May 4th, 2016
Complete rewrites from scratch can be very difficult, risky, and should only be done with strong justifications and planning. A large, failed rewrite from scratch effort typically causes a huge amount of wasted time, resources, and missed opportunities. At worst, a particularly misguided or poorly managed one can ruin an organization, cost people their jobs, destroy morale, and burn out good staff. If the software works properly, is secure, and meets customer/business requirements then a complete replacement is more likely than not a poor proposition.
The rationale for a large, complete rewrite shouldn’t be based on the self-serving motivations of a few, obsessive devotion or loathing of a platform, or naïve thinking. For instance, a developer team wants to try out a bunch of new technologies and sees a rewrite as an opportunity to do so. This can be beneficial to the team members as it improves their résumés, but isn’t a great business decision unless there are serious problems with the system. Maybe an architect, developer, or team lead hates a particular technology or wants everything written with their favorite framework and language regardless of there being no serious issues with the product. Perhaps a team of inexperienced developers that decides they’re going to fix everything wrong with the old, working system that was written by a “bunch of idiots”. If serious thought isn’t put into the reasoning, it isn’t a good assumption that it will be done so at the planning or development phases either.
On the flip side, there are some reasons that could lead to strong justifications for taking on such a project:
Software that is blighted with some of these serious problems can be a possible rewrite from scratch candidate. If you’re leaning in that direction, here are a number of additional questions to mull over when considering and planning such a project:
Good planning, development staff, and organizational support are critical for a successful rewrite from scratch project. If done properly, your organization and customers may benefit for many years to come.
Additional reading material:
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