You know, if WW delivered "now", they would be about 10x their original schedule estimate.
In industry, being 2x over the initial time/money estimates is horrible, but isn't unheard of when multiple new high-risk technologies must be developed AND the market potential warrants the risk. But even vital high-risk projects typically get killed as they approach the 3x error, no matter what.
WW's 10x appears to me to be a combination of two things:
1) There is no evidence that even WW ever believed their initial delivery estimates.
The simple fact is that complex KS product campaigns that share realistic development, manufacturing and delivery schedules tend to fail because the vast majority of KS backers seem to have a strictly short-term mentality ("I want it soon!"). To me, that's just the nature of the crowdfunding beast: Don't lie about what your product will do, but lie through your teeth about how long it will take. The more complex the project, the greater the lie must be.
If you lack the patience for (or awareness of) real-world tech project development risks and schedules, then you should only buy products that are on the shelf, available for immediate purchase. If you still want to back a KS project, you are saying you want to participate in the risk, and you must expect initial schedule lies and subsequent delays.
If we assume WW privately thought it would take a year to deliver (3x the KS estimate), then they still have a fatal 3.3x overrun (again, assuming they were to deliver today). Which leads us to our second factor:
2) WW management is a total mess.
First, it is important to understand that WW has not said that any of the products needed additional new technologies beyond those that were disclosed during the campaign. This means that virtually the entire 3.3x delay must due to management being incompetent on several levels: Wrong or insufficient staff, poor understanding of the technologies involved, no clue how to get a product manufactured, the list goes on.
While the hardware has been taking forever, WW has said the software will take even longer! To me, this means the WW software development process isn't being "managed" at all.
While I'm not a fan of Agile development for embedded software (though it is excellent for other domains), one massively helpful tool from Scrum is the "burndown chart", a deceptively simple tool to track current status and predict future performance based on actual past performance. If WW had been using burndown charts (or any of the many similar tools) on a DAILY basis for the past 3 years, they would have a wealth of data that would permit them to generate meaningful "remaining time" estimates.
Clearly, WW lacks even such simple tools to measure and guide their software development process. I'd be willing to bet they think they've been "almost done" every month for the past two years.
I've spent nearly half of my 30+ year software engineering career as an independent contractor, primarily creating embedded/real-time software for a wide variety of products, especially safety-critical systems (including nuclear reactor instrumentation and controls, aircraft instruments, and satellite avionics). I'm not a supremely talented engineer, but I do know my limitations (based on bitter experience) and how to minimize their impact, making me a "good enough" engineer overall.
When starting or joining a project, the first thing I do is load up an issue tracker with every known bug, missing feature, and "wish list" item. Next I ensure every single one of the non-wish-list items has a solid definition of what "done" means, typically one or more tests (most automated, some manual) that demonstrate the presence of the bug, and will only pass when the bug is completely fixed. This means I start out not writing deliverable code, but writing lots of tests. Fortunately, most tests are easy to write, and can be handed off to interns or new grads once the test framework and templates are in place.
Tests serve not only to show a bug is fixed, but more importantly they ensure it STAYS FIXED. It is not at all uncommon for a change in one area to break something in another area. Having a rich test suite makes regression testing extremely productive and worth repeating with each build.
The most important "test" is how the end-user will use the product, so the User Manual should be the FIRST thing written, not the last. It should clearly explain all the product features and how they are accessed (all of the "use cases"). So far, the KS campaign page is the closest we've seen to any kind of a product specification or user guide.
The user manual is not just a critical test, but is also a critical customer deliverable. With this double load of importance, the user manual should be treated as the "product bible". Way too many projects treat the user manual as a detail to be tossed together just before shipping starts, by which time they all too often realize they either built the wrong product, or built the right product the wrong way.
The initial test-focused process has an important side-effect: It ensures the product requirements (and their tests) are well understood by everyone involved. A common cause of schedule creep is early fuzziness. Kill it dead, and kill it early!
When the product starts falling behind, move less important items from the user manual to the wish list for future releases, and work harder on what's left. The first step is the hardest: Removing code for a broken feature. I've seen engineers take an emotional hit that took days to rebound from. Don't ever assume a software feature is "just some code": All too often it represents a slice of an engineer's soul.
Good testing and development processes are not enough on their own: Effective management is still mandatory.
If the current WW management had followed the above strategy of removing features as the schedule slips, by now they'd probably be at the point of delivering a blank sheet of paper.
Fortunately, despite the massive schedule overrun, WW has not backed away from any of the features described on the KS campaign page. Please, take some time now to watch the campaign video and read the page.
I mean it. Go watch the video and read the page! I'll wait...
It is important to realize that this is still WW's stated goal. Nothing more (aside from the Filament bulb) and certainly nothing less. What personally surprised me is how nothing in the market does what WW described, even all this time after WW told the world how HA should be done. Lots of bits and pieces are there, but the easy-to-use glue is still missing.
My concern is WW's "no matter how long it takes" approach. I have no idea where they have found years of operating capital: Given the size of the WW staff and their salaries, the many trips to China, essentials such as offices and coffee, the need to have funds in reserve for actual production and shipping, not to mention the costs of keeping a subsidiary in Wuxi operating, I'm amazed they're still in existence.
WW is almost certainly giving away parts of company ownership for investment. Unfortunately, WW has announced no technology or production partners, just investors. I believe WW needs an experienced partner company to take them to the production party. To offload from WW management the one thing they are worst at: Pushing a product to production.
SmartThings has Samsung, Wink has Flextronics. WW has only themselves and their subsidiary in Wuxi, which has exacerbated the delays merely by being half a world away and speaking a different language. And WW has already stated that at least one of the original Chinese manufacturing partnerships has failed, and they are looking for another.
This is no way to run a company. They need to bring in an experienced production partner with a substantial US presence.