How many times have you been managing a project and encountered no delays? Or were you able to deliver it timely, and the process went according to plan? Seldom? Not at all? You complete your research, gather a great team, plan it well, and start to work. However, somewhere along the line, things start to fall apart. You begin to miss deadlines. Expectations are not met for the deliverables, and the bosses and customers are not satisfied.
Software projects are quite a particular challenge, and they are certainly not an easy task to implement. There are multiple reasons why many software projects fail. According to the latest statistical data, only one in four software projects is completed successfully.
Even when you have a solid plan or a great idea, it is just that something is supposed to go wrong with every project. Therefore, it is vital to expect many of the common setbacks you most likely will face when leading a software project. With that, whenever a problem comes, you will be ready to handle them.
Here are 15 reasons why most software projects fail:
The right-sized team is crucial to have a profitable software project. Having fewer members in your team will lead to missed deadlines, burnout, and various other emergencies.
After all, your developers are human, too, and they have their limits. They can only take on so much, so assigning too many responsibilities to one person increases the chances of failure.
Conversely, having many team members will also lead to specific problems. For example, managing and coordinating a huge team often means more time for team meetings and less time spent writing codes.
Ensure that each role in your team is defined clearly. Keep close communication with your team members in terms of their deadlines and workload. And never be afraid to bring on additional team members if required.
When you try to limit the project’s costs within your specific set budget, there is a high possibility that these efforts will lead your project to failure. In this situation, you have two possible solutions. You either will have to hire less experienced developers in your team at a lower rate, or you might have to give up some part of your work. However, both these solutions might probably not satisfy you.
A better approach for you is to exceed your budget by 10-20%, but you must create a high-quality product. In only a short time, you will observe the benefits of this solution when you see that your product is working in the right way and that your customers are happy with it. In the long run, the results will be worth your extra investment.
Furthermore, if you are thinking of working with a software house, try to find one with documented accomplishments in collaboration with companies from similar industries like yours. You can also ask for a case study of similar projects to verify the credibility and effectiveness of your potential partner.
Most often, the date of the deadline is set before the starting of the project, and it usually is non-negotiable. Due to this, the result is a headlong rush to start with the project.
Rushing to start coding is always considered a wrong approach by professionals. Creating a good design requires some time to be spent. When you do not have a good strategy, you constantly make changes all through your development phase. Due to this, your budget and time will rapidly get consumed, and ultimately you will exhaust yourself.
The perfect solution to this problem is to make time to work on a better design. Never be lured to jump right into the project by starting to code. Instead, spend some time on this task, and surely enough, the rest of your project will run much more smoothly. It will also increase your reputation in the market when you deliver a project to your customer that is within their expectations and works correctly the first time.
As your project starts taking off, things will essentially change, and these changes will have a significant impact. Therefore, you must examine and monitor the progress of your project so you can overcome all the challenges early on and warn any stakeholders of the changes and possible delays to the product.
One of the best ways to track your project’s progress is by setting multiple milestones for the duration of your project, so you can quickly review the progress alongside your team and make any necessary adjustments to stay right on course. Communicate with your team, so you are in the loop about the project and its challenges.
It can prove beneficial for your software projects to ensure portability, accessibility, robustness, usability and reduce present and future problems by conforming to industrial standards. Various certification bodies like World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) have formed open access standards that are foolproof and hard to challenge.
You can implement standards into your project gradually. Identify what works well with your task and continue doing it. If something is not working, do not be afraid to change; and regularly update and review your project’s standards.
This reason might be quite a surprising one that leads to the failure of your software project, particularly in a non-evaluative and low-consensus organization that lacks leadership. However, it is very well known that some projects are not worth the effort; they can be pretty resource-intensive and defeat the entire purpose of investing money and time to develop the software.
Choosing the right technology for your product is critical for the success of your project. It makes sure that your project is reliable, secure, and fast. Never be close-minded towards new ideas of your developers or a software house you are working with. They might have broad experience in the field, and they can help you choose the right technology for your project.
You can approach this problem by building your product as an MVP and choosing the correct and most effective technology for your project. Do this efficiently and significantly to reduce the cost and increase the speed of your process.
One part of careful planning is prioritizing and defining your features. But what happens when your priorities do not line up with the process of their implementation. For example, it may seem like a good idea to have your developers work on the essential features first and then go down that list. However, this can potentially harm the product’s overall functionality if you leave the other features untouched.
When setting priorities for your software project, ensure that you account for the requirements and cost of delivering every feature. This will make it much easier for the developers to prioritize the most critical tasks and complete them.
Software projects are pretty specific, and they need proper management. As a project supervisor or the one leading it, you must understand your role in a team, stimulate development, and then follow up your goals with actions.
You can analyze your older projects and go through the mistakes you made. Maybe you could have taken a different decision that might have proven to be more effective? Acquaint yourself with the best practices of various other managers in the same positions and industries.
Another reason for the projects’ failure is when your software tests fail. After you have done everything, suddenly, you encounter a coding problem that must be fixed. Without a milestone set to govern the overall code development phase, the project could potentially fail. Furthermore, you can also initiate automation testing in which the tester will write scripts while using different software to test various functionalities of the product. Other types of software testing include:
Testing is a time-consuming process; however, it is definitely worth your time and effort. Via testing, you will be able to understand your project’s quality. It is a type of validation and verification process.
Leadership is the skill, art, and science of helping people move from where they are to a newer and better place. Sometimes this means doing the hard things, such as completing a software development project that requires sponsorship and leadership by the respected executive.
Your executive sponsor must inspire their team and have a vision for the future, which is made better by your project team’s efforts and results. They should also have the ability to remove any obstacle that hinders the success of the project, the finesse, and the skill to manage change, build strong relationships, and get dedicated participation and buy-in across the organization.
Coding and designing are two entirely different skills. The handoff from coding to designing can cause various problems since it is primarily different people doing both. You might have to structure your project’s team so that the same person coding also does the designing, or you can also keep them separate.
Both the approaches can work, and they mostly do as well. However, always remember that the handoffs also provide opportunities for error. So you also have to make sure that both individuals closely and frequently collaborate to understand the units that have to be coded, how they will fit into the design, and how to catch errors quickly.
It is also important to once again mention competency here. It is critical to have a consistent, efficient, and clean code with very few stylistic or programming errors. Unfortunately, we get what we pay for, and it is our basic instinct to rush into selecting team members when starting a project, which often results in the wrong selection or hires. Another mistake many people make is they choose the right programmer, but you rush them.
Whatever the case, take the time to do it twice when you could have done it right on the first try.
It does not matter how well-planned the project is; it can quickly fail due to a lack of visibility. Therefore, it is critical to create a system that gives visibility for all team members, not just for the project manager. Total visibility includes complete project transparency of the task’s status, good management of documents, and clear communication.
You can prevent this problem easily by putting it all on the table. When all your team members know of every project’s task, they will adjust and assist accordingly. Furthermore, it also inspires problem-solving and proactive work. Managing documents does not have to be complicated. As a matter of fact, when you have centralized digital storage for all the documents, it will effectively make your job as a project manager easier and promote visibility.
It is human nature to resist change. And as a good project manager, you have to deal with team members who refuse to evolve, try new solutions, update their processes or do anything different than what they are used to. It quickly becomes apparent that they are not interested in any tools to help their team deliver better and faster efficiently.
It might be hard to believe, but ignoring new methodologies in a continually evolving industry can be dangerous. These approaches provide continuous evolution and development, flexible and rapid response, and inspire change as part of your company’s success.
Embracing the change and always being open to newer things will significantly impact your work.
Not going through the planning exercise with the client before starting the project is a recipe for failure. Once you have a clear image of your client’s needs, you must see how it compares to the initial expectation to provide realistic solutions that fit their time frame and budget. We are eager to acquire a project that we oversee details that ultimately come back and hinder the project’s progress.
It is all in the details, and when we do not precisely understand the client’s need, it will lead to disappointment since the outcomes will not meet their expectations. So try to communicate more with the client initially and ask as many questions as required to understand the project clearly.
There are various reasons why many software projects fail, but the most common cause is lack of communication. Although it can either be with the client or your team, it ultimately is a recipe for disaster. Communication, management of time, knowing your team’s strengths and weaknesses, and understanding what the client wants are just a few of the things that will ultimately lower your project failure rate.
A lot can and does go wrong with custom software development. The only way to deal with the issues detailed above is to put a robust quality assurance team in place that tests the codes and ensures that the resulting software functions optimally.
QA experts can help firms overcome the problems while also ensuring that your software dev teams get regular feedback, increasing the chances of a successful software project.
Ryan is the VP of Operations for DEV.co. 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.