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Catastrophe Disentanglement: Getting Software Projects Back on Track Paperback – April 21, 2006

ISBN-13: 978-0321336620 ISBN-10: 0321336623 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Addison-Wesley Professional; 1 edition (April 21, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0321336623
  • ISBN-13: 978-0321336620
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.7 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,874,042 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

“There are many books available on software risks and software failures. There are very few books that provide step-by-step information on getting troubled software projects back on track. This book provides detailed guidelines for software project recovery. Some of the steps the author recommends may be unpleasant, but all are important.

—Capers Jones, chief scientist emeritus at Software Productivity Research LLC


“This is a well-conceived, well-written, interesting book about an important topic. The author is right in saying that no one else has covered this particular facet of project failure.

—Robert L. Glass, publisher of the Software Practitioner



It's a software development nightmare: a project that's rapidly spiraling out of control...or already a disaster. Conventional project management techniques won't save these projects: there are no standard rescue processes to follow. You need something radically different:Catastrophe Disentanglement.


Drawing on in-depth data from hundreds of development organizations, E.M. Bennatan presents a proven, 10-step program for rescuing any project that's worth saving. You'll find specific guidance for addressing massive budget overruns, schedule slippage, poor quality—or all three at once. Using practical examples drawn from decades of hands-on experience as a software development leader and consultant, Bennatan shows how to

  • Evaluate where your project really stands
  • Align your project's developers, managers, and customers
  • Defi ne the minimum acceptable project goals that are achievable
  • Replan your project to successfully deliver the new minimum goals
  • Identify risks in your revised project and create effective contingency plans
  • Install an “early warning system to keep your rescued project from slipping back toward catastrophe

Catastrophe Disentanglementis an effective, comprehensive approach to software project rescue. Whenever projects are in trouble—whether you are a senior manager, project manager, team member, or software customer—this book could save your career.


Preface    xi

Chapter 1  An Introduction to Catastrophe Disentanglement    1

Chapter 2  When Is a Project a Catastrophe?    15

Chapter 3  Step 1-Stop    43
Chapter 4  Step 2-Assign an Evaluator    57
Chapter 5  Step 3-Evaluate the Project    73
Chapter 6  Step 4-Evaluate the Team    95
Chapter 7  Step 5-Define Minimum Goals    113
Chapter 8  Step 6-Can Minimum Goals Be Achieved?    133
Chapter 9  Step 7-Rebuild the Team    147
Chapter 10  Step 8-Risk Analysis    169
Chapter 11  Step 9-Revise the Plan    189
Chapter 12  Step 10-Create an Early Warning System    209
Chapter 13  Epilogue: Putting the Final Pieces in Place    233
References    245
Glossary    255

About the Author    257

Index    259


© Copyright Pearson Education. All rights reserved.

About the Author

E. M. Bennatan's extensive hands-on management experience stems from many years as senior director at Motorola, Inc., developing large software systems and leading multinational design centers. He has also been vice president of engineering at Midway Corporation, where he managed several hundred software and hardware engineers. A frequent lecturer and speaker on software project management, he is author of On Time Within Budget: Software Project Management, Practices and Techniques, Third Edition (Wiley, 2000). Mr. Bennatan is currently president of Advanced Project Solutions, Inc. and senior consultant for the Boston Cutter Consortium.

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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Good book, good subject, well covered.
Jerry Lessor
Determine if the minimum goals can be achieved - if the minimal level of success is not possible, then the decision must be made to terminate the project.
Charles Ashbacher
In the world of project management, the skills taught in this book can save projects and careers.
Jim Anderton

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By KenInCLT on June 12, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I bought this book for general project evaluation purposes, for a project that I was called in on that was in trouble.

Well worth the read - a lot of it is just good common sense, straightforward project management process, but it provided a great roadmap for validation of my plan to put the project back on track.

Definitely would recommend it - it's an easy read; I finished it in under 5 hours on the flight out, complete with note-taking. Kudos to E.M. Brennatan for writing this in a straightforward fashion.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Duff HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on May 30, 2006
Format: Paperback
There are plenty of books that try to help you keep your project on track. But what happens when you are sitting on a catastrophe and you don't know how to salvage it? E. M. Bennatan fills a necessary niche with the book Catastrophe Disentanglement : Getting Software Projects Back on Track.

Contents: An Introduction To Catastrophe Disentanglement; When Is A Project A Catastrophe?; Step 1 - Stop; Step 2 - Assign An Evaluator; Step 3 - Evaluate The Project; Step 4 - Evaluate The Team; Step 5 - Define Minimum Goals; Step 6 - Can Minimum Goals Be Achieved?; Step 7 - Rebuild The Team; Step 8 - Risk Analysis; Step 9 - Revise The Plan; Step 10 - Create An Early Warning System; Epilogue - Putting The Final Pieces In Place; References; Glossary; About The Author; Index

If you're in IT for any length of time, you'll be part of a project that is massively over budget or late. Rather than just continue the death by 1000 cuts or a quick mercy killing, Bennatan presents a ten step process that allows an organization to take a (hopefully) objective look at the project and decide what can possibly be saved from it. I was impressed that it wasn't a long drawn-out procedure either. The plan calls for an evaluator (or a small team for huge projects) to come in and quickly assess the environment... what's been done, the climate of the team, and what could be redefined as a "minimum system". At the end of this process, the organization should be able to either kill it off with the knowledge that it can't be saved, or continue on with a redefined set of deliverables that are achievable. It won't be everything that was originally wanted, but it will be more than you'd get by letting it die. I was also impressed with the "What Can Go Wrong (And What To Do About It)" section in each step.
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Format: Paperback
It is always better to avoid getting into the starting scenario of this book - where you are managing a software project that is staring at failure. Prevention rather than cure, right? Certainly, Bennatan forthrightly agrees with this, in the book's Preface. But few software processes deal with the awkward case of getting out of a catastrophe. The latter is the author's term, which frankly I find a little hyperbolic. Then again, if you are indeed in that situation, with a project to save, then maybe you'd use it too.

The text breaks up its advice into 10 steps, with well chosen and self explanatory titles like "Assign an Evaluator" and "Evaluate Project Status". It's no small part of the value of this book that the titles are logically clear and help the reader in accepting and retaining the concepts in those chapters.

Of all the chapters, the most critical might be the evaluation of the project status. Without an assessment that is as objective and quantifiable as possible, then doing subsequent steps means performing them on a foundation of sand. Certainly, each step or chapter is important. But you should focus considerable effort on this particular chapter.

Another way of looking at the chapter is that a cause of your project's current problems might well have been shoddy and imprecise planning and assessments (as the project progressed). If so, then a sloppy application of the chapter could just be a continuation of what got you blokes into this mess in the first place.

You might also find the exercises provided at each chapter's end to be useful in furthering the understanding of the chapter's message.
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