12 Reasons Why Software Projects Fail

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You’ve just been assigned to a new software project. The idea is exciting, the team is energetic, and you have several months before the release date. During your first meeting, you establish priorities, set deadlines, and create a communication plan. Everything seems to be running smoothly.

But after just a few weeks, you’ve already run into some problems. The database you’ve designed isn’t handling the workload you need it to. Your team members are complaining that there are too many meetings and that they’re struggling to meet deadlines. And now one of the programs you need has gone up in price, requiring you to rework your budget. Everything seems to be falling apart.

So what went wrong?

It’s not that you didn’t have a great idea or a solid plan. It’s just that with every project, something is likely to go wrong.

When leading a software project, it’s important to anticipate the most common setbacks you’re likely to face. That way, when problems arise, you’ll be more prepared to address them.

With that, here are 12 reasons why software projects often fail.

1. The Team is the Wrong Size.

Having the right team size is critical to a successful software project.

Obviously, having too few team members can lead to burnout, missed deadlines, and other emergencies. Developers can only take on so much, and assigning too many tasks to a single person increases the likelihood of failure.

On the other hand, having too many team members can also create problems. Trying to coordinate such a large group often leads to more meetings. And that means less time spent writing code.

To help you find the right team size, make sure each role is clearly defined. Communicate with your team members regarding their workloads and deadlines. And don’t be afraid to bring on other team members as needed.

2. Communication is Unproductive.

2. Communication is Unproductive.

A lack of communication creates chaos within a team, often leading to unnecessary mistakes and confusion.

But did you know that it’s possible to have too much communication regarding a software project?

Meetings take time, and they require developers to shift gears from logical, problem-solving to more open discussion.

Think about it. Every hour that your team spends communicating is an hour that they aren’t using to work on the project.

Communication is important, but make sure that your meetings and emails are productive and aren’t just an excuse to look like you’re accomplishing something.

3. There are Radical Changes Being Made to the Software.

What exactly makes a change “radical?”

We’re not about to tell which changes you can and can’t make. But just remember that changing the fundamental structure of a database takes time, and these types of changes have the potential to throw the rest of your project off course.

4. The Wrong Technology is Being Used for the Job.

4. The Wrong Technology is Being Used for the Job.

All technology has limitations. And expecting technology to deliver something it’s not designed to do will only end in frustration.

Instead, plan the project with your technology in mind. Will a database handle the transactions needed to keep things running?

Along with using the right technology, make sure you’re choosing the best versions for the job.

Notice that we didn’t say “newest.” It’s true that relying on old technology can lead to missing features and performance failures. But that doesn’t mean that your technology has to be the latest and greatest.

Often, when a new generation of technology is first released, it comes with features that aren’t yet available or code that only supports certain file types.

So find a balance between the two. Choose technology cutting edge technology that’s robust enough to get the job done, without sacrificing any necessary features.

5. Prioritization is Ineffective.

Part of careful planning is defining and prioritizing your features. But what if your priorities don’t line up with the reality of implementing them?

It might seem like a good idea to have developers work on the most important feature first and then move down the list. But this could harm the overall functionality of the product if the other features are left untouched.

When creating priorities for a software project, make sure you account for the needs and cost of delivering each feature. That will make it easier for your developers to decide which tasks are most critical and when to complete them.

6. The Market Window Has Closed.

6. The Market Window Has Closed.

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, there’s just no longer a demand for the project you’re trying to create.

It’s not always possible to anticipate which direction the market will go, but do the best you can to research beforehand.

Your idea might be brilliant, but it won’t matter if the market has already moved on.

7. Poor Architectural Decisions are Being Made.

Some architectural designs are costly and time-intensive when they don’t need to be.

If multiple members of your team are complaining about the design and its complexity, then maybe it’s time to listen.

Pay attention to when the main architectural plan isn’t working so that you can design something that functions more smoothly.

8. The Deadlines are Unrealistic.

Deadlines can be tricky. Projects are often meant to release by a particular season or event. But when you’re first creating the calendar, you haven’t encountered any of the roadblocks or hurdles that will later emerge.

And missing a deadline can make the project seem like a failure, even if the code is functioning properly.

Instead, give yourself ample time to complete various aspects of a project. Create deadlines that both motivate your team and allow for some wiggle room if things don’t go as planned.

9. There are Difficulties with Subcontractors.

Believe it or not, most subcontractors aren’t out to get you. After all, we love vendors who produce the libraries and tools that make software projects possible.

But if a subcontractor suddenly decides to triple the price of their product, it could endanger your whole project.

When a new version of software becomes available, do your research before immediately signing on. It’s possible that tools you were counting on for your project are no longer within your price range.

10. There are Cultural and Technical Shifts.

10. There are Cultural and Technical Shifts.

Just as with market changes, cultural and technical shifts can greatly alter the success of your software projects.

Developers are seeing this first-hand with the COVID-19 pandemic. Projects geared toward the travel, entertainment, and food industries quickly became obsolete once the virus hit.

And it’s not just worldwide pandemics that create these unforeseen consequences. Shifts in the tech industry can make an idea seem great one month, and the next month it’s trash.

You can’t always predict the success of your project, but paying attention to technical and cultural shifts can give you a better indication of whether your project will be successful.

11. There are Too Many Additions.

You might find yourself working on a project that requires just a few adjustments or add-ons.

While there’s nothing wrong with deviating from your original plan, it’s important to make sure that adding on new features won’t create any unintended consequences. Too many additions can affect your team’s ability to meet deadlines or the database’s ability to handle the workload.

Be smart in deciding which additions are necessary and realistic.

12. The Goals Keep Changing.

It’s unlikely that simply adjusting the goals of a project will cause it to fail. But changing goals partway through might reveal new weaknesses or issues that weren’t a concern before.

Maybe your team is too small to complete the new workload. Or maybe the technical foundations aren’t efficient enough to handle the new approach.

When adjusting your goals, make sure you still have the bandwidth you need to complete the project.

Keeping Your Software Projects on the Right Track

It’s impossible to anticipate every possible failure you might encounter while working on a software project. But by anticipating some common setbacks, you can help your team be more prepared to respond to unexpected situations and complete the project successfully.

Here at CR-T, we take pride in providing enterprise-level IT services at prices that work for small businesses. Our team of experts can become your IT support department, responding to issues quickly, often before you even know about them. Covering everything from your servers and network infrastructure to your computers, workstations and mobile devices, we provide end-to-end solutions for all your technology needs.

Time and experience have helped us develop best practices and workflow procedures designed to keep your focus on your business, not your technology.

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