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Why the Vasa Sank: 10 Problems and Some Antidotes for Software Projects
March/April 2003 (vol. 20 no. 2)
pp. 18-25
Richard E. Fairley, Oregon Health and Sciences University
Mary Jane Willshire, University of Portland

Around 4:00 PM on 10 August 1628, the warship Vasa set sail in Stockholm harbor on its maiden voyage as the newest ship in the Royal Swedish Navy. After sailing about 1300 meters a light gust of wind caused the Vasa to capsize. The fundamental reason the Vasa sank is, of course, that the ship was unstable. The reasons that the Vasa was constructed to be unstable, and launched when known to be unstable, are numerous and varied. The problems encountered are as relevant to our modern-day attempts to build large, complex software systems as they were to the art and craft of building warships in the 17th century. This article describes the problems encountered in the Vasa project, interprets the problems encountered in terms of modern software projects, and presents some antidotes for those problems.

Index Terms:
software projects, software requirements, project management, risk management, case study, best practices
Citation:
Richard E. Fairley, Mary Jane Willshire, "Why the Vasa Sank: 10 Problems and Some Antidotes for Software Projects," IEEE Software, vol. 20, no. 2, pp. 18-25, March-April 2003, doi:10.1109/MS.2003.1184161
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