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Why Your Software Project Fail and Tips to Prevent
Every software development project often starts with lofty goals and monumental visions. Unfortunately, according to the research of Standish Group on over 50,000 technology projects, two-thirds end in partial or complete failure.
People keep talking about how to develop successful software, but only a minority of them actually discuss what causes a failed IT project. Being unable to meet the ever-changing market requirements or implementing code that won’t compile are two typical reasons for undone software projects.
With years of experience in helping enterprises worldwide orchestrate their software projects and deliver on time & within budget, we’ve identified some common pitfalls and developed strategies for avoiding them. In this article, we will define the failure of software development projects into 4 types:
- Failure in Time & Cost Estimations
- Failure in Project Management
- Failure in Team Collaboration
- Failure to Adapt to Changing Market Requirements
Inadequate Time & Cost Planning
1. Unrealistic Timelines
A short timeline projection can lead to rushed development, where quality is compromised in order to meet deadlines. This can make your software become unstable, unreliable, and prone to crashes, damaging the organisation's reputation and resulting in project failure.
Moreover, software development projects often involve unexpected challenges and setbacks. If the timeline is inappropriate, there may not be sufficient time to address these issues. Aggravatedly, it can lead to burnout, low morale, and decreased productivity in IT engineers as working under significant pressure to meet deadlines.
Solutions: To ensure the timeline is achievable, here’re some steps that you can consider:
- Involve all stakeholders in the planning process: This is essential to make sure that their needs and expectations are well noted and, from that, have a clear plan with realistic timelines.
- Conduct a feasibility study: Before setting the timeline, you should assess the complexity of the project, the availability of resources, and any potential risks or challenges.
- Use project management tools: By using Gantt charts or Project management templates, you can track the project’s process and ensure any modifications to the timeline are managed effectively.
2. Neglecting Cost of Delay
Cost of Delay (CoD) calculates the financial impact of project delays on a corporation. For instance, if your development team are planning to deliver a new add-on feature that is anticipated to bring you $20,000 per week, the release postponed every week will cost your company this sum.
Considering the CoD for a software project might provide you with a clearer picture of how to allocate resources, from that, prioritising tasks and timelines to improve ROI.
Solutions: It’s critical to estimate the CoD and communicate it with everyone involved. Here is the precise calculating method:
- Identifying the expected project’s weekly profit/value
- Estimating how long it would take to put your work into practice
- Dividing the profit by the gauged project duration.
3. Treating Discovery and Distribution Stages Separately
If the process of collecting requirements and delivering outputs are considered independently, it can lead to misaligned goals and expectations between the development team and the stakeholders. This may lead to the inability to meet stakeholders' requirements, and a loss of trust and confidence in the development team.
Moreover, this can result in a lack of flexibility in the project when changes are required, impacting your ability to meet the predetermined delivery date.
Solutions: By factoring the discovery process into the project plan, organisations can ensure the measurable deliverables are aligned with the goals and expectations, on time and within budget.
Ineffective Project Management
4. Poor Prioritisation
Generally, most software projects will have a list of features and tasks that need to be completed. A planner will use this list to assign tasks to team members in order of importance. However, priorities do not always align with the reality of their implementation. In the worst-case scenario, the most vital features are the most challenging to develop.
So, how should your team's developers proceed? If they concentrate on the most significant features, the progress may last longer than predicted and end up delivering none of the functionality. However, taking out the simple ones may waste their time and effort on worthless products.
Solutions: Here’re some best practices for you to prioritise tasks more effectively:
- Define project objectives and requirements: this includes an analysis of the project's goals, constraints, and success criteria, which can be used to determine the order of different tasks. Architectural vision must take into account the requirements and costs of delivering those features.
- Use prioritisation metrics: you can consider the Weighted Shortest Job First (WSJF) method to categorise tasks based on their value, the risk associated with not completing the task, or the effort required to complete the task.
- Consider Agile methodology: the primary benefit of agile project management is it emphasises regular reassessment and adjustment of priorities to ensure that the development team can deliver working functions and features on time. Since the agile framework focuses on separating the work into short bursts or small chunks (typically a sprint of 2 weeks), it becomes more manageable for the entire team.
5. Team Sizing Gaps
If the development team is understaffed, it can result in longer lead times for tasks, missed deadlines, and overall project delays. Developers may feel overworked by not having enough time to thoroughly test and debug the code, leading to a decreased software quality.
In contrast, if the development team is overstaffed, it can result in excessive labour costs and increased overhead, leading to cost overruns.
Solutions: It’s essential to accurately assess the requirements of the project to determine the appropriate size of the development team. This will help ensure that the team is appropriately sized to meet the needs of the project.
As some projects are scalable, you should regularly review the size of the development team to minimise the situation of overworking or underutilisation and ensure that the project stays on track.
6. Inadequate Testing Strategies
Software development projects must undergo thorough testing to ensure that the software meets the requirements and works smoothly as expected. If testing is not performed properly or is insufficient, it can result in the release of products with defects, which may lead to decreased customer satisfaction and increased support cost.
In addition, if defects are discovered and resolved later in the development cycle, it may raise the total cost for re-performing testing and debugging.
Solutions: To avoid these negative consequences, you should make sure that testing is given adequate consideration early in the software development process. This may consist of investing in automated testing tools, building a comprehensive test plan, and dedicating sufficient resources to testing activities.
Read more: Testing Strategies for Mobile App Development.
7. Unclear Minimum Viable Product (MVP) Requirements
Establishing precise MVP criteria from the outset is crucial for delivering your MVP on schedule and ensuring that it achieves the predefined purpose. Many teams often make the mistake of starting development work without clearly identifying the functions of the software.
Without a clear path forward, this can result in time-wasted scope creep and an inviable MVP at the end of the day.
Solutions: Defending against scope creep calls for well-defined objectives, open lines of communication, and the courage to say "no" when requests go beyond the project’s scope.
You can also consider prototyping because it can help validate MVP requirements and give related parties a clear overview of how the software work.
8. Ineffective Risk Management
Software development projects involve a certain level of risk, which can come from various sources, including technical challenges, limited resources, and external factors such as market conditions or competitive pressures.
If risks are not identified, assessed, and managed properly, they can make your software project delayed or its budget overrun.
Solutions: By following a systematic approach to risk management, which includes four steps of identification, assessment, mitigation and monitoring, you can minimize the impact of negative events on the project and increase the chances of success.
Lack of Team Collaboration and Communication
9. Failure to Understand Project Goals/ Requirements
Requirements misunderstanding in development teams can occur for numerous reasons, including poor communication between clients or managers with the whole team, unclear or incomplete requirements, or a lack of collaboration between team members. This can lead to a variety of adverse outcomes, such as delayed release dates, decreased product quality, etc.
Solutions: To minimise the possibility of failure to understand project requirements in developers, it’s crucial for organisations to establish clear and effective communication channels and ensure that project needs are well-defined and complete.
In addition, holding regular meetings between involved parties to report on the progress is also a possible way. You can consider Zoom for video conferencing, Jira for issue tracking, and Slack for ad-hoc communication.
10. The Mismatch between Developer Skillsets and Actual Requirements
One of the common reasons that lead to project failure is the skillset mismatch. In haste to complete work, team leaders may assign tasks that are beyond or unsuitable to the developer’s skillsets at that time. For instance, the manager may require an IT engineer that is proficient in Java to code in an HTML language.
This may push developers to deliver something they’re not designed to do, and they will slow to a virtual halt when asked to scale. Not only does this result in decreased productivity, but this lack of congruence can also easily lead to unqualified products.
Solutions: As there’re many companies that have encountered this issue, here are some suggestions:
- Careful project analysis: This is the project manager’s responsibility to analyse the project requirements and assign a suitable one with the needed skills and expertise to complete it.
- Collaborative problem-solving: You should encourage collaboration and a sense of problem-solving between team members. This can assist in identifying and addressing any potential skill gaps in the development team and ensure that they can complete the project on time.
- Regular review and refinement: this can help to reduce the risk of mismatch and ensure that the project is delivered on time and to the required quality standard.
Incapability to Adapt to a Changing Market
11. Rapidly Changing Project Requirements
Changing requirements are a typical phenomenon in the project lifecycle that can represent a significant roadblock if not handled properly. When project requirements keep continuously changing, it can be difficult for the development team to keep up and adapt their skills to meet the new requirements.
As for clients, they don't always know precisely what they want at the very beginning or can’t foresee the circumstances. Unexpected events, such as changes in the market, competition, or technology, can result in changes to the project requirements.
Solutions: It’s essential to have a clear set of requirements and set expectations when you begin with the project. Besides, creating a change control process will help you stick to important modifications but not go around any other unnecessary requirements.
12. Choosing the Wrong Tech Stack
Using the wrong technology stack can result in performance issues. If you use a tech stack that is not optimized for the type of app being built, it can result in slow load times, poor user experience, and other performance problems. These issues can have a direct impact on user engagement, leading to decreased adoption and a negative influence on the overall success of the project.
Selecting an inappropriate tech stack can also result in increased development costs. If the technology chosen is difficult to learn or use, your development team may require additional training or support. Moreover, if the tech stack is not well-established or has known security issues, it may be more vulnerable to hacking or other security breaches.
If you choose the old technology that’s soon to be outdated, your software will be left behind and will soon need to be re-modified. Worse, depending on outdated technology might cause you to miss out on future opportunities as a result of changes down the line.
Solutions: It’s important to carefully consider the specific needs and goals of the project, as well as the resources and skills available when selecting the technology stack.
In Bottom Line
Software is used in every aspect of our life. As a result, the effects of software development projects are deep-rooted. The outcomes might include significant time, money, or resource loss, or in the worst-case scenarios, all of them. If the failure is severe enough, it could ruin the business’s entire future. Therefore, having the right software services consulting partner is essential in ensuring the project's success.
With 12+ years of experience in the industry, KMS Solutions takes pride in delivering comprehensive consultancy across multiple technology segments to enterprises. Tell us about your project, and let us work together to make your goals happen.