Four Major Reasons Why Software Projects Fail

A study conducted by PMI in 2016 indicated that roughly 14% of all IT projects fail. This suggests that while the software industry continues to grow exponentially, a good chunk of software projects and endeavours still don’t pan out right.

When a company undertakes a software project, it’s usually of some importance. Given that, how can you make sure that your project doesn’t fail? In this blog post, we’ll explore four reasons why software development projects fail — plus actionable solutions to help keep them going!

1. Unclear or vague project requirements

Defining project specifications is the first step in executing a successful project. However in their eagerness to please potential clients and close a deal, companies often overlook details that could derail a project down the line. Perhaps less forgivably, project requirements can be poorly communicated and completely misunderstood between parties. For instance, the client may require a developer who is proficient in coding in PHP and .Net. However, your understanding may be that the client is looking to hire a developer who is proficient in coding in PHP or .Net. See the difference?

Detailed requirements exist for a reason. They help us define clear goals and objectives for completing the project, but also ensure that the end product meets the actual expectations of the customer.

How can you address this problem?

Every project is unique, and every client different. The simplest way to ensure that you’re on the right track is to ask a lot of questions. Even if they seem silly or “obvious”, it’s always better to be sure than to be wrong. Fact: if you don’t understand something, it’s almost certain that others in the room feel the same way but are holding their silence.

Are the requirements specific and measurable? Can they be achieved realistically? Are the requirements fluid? These are all questions that can help clarify intentions for the project.

Once you’re confident that you’ve nailed the requirements, note everything down in a comprehensive document. Then chat with the client. Use the time to go back and forth, adapt requirement specifications, add extra details, and make sure you’re on the same page.

2. Poor or limited communication

Effective communication is crucial to the success of any project. Just because you’ve understood the client’s requirements, doesn’t mean that your developers have. Sometimes, employees are too shy to voice doubts or ask questions. Lofty management on the other hand, is not entirely transparent with the client either.

Transparent and candid conversation is a project manager’s dream. Yes, it might cause some stress when disagreements (or technical problems) arise, but they eventually lead to a successful and well-rounded project. When concerns are bottled up and problems glossed over, we risk jeopardising the project.

What should you do?

It’s an easy one: communicate better. Establish a culture of honesty and encourage employees to speak up over hesitations, complaints, and anything else that’s playing on their minds. Eliminate the constant “blame culture” which has pervaded most modern offices.

Set up weekly meetings with your developers to ensure that they’re on the right track. This is time for you to openly and honestly communicate with them, motivate them, assess their progress, and address any roadblocks along the way. By doing this, everyone is kept aware of the status of the project at all times.

Speak with the client

Communications problems aren’t just an internal problem. Depending on the project, you should also keep your client as informed as possible. Even if that means confessing to minor problems or delays.

Update the client on the progress of the project — reports, numbers, anything that is relevant. Use this opportunity to show the client that you are responsive, interactive, and as invested in the project as they are. Communication, as they say, is key.

3. Poor planning

In a survey by Innotas, 55% of IT professionals indicated that their development project failed due to lack of time, staff, and budget. The primary reason behind this is poor planning. In fact, exempting unpredictable circumstances, it’s the only reason.

Many companies don’t do a proper feasibility study, or even give much thoughts to the real logistics of a project. This can cause unrealistic expectations (usually on the optimistic side) and that invariably leads to stress and disappointment. In the worst case, there aren’t enough senior managers assigned to guide the engineers. Left with no direction and limited motivation, it’s no surprise when the project eventually fails.

So, what can be done?

Involve upper management from the start. If the project requirements change, or expectations wereoverly optimistic from the outset, there has to be someone involved who can adjust the plan; someone to control project execution so that it all stays on course.

Clients will always want their project delivered yesterday, at the lowest cost possible and the highest quality. Fair enough. And because you don’t want to disappoint them, you might just assure them it’s possible. Eventually, when the project does get delayed, the budget overshoots and you’re in trouble.

A simple way to avoid all this is to try your best to be frank. Speak facts and numbers to the client, and be as transparent as possible. If a deadline is unrealistic, make sure that the client is aware of it. It’s a necessary step to ensure delivering a successful project — even if it takes a bit longer than the client would like.

4. Substandard engineers

If a project goes pear shaped despite thorough requirement analysis, planning, and communication, it might be time to face a nasty truth: your developers just aren’t good enough.

Sometimes it’s a case of not hiring assigning enough qualified engineers to the project, being lazy with testing, or trying to accelerate results by cutting corners.

Other times it’s cost based: the company wants to save money, so they “invest” in outsourcing for a tenth of the usual price. Lo and behold, the quality matches the price and the whole project is a disaster. It doesn’t matter how thorough you are with planning or logistics: if the engineers aren’t up to scratch, the project is in trouble.

How can you prevent this?

Put a robust quality assurance team in place. The primary role of quality assurance engineers is to test the code in different environments so that all the features of the software are functioning properly. By hiring the right QA experts, you can enhance the quality of the software that you build.

If you want to go the cost-saving route, or you’re taking on more work than you can handle, consider offshoring your software development. We’ve written a short guide to offshore development in India, which will help you understand what that’s all about!

Building software is an art that requires expertise and thorough planning for good execution. By addressing the areas we’ve discussed, you stand a great chance of running a successful software project. Good luck!




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