How to Save a Failing Software Project

How to Save a Failing Software Project

Everyone wants their software development projects to succeed and make a lot of money.

But research shows that many software projects fail. If that happens, decisive action must be taken to salvage things.

If you are an entrepreneur, project manager, or software professional, are you involved in a failing software project?

Then we can help you with the tips here.

How Many Software Projects Fail?

Projects Deemed Failures

A recent report from PMI found there is a 14% failure rate for all software dev projects.

Even if we don’t count all the failed projects, about 30% don’t reach the project’s objectives, and 43% of software projects have significant cost overruns.

What are some common reasons for software project failures?

  • Insufficient software requirements
  • Changing objectives for project
  • Dependency issues
  • Improper use of technology that could have improved project dev process
  • Unknown risks
  • Too little staff
  • Unprofessional project manager

If you want to save your failing project, there’s hope yet! The best proven ways to save a failing project are:

Call It What It Is

It is what it is.

When there’s a big issue in the software development process, we’ve got to spot that our project isn’t doing well. The first step? Admitting this reality straight up. Then comes understanding why and finding reasons software projects fail which are happening right now. This whole thing – figuring out problems and causes – psychologists like to call ‘problem framing’.

Recognizing that there’s an issue causing your software development projects fail isn’t enough. You need to clearly identify what the exact problem is. By doing this, you shape up the problem in a way which makes it easier to solve and bring a successful software project.

Many software development project problems lack structure, which makes them harder to solve.

If you’re unsure about the issue, how can your project team fix it?

You might lack the full picture or overvalue specific data. Before making assumptions that could lead to a software project fails, try to understand all aspects accurately through careful evaluation of development process. This will greatly help steer your software project successfully

After spotting an issue, you need to put resources into understanding it.

Many software projects seem unrescuable if your eyes are fixated only on the final outcome. It’s similar to focusing too much on losing a hundred pounds – make it simpler by going one pound at a time.

Poor communication can often be seen among software developers when dealing with large tasks like defining project scope or establishing clear communication channels.

Find Out Why Project Is Behind Schedule

Let’s face it, many software projects fall behind schedule; that’s easy to see. But why does it happen?

Some reasons that projects fall behind are as follows. Once you understand what made this happen, you can work to prevent it:

  • Tasks may not have been correctly prioritized
  • Project schedule may have been too ambitious
  • The wrong people made vital project decisions
  • Risks were reported and addressed incorrectly
  • The project manager didn’t report often enough about project progress
  • There wasn’t an audit trail for change requests and decisions
  • The budget wasn’t large enough

You should sit down with your entire project executive team to determine how the project is behind and then you can fix it.

Rebuild The Project Team

Rebuild The Project Team

Some folks on the team might be struggling with this project. Even if they’ve done great work before, things could be different now. Maybe our approach isn’t hitting the mark? Or their coding game needs a step-up! They may even lack some leadership spark to drive us home.

In terms of customer satisfaction and software design process – there’s room for improvement. We need unified efforts to prevent scope creep across many projects.

Let’s actually make sure we’re all on the same page about assign tasks too.

Sometimes, shaking up the project team could be necessary. But remember, it’s a big job – so no rush.

This doesn’t always mean you have to let go of employees. Rather, think of it as shuffling your cast around for better overall performance.

A revamp can involve many changes like welcoming new key people on-board or switching task assignments among existing members while keeping an eye out for employee morale—not forgetting that swapping the manager may sometimes need consideration too!

Shared knowledge is vital and regular communication ensures each effort aligns with what’s considered successful.

Improve Project Scope

Improve Project Scope

Having a clear, defined scope is a big part of a successful project. If the project is failing, you should better understand every part of the contract or SOW and stick to it. You should not try to gussy up the project deliverables to make it look better than it is.

If the project gets out of scope and won’t contribute to long-term success, this needs to be communicated to the executive team or the client.

You can expect scope challenges during every part of your project. The key to saving a failing project is to detail scope changes as clearly and early as you can with project members.

Keep building trust from the beginning of the software project to reduce anxiety and increase the chances of success. You shouldn’t delay any bad news even if it looks like the project is at risk, because it will only get worse.


There are projects where you must know when it’s time to pull the plug and bring in a third party. Outsourcing has turned around many failing projects.

It’s fine to accept that a project team doesn’t have the skills or experience to complete the job. Even the best software dev team can run into a project they cannot handle. Then, you should get a contractor to finish the job.

One way is to have your in-house and contractor team working side by side. Or, you can send the whole project to the third party.

If you decide to outsource, be sure the new people have a lot of time to interview everyone and understand what was completed. This is the transitional period, and whether the project succeeds or fails may come down to this.

You cannot guarantee that every project will succeed. And you also can’t ensure you will save a failing project. But these are common sense ways to improve your odds of success during the whole lifecyle.

If you define what success means as early as you can, hire the right people, and build trust and stick to the scope, you can make the project succeed.

Ryan is the VP of Operations for He brings over a decade of experience in managing custom website and software development projects for clients small and large, managing internal and external teams on meeting and exceeding client expectations--delivering projects on-time and within budget requirements. Ryan is based in El Paso, Texas.
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Ryan Nead