Project Smart ~ Exploring trends and developments in project management today

Calendar iconNot recorded
Adobe PDF icon

Why Software Projects Fail and How to Make Them Succeed

~ By Duncan Haughey

Businessman crosses off failure for success with a yellow marker pen on the screen

Let's start with a worrying statistic. According to the Standish Group in 1995, only 16% of software projects were successful, 53% challenged (that is cost overruns, budget overruns or content deficiencies) and 31% cancelled.

Furthermore, they say the average software project runs 222% late, 189% over budget and delivers only 61% of the specified functions. Evidence suggests little has changed since then.

Failure has become the IT industry norm. So what can we do about it?

A good starting point is by addressing some of the key reasons software projects fail.

Not Enough Time

Often, the deadline date is decided before the project starts and is non-negotiable. This deadline results in a headlong rush to get started on the assumption, the sooner you begin coding, the sooner you'll finish.

A rush to start coding is almost always the wrong approach. It is important to spend the time to create a good design. Not having a good design leads to continuing changes throughout the development phase. When this happens, time and budget are consumed at a rapid rate.

Solution: Make time to create a good design. Don't be tempted to jump straight in and begin coding. Assign time to this task and the rest of the project will run much better. It will improve your reputation when you deliver something that fulfils the customers' expectations and works the first time correctly.

Insufficient Budget

Many projects have a lowest price most successful candidate policy, or an unrealistically low budget, not based on the actual requirements. When this happens, everything slows down. Resources are slow to arrive, or never arrive; corners get cut and quality suffers.

Solution: Be realistic about the budget and base it on the full requirements. Avoid basing selection of a supplier solely on lowest price. Go to a supplier or team that has a proven track record of delivery within budget.

Poor Communication

There's an old saying, "never assume anything" and this is particularly the case for software projects. Good communication with the customer, users and especially the development team is critical to project success. Does everyone in the team understand you? Do they know what you expect of them or have you assumed they know? Do they communicate well with one another, with users and with other departments?

Solution: Find any communication breakdowns now. These can lead to confusion and complications later in the project. Never assume that everyone understands. Take time to create an environment that will bring the project in on time, on budget and to the customers' expectations.

Never Reviewing Project Progress

As a project progresses, things change and these changes can have a significant impact. It is important to keep examining the project progress so you can overcome challenges early, and warn stakeholders of possible delays and changes to the product.

Solution: Set various milestones during the project when you can review progress with your team and adjust as necessary to stay on course. Stay close to your team so you understand what is going on, and the challenges they face.

Inadequate Testing

When the pressure to deliver is on, it is often testing that suffers. All the testing gets left until the end of the development cycle and only lip service paid to it. Often, the result is a product filled with bugs and an unhappy customer.

Solution: Carryout testing throughout the development lifecycle, testing each module or component as it's developed. This approach leaves just the integration testing to be carried out at the end of the development lifecycle.

Testing in the Production Environment

It's surprising how many organisations test products in their production environment. Using the production environment in this way is a high-risk strategy that can lead to security breaches and release without testing, disrupting the production systems.

Solution: Develop a process for quality assurance and release of new software products. Provide an environment separated from production for testing and bug fixing.

Lack of Quality Assurance

Often in the haste to deliver the software, quality assurance suffers. Documentation is incomplete for code changes, the design contains flaws, and implementations can be unfinished. These all lead to rework, lost time and eventually unhappy customers.

Solution: Take time to quality check and document software before it is released.

Not Conforming to Industry Standards

Conforming to industry standards in your software projects can prove beneficial by ensuring accessibility, portability, usability, robustness and reducing problems now and in the future. Bodies such as the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) and World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) have developed open standards that when used are hard to challenge.

Solution: Take time to introduce standards for your projects. Find what works well and keep doing it. Change anything that isn't working. Review and update your standards regularly.

Next time you run a software project, review this list first and remind yourself what is needed to ensure your success. You'll be surprised at the difference it makes.


Comments

Be the first to comment on this article.

Add a comment



(never displayed)



 
1500
What is the day after Friday?
Notify me of new comments via email.
Remember my form inputs on this computer.

Project Management Maturity Model

Five maturity levels concept

The concept of a project management maturity model has evolved considerably from the software industry. Where does your organisation sit on the maturity model?

Project Scheduling And Resource Levelling

Gantt chart and fountain pen

This article describes the must do steps, in the correct order, for scheduling projects and levelling finite resources.

Building Your Project Team

Friendly successful project team of young executives

How should you set about choosing people for your project and forming them into a well functioning project team?

Top 10 Steps to Successful Goals

Businessman sprinter winning a track race

Help avoid the great 'Rinse and Repeat Trap' by following these 10 steps to setting successful goals. You may have to work for it, however!

PROJECT SMART is the project management resource that helps managers at all levels improve their performance. We provide an important knowledge base for those involved in managing projects of all kinds. With weekly exclusive updates, we keep you in touch with the latest project management thinking.

WE ARE CONNECTED ~ Follow us on social media to get regular updates and opinion on what's happening in the world of project management.


Latest Comments

John Tichaona Muhonde commented on…
How to Avoid Project Burnout
- Wed 24 August 5:15pm

Vaska Ramanska commented on…
How to Report Status on a Project
- Sun 7 August 11:23am

Duncan commented on…
PMP vs. PRINCE2 Certificates
- Sat 6 August 11:36am

Latest tweets

General Project Management • How to draw AON Network with these variables https://t.co/FgCyvBDhjk #pm #projectsmart about 1 day ago

General Project Management • Re: Which are the best learning resources to prepare for PMP exam? https://t.co/AlZd7X6vse #pm #projectsmart about 4 days ago

General Project Management • Which are the best learning resources to prepare for PMP exam? https://t.co/kcJEdQZUmL #pm #projectsmart about 4 days ago