release. Sadly that release hasn’t been done.

A game with graphics that I’m not proud of :-D

I’ve been giving myself excuses on why I can’t continue building the game. Probably the feedback that I got was more than I expected and I became overwhelmed with the amount of work and the expectations that was set by users who enjoyed the first draft. I need to get back to this project soon.

Abandoned side projects don’t usually hurt as much as terminated main projects. Especially when one is hopeful of getting back to the side project in future. The reasons why side projects are abandoned are quite similar to the reasons why main projects are terminated.

Been there, done that.

In the end, I have come to realise that the key to getting your side projects out is to have a goal, a target, and stay focused on achieving that goal. Monolith-like goals can be broken down into sub-goals, this way whenever a sub-goal or milestone is met, the motivation to continue is replenished.

Until next time, stay motivated ✊.

Software developer. Learning everyday.

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Ben Daniel A.

Ben Daniel A.

Software developer. Learning everyday.

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