6 Reasons Why Your Software Project Might Be Failing

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Did you know that 41% of businesses have reported a high project failure rate? This just goes to show that executing software development projects can be complex and even overwhelming. Very few software projects actually fail due to technical problems. In most cases, they fail due to poor planning and management. 

There are some common mistakes that can result in a downward spiral for most software development projects. By being aware of these mistakes, you can plan your project in a way that specifically focusses on avoiding them. Here are the major reasons for project failure and how you can avoid them.

41% of organizations reporting poor project performance say they don’t get enough support from project management and project sponsors.

Unrealistic expectations

A trait that most ambitious tech companies have in common is an eagerness to please; whether it’s the client or the end user. At the same time, client expectations are always sky-high. They always want maximum output within the shortest possible time-frame. Over-enthusiastic sales teams tend to exacerbate this problem by promising the client the moon during the sales process. The end result is unrealistic expectations, and the execution of the project becomes more about development teams scrambling to fulfil them. This is a sure shot road to project failure.

The best way around this problem is to temper unrealistic expectations; whether they come from Operations and Sales teams, clients, or even end users. But the only way to do that is by clearly outlining the goals and objectives of the project so that everyone is on the same page. Of course, these goals can only be developed after incorporating feedback from all the relevant teams. That’s why it’s important for the Project Manager to meet with the different stakeholders (senior management, sales and operations teams, clients, developers, etc) before finalizing the overall project goals. Once the project objectives have been signed off on by everyone concerned, they should be the holy grail for project execution.

Project Manager is incompetent

When it comes to a software development project, the bucks stops at the Project Manager. It’s the project manager’s responsibility to steer the project in the right direction and ensure it crosses the finish line with time to spare. In fact, in an Oracle survey, 90% of the respondents said the role of a Project Manager is very important, with 47% saying it’s critical to the success of the project.

There are several qualities needed in a Project Manager, that even the most skilled and otherwise competent executives may not possess. A Project Manager needs to manage different stakeholders, take tough decisions at the right time, display leadership and inspire teams; all at the same time. A project manager also has to stay on budget and within scope, follow the Triple Constraints Model and focus on delivering quality software.

While no executive is perfect, certain weaknesses in your Project Manager can have a huge impact on your project. For instance, if your Project Manager is poor at delegation and has a tendency to micromanage things, delays will be inevitable. Similarly, if your Project Manager is not able to find the time to regularly check-in with all stakeholders, confusion will reign supreme. Of course, having procrastinators or overtly pessimistic folks as Project Managers is also a big no-no.
If you start noticing that the project is getting derailed, or that stakeholders are dissatisfied and confused, begin by having an in-depth discussion with the project manager. Also, corroborate your opinion by talking to senior team members on the project. If things don’t improve soon, consider a replacement.

Lack of proper planning

Proper planning is critical to the success of any software development project. It’s important to have a milestone-based plan with sensible deadlines. Yet, because planning is such a broad term, many companies struggle with developing an effective project plan. The first step towards creating the project plan is building a comprehensive list of project requirements after coordinating with various stakeholders. Planning focusses on structuring the development work around these requirements.

One of the things most companies struggle with is determining the level of detailing in the project plan. Plans range from preliminary plans and high-level plans to detailed plans and even sub-plans for different parts of the work. Most people think that you need to have all levels of plans ready to build a successful project. But the truth is, you need to be in sync with your company culture, the development team, and the nature of the product to decide the amount of planning detail that works best. To understand more about how to build the most appropriate project plan, check out this article, “7 Ways for Software Implementation Success”.

Company's Culture

One of the biggest differences between companies that perform well on a sustained basis vis-a-vis those that burnout or perform poorly is the company culture. In fact, a Gallup report registered that the employees would perform better if they were happier at work.

Sadly, most companies either just pay lip service to company culture or assume that it is embodied in things like office parties, off-sites, and birthday celebrations. The company culture is, in fact, a framework of shared values which, when cultivated consciously through the organisation, result in positive work habits. At Santex, for example, these shared values are trust, participation, passion and courage. This company makes it a point to keep these values at the heart of every software project they execute. When there are any crucial decisions to be made, they are guided first and foremost by these values. This helps create cohesiveness within the organization that improves productivity and performance by leaps and bounds.

Inadequate Quality Assurance

According to research by the IBM System Sciences Institute, it costs 100 times more to fix a defect after a product has already been built. Not only does a lack of QA (Quality Assurance) cost more after product release, but it also results in innumerable delays and cost overruns while the project is underway. QA is nothing but an organized approach to software development that aims to deliver working software in a faster and less expensive manner. In ordinary circumstances, testing and debugging the product takes about half of the entire development cycle. With proper QA in place, testing begins at the time of requirements development itself, and the result is a much shorter development cycle. It’s also important to keep in mind that at least 30% of the development time should be aside for the Quality team to conduct tests.

Sometimes, the lack of a software development framework can also affect how the project is executed. Methodologies like Agile help increase transparency and improve communication between teams and with the customer. This results in faster development cycles and more customer-centric products. If you want to know why Agile adoption is a good idea, check out this article “Why Use Agile Methodology for your Business“.

No code reviews

Although the benefits of a code review mechanism are fairly well-established, many companies still don’t have a code review system in place. In the rush to launch their product before the competition, most companies end up ignoring code reviews. In many cases, code patches need to launched almost immediately after release. Code reviews can be done in various forms from pair programming and informal walkthroughs to formal inspections.
The problem is, developers tend to have tunnel vision when they’re busy writing code and miss the bigger picture. In front-end development, for instance, it’s easy for developers to miss things like proper keyboard navigation and screen reader accessibility. Also, developers get very lax about code quality without a code review mechanism. They expect testers to catch bugs and defects and end up writing suboptimal code. Proper code review drastically lowers the risk of building a sub-par product.

Software development is fraught with complexity and uncertainty, which means there is a high propensity for project failure. Chances of success can be dramatically increased by being aware of major pitfalls and taking steps to avoid them. 

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