How often does projects get canned?

Just found out that a project I was heavily involved in from previous internship has been cancelled. The supplier was such a trouble to deal with that the company rather not spend the time. Wasn’t a major product, so it doesn’t matter at all.

So how often does projects get cancelled?


Percentage? Ratio?

So far from my experience, about 1 in 5…maybe 1 in 6. Mind you, our company only has 3/4 major hardware projects a year.

Ive worked on a lot of things that get canned, especially if you are working with a large corporation and there are a lot of middle managers involved.

They all like to make extremely small changes and then pass it around to the other fifteen managers until what comes back to you looks exactly like what you sent them in the first place.

I’ve also found lately with the large corporation types that when they tell you to quote “go crazy with it” they really mean “I want exactly what I have now but in a different color and much cheaper”.

Eventually some higher up in the company catches wind of whats going on, looks at the design services bill, sinks the project, and fires all the middle managers. Ive seen that one a few times recently. Its unbelievable but true.

you aint never lied!!!
Preach on!!!
they get hired by another company and do the same thing again

A lot, specially if you have poor grammar.

[quote=“molested_cow”]Just found out that a project I was heavily involved in from previous internship has been cancelled. The supplier was such a trouble to deal with that the company rather not spend the time. Wasn’t a major product, so it doesn’t matter at all.

So how often does projects get cancelled?[/quote]

MC, just curious, how long have you been working?

I would say that at least 20% do not make it all the way to production. That might seem high, but as a consultant we have clients that use design for other reasons. Sometimes they are investigating the possibility of a product. They might do research, concepts, even some intitial 3d…then cancel it because it is not right for them.

Cooper (“Winning at new products”) breaks it down this way:

For every 1 success, there are:
11 Concepts
3.5 Developed
1.5 Launched

I’ve found that to be pretty accurate in my experience. By playing in the fuzzy front end, designers should be able to reduce that waste/risk.

I do ID for a manufacturer, so we do a lot of “create-interest” design work supporting sales. We’ll either start designs from our own industry trends analysis, or from off-hand, customer comments about what they might be looking for.

I guess about 30% of our projects are guesses at what a customer might want, and never go any further. However, those projects usually get us in the door, and in place to address the other 70% of actual, customer driven projects. Probably about 5-10% of those never make it to production, either because of some of the reasons mentioned in prior replys, or because after further development WE as a manufacturer don’t feel that it’s something we want to do (i.e. too complex, low quantities, annoying customer, etc.).

What percentage of designs that you do are you happy with ( have control over ) vs projects that are taken over by design by comity or ego driven product managers. About half of the project I do I am satified with.

Just internships. 2 mths in Taiwan, 3 months in US last year, and another 3 months right now.

Oh that was me^

If you factor in all the conceptual work and iterations that take place before getting to a development phase, I’d say 50% or more concepts don’t make it farther.

A lot of it depends on the financial condition within the company. Having a high turnover rate in upper management doesn’t help either.

My first job lasted eight years before the business was sold and everyone was fired. Because the parent company wasn’t making money, they wouldn’t invest in all the new products we were designing over the years. I would say that 75% of what I did never saw production, and as a result I now have a huge portfolio of secret stuff that I can’t show anyone!

In my experience only about 20% of the projects have been officially canned. Often times projects changed. Something would be developed, shelved, only to return months later with a new name. Other times projects were completed to a certain stage with all intention to continue, but were never revisited. That’s the life of projects.

It really varries from company to company, firm to firm. When I was at a firm, a pretty large precentage got canned. Often times this was because someone who wasn’t the ultimate decision maker at a company comissioned a project. Sometimes we where hired to do blue sky, out oof the box thinking as inspiration for internal teams, that filtered out to the marketplace years later, much changed, so the project wasn’t canned, but it wasn’t designed for production. Other times we got the perfect client, who was looking for great design, and had a timetable to get it to market.

Since I’ve been corporate in-house, the percentage of projects that has gotten canned is much lower, but even then it varries. In my first group, maybe 25-35% drop rate. Mostly due to the fact that it was a new division and we where trying to push boundries. In doing that, you are always going to have some experiements that go awry, but usually the learnigs work into something else. In the current division I’m in, the rate is very low, maybe a 3-5% canning rate. But in this case it is mostly because we have a very small, focussed team, working on product that we almost can’t make enough of.

So the what the hell is the short answer: it pretty much varries greatly depending on the situatuation and the company.

More data:

“An estimated 94% of new products fail.”
-Peaks and Valleys by Matt Hamlin and Seonghee Park. ID Magazine, June 2005

However, no sources are tied to that figure.

I’ve heard from 2/3 to 94%…so somewhere in between sounds good.

Of course…the products I’ve designed haven’t failed at that rate, and I can’t believe I’m that excellent. Perhaps we should revisit the term fail…does it mean fail to turn a profit, fail to turn a big enough profit or fail to make the president of the company happy?

I once worked in one of Newell Rubbermaid’s design departments in the U.K and constantly took projects all the way to final rapid prototypes, During presentations the bosses would love the work, but then the bean counters (managers) would sneek in and shelf the whole project. That work was a real eye-opener to the industry and something that’s become part of the job. I think you’ll get used to it.
Take it on the chin, and keep going.