16 root causes of OSS problems

The Toyota production system has been built on the practice and evolution of this scientific approach. By asking and answering ‘why’ five times, we can get to the real cause of the problem, which is often hidden behind more obvious symptoms.”
Eric Ries
, in his book, “The Lean Startup.”

Some time ago, I prepared a Toyota five-whys analysis on why so many OSS projects fail to deliver to expectations. In it, many of the originating problems have been distilled down to 16 common root causes, as shown in the table below. How many of these have you experienced?

Root CauseRecurrence Prevention
Cross-project communicationImplement whole-of-organisation Programme Office to coordinate communications
CSP resource capabilityOSS Implementation teams require different skill-sets than operational teams
Data mismatches between OSS and master data repositories (eg EMS)Attempt to revise naming conventions to act as middle ground between data sets
Different objectives by different members of the teamUse stakeholder circle analysis to prioritise management of various stakeholders
In-flight changesIn-flight change mechanisms to be defined
Information not availableInitiate tighter controls on document libraries and what must be provided by other solution providers / vendors
Lack of project support garnered from senior positionsAdvocates are required at a very senior level and/or across many business units
Lack of time allocated to planningOSS implementations require signficant pre-planning
Legacy systems being interfaced toChoose systems with more open, common interfaces
Miscommunication between CSP and vendorImprovements to in-flight communication and escalation processes
OSS project not stakeholder’s highest priorityOffer one-time opportunity to participate in requirement thrashing sessions
Too many reviewer/approversEntrust a small team to make informed decisions on behalf of the whole CSP
Vendor needs data of an accuracy  that isn’t relevant to the CSPInitiate data reconciliation / cleansing procedures and process modifications to ensure continual data accuracy improvements
Vendor needs data that isn’t relevant to the CSPIf possible, try to create and store data needed by the vendor’s applications in the master data sources (eg EMS) or identify workarounds in the application to void the need for that data
Vendor resource capabilityVendor to train staff and increase talent identification effort
Vendor sales processIdentification of bids that are too low
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