Why Software Development Projects Fail

Why Software Development Projects Fail

IT has become one of the fastest-growing, high-performing industries, so the need for flawless and optimized project execution has never been stronger. According to a 2017 Project Management Institute (PMI) report, 14% of IT projects fail. The number, however, represents only the complete failures. Of the projects that didn’t fail straight away, 31% failed to accomplish their goals, 43% went over their original budgets and 49% failed to meet deadlines.

As with all large industries that provide a wide range of projects, it can be difficult to determine the true reasons why projects fail. While every project has its own special reasons for failure, we have identified some patterns by analyzing various reports on IT project failures.

Tight Deadlines

Many customers tend to set unrealistic time frames for completing development projects without good reason to back up the decisions. Moreover, the estimates are sometimes made mistakably by poorly experienced developers or with little knowledge in the industry domain. In short, businesses are often too focused on completing the project forgetting that strict deadlines make development teams sacrifice important things like UI design or testing for the sake of completion.

Fortunately, this problem can be easily solved by thorough planning of the deadlines for completing every task. If developers are well informed about the project’s requirements and have enough time for planning, they will likely meet the imposed deadlines.

Poor Planning

The initial planning of any IT project is the foundation and no project can succeed without it. Poor planning leaves the development team unprepared for possible changes and challenges. The team may waste precious time solving non-existing problems. Or the project may run out of money too early in the process or experience release delays.

One of the most actionable ways to solve the problem is to involve project management specialists from the very start. If the project requirements change midway, or expectations were overly optimistic from the outset, there has to be someone to alter the plan; someone to control project execution so that it all stays on course.

Unclear Project Requirements

The devil is in the details. Not having project requirements before starting the development process will guarantee failure. After you get a clear picture of the customer business and technical needs, you should provide them with realistic estimations that align with their budget and time frame expectations. Once you are confident that you have received and understood clearly all the project requirements, prepare a specifications document. Then show it to the client and discuss it once again to make sure you are on the same page.

Of course, there are situations when customers come with an already prepared SRS and then the development process can start right away with no delay and according to the plan.

However, every customer and his project is unique. The best way to make sure you are on the right track is to communicate, ask questions even if they seem obvious.

Irrelevant Project Management

Without the single most important element of any development team – the project leader – you can’t pull various parts of the process together, your project has no focus, no balance, and, consequently, no future.

The inability to rebalance the development resources and assigning import tasks to the employees with a lack of knowledge in the field might cause a project failure as well. Knowing the strengths and weaknesses of the team members will help a project manager to contribute to the project’s success.

A good manager not only has the skills needed to meet the project’s requirements but also has the acumen to give voice to concerns, to motivate the team, to keep everyone focused on their tasks, and to drive them towards the same objective. Without that guiding presence, even the best of teams are likely to fail.

Without a good project manager, a project is likely to become disjointed and ambiguous. When no one in your team has the expertise required to push through a development project, you may want to look into hiring outside specialists who can help to achieve the results you are looking for.

Many project managers assume that employee training programs are a waste of time and money. However, team meetings and workshops help teams to get along and better understand their field of activity, thereby helping the company to perform better.

Failing to understand how your team works, not listening to your employees and not investing in training will cause a lot more than one project to fail.

Poor Internal Communication

No project can succeed without effective communication. Just because you grasped the requirements of the project doesn’t mean your team did. The employees are sometimes too shy to speak out on the issues or ask questions.

Establish a culture of integrity and honesty, and encourage your team to speak about their concerns and complaints. Hold weekly meetings with the team to connect with them, motivate them, honestly communicate with them, and assess their progress. This approach will help to keep everybody in the team aware of the project’s progress.

Limited External Communication

Sometimes management is not fully transparent with the client when communicating externally. They may assure that things are going well so the client doesn’t get concerned. As a result, when things get out of control, the client is facing an even bigger failure and quite often there is nothing to be done.

Bridging the communication gap is a responsibility for the entire development team. Direct and transparent communication between a client and developers, combined with the eagerness to collaborate closely, help to ensure that ideas and requirements are met. The worst business practice is over-promising, it is better to under promise and over deliver, that way you can always have satisfied customers.

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 – reports, numbers, anything that is relevant. Use this opportunity to show the client that you are responsive and as interested in the project as they are.

Final Thoughts

The reality is that projects fail and for a multitude of reasons. Although project management is not rocket science, it brings many hurdles to test your resolve.

Awareness, thoughtful planning, and diligence are crucial for overcoming the difficulties that will inevitably arise during the software development process.

The better prepared you are to respond to the challenges the more likely it is that your project will succeed. After all, you may not get to the moon anytime soon, but there is no reason your development team can’t aim for it.

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