Software sales : a geek tragedy.

[Present day]

It’s three days before the deadline. 116 known bugs and still some must-have features that need to be developed. The team is tired and the project manager is sleep deprived. The customer is panicking and calls for yet another crisis meeting. How did it come to this?

[One year ago]

“We’re looking forward to doing business with you!”, he said. “Our team will start immediately and you’ll have the first results in a few weeks.”

That was the last time they ever saw the sales guy. He headed to his office and informed management of the great news : another €250K project sold.

[11 months ago]

“There are so many questions left to answer.” she sighed as she blocked yet another JIRA ticket. “How could they ever sign off on something so vague?”

While the analyst was defining the backlog, the PM was worrying about the growing scope and the fixed deadline. “This is going to be very sharp…”

[9 months ago]

“That validation call takes too long and cannot be done in real-time. We’ll need a workflow dashboard or something” the developer said. Yet another unforeseen JIRA ticket for the backlog.

[4 months ago]

“Play time is over, we’re counting on you guys to make this happen”, the crisis manager said. “We’re going to add another team because we cannot miss this deadline. Make sure you share all your knowledge with them.”

[Next week]

“The project is live and although we needed 2 emergency releases and still have 178 known bugs, all of our users have adopted it. We’ve done a great job, given the difficult situation.”, the customer said. They quietly ignore the budget overrun and the need for a more expensive “maintenance & support” contract. They are just glad it’s over.

[Two days later]

“We’re looking forward to doing business with you!”, he said. “Our team will start immediately and you’ll have the first results in a few weeks.”


We sell projects and define them at the time we know least about them. Those who sell them are never held accountable for the end results and those that build them have no power to fix it.

Big fixed price projects will always be more expensive than planned. You’ll either go over budget or end up with low quality. Small incremental follow-up projects are a much better alternative.