90% Of Software Development Projects Fail. How To Prevent It From Happening To You

Software Development Projects

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Investing time, effort and money in a project, just to see it fail can be a disaster for a small company. The DevOps and Agile methods promised a fast and foolproof approach for software development. 

But if DevOps and Agile are so popular, why do 90% of software development launches fail? According to PriceWaterhouseCoopers, most organizations believe the problem is poor project management. But when it comes to Agile projects, there are a number of reasons they fail. 

 In this article, we’ll show you why your project can fail and what to do to improve your chances of success for your project. 


An Industry Doomed for Failure?

Let’s review some fun stats (or not so fun)

  • More than two thirds of projects are completed beyond the deadline or go over budget. 
  • A third of projects fail because senior management doesn’t get involved enough. 
  • Moreover, 80% of project managers admit spending half of the time on reworking and fixing projects. 

Sounds that failure is part of the industry? Not necessarily, failing and testing and trying again is part of any project. But when the failure rate rises high, there should be underlying reasons. So we tried to find what are the most common reasons software projects fail. 

5 Reasons Software Projects Fail

  1. Poor Communication

Communication is key when managing any project. When a project is getting sidetracked, it could be due to miscommunication among the staff. Some reasons can include:

  • Lack of transparency between the team members
  • Not asking for help to other team members
  • Lack of coordination
  • Not sharing important information to upper management. 

A company culture that doesn’t foster communication can cause employees to not talk with each other. Then problems balloon until it’s too late, jeopardising the project. 

Poor communication with clients also may doom the project. For instance, when developers don’t manage the client expectations beforehand. This can turn into misunderstanding and disappointments. 

  1. Unclear Requirements

Some software development companies don’t take care of designing a complete roadmap and requirements sheet before starting the project. It is imperative to be as detailed as possible and go over it with the client. Doing otherwise is a recipe for failure. That’s why a complete discovery session is critical to have a clear image of what the client needs, and how to compare expectations and realistic solutions. 

Overlooking the details at the beginning in order to get the project started is one of the most common pitfalls in software development. Therefore, don’t start anything until you have a complete requirement sheet and detailed plan in place. 

  1. Not Providing Proof of Concept at the Beginning

Each project should contain a proof of concept or minimum viable product to show the client how the project or application could look when finished. Providing a proof of concept early on the process allows for early changes and feedback from the client. 

  1. Not Breaking the Project Into Enough Milestones. 

When planning a development project, it is easy to skip milestones in an effort to generalize the project stages. However, it is better to provide a detailed roadmap, with as many milestones as possible. This will improve the collaboration with the client and minimize the need for big changes at the end. After each milestone, it is important to set a meeting with the client to show the progress.  

  1. Not Enough Testing

While DevOps includes testing and refining the code as part of the development process, the success of a project goes beyond producing great code.In the rush for finishing the project, sometimes developers overlook testing and reviewing the project frequently enough. 

Setting QA and Unit tests in the development pipeline is critical to product good quality and secure code. You need to consistently measure the project against the initial plan to avoid surprises. 

  1. Unrealistic Expectations

Sometimes a client may want the project delivered on a tight deadline. Of course, without compromising the quality. Many developers will say yes in a rush to get the client. Then, when the project gets delayed, the client gets upset. 

In other cases, the project goals are unclear. Every project’s goals need to be clear and concise, and everyone involved needs to know them. This includes the budget, deadline and expected outcome. 

One of the most common mistakes is miscalculating the deadline and budget. Sometimes it comes from the client, or from the upper management that the project needs to be delivered at an unrealistic date. 

The pressure to deliver on an unrealistic deadline puts unnecessary pressure on the development team, and the success of the project can be compromised. Instead, try to calculate a deadline with ample time for changes, and a budget that allows for adding resources. 

  1. Poor Project Management


Many companies start a project without a project manager. That’s a sure road to failure. They work together without a senior developer who ensures the milestones are met with the required quality. A project manager gives accountability to the project and keeps everybody on track. Some tasks of a project manager may include: 

  • Monitor the project at regular intervals
  • Document the process
  • Supervise the team
  • Keep everybody on track to meet the deadline. 

Many times the problem is not the lack of a designated manager but a misunderstanding of the project. When you cannot define clearly your project needs, it generates costly mistakes. For instance, sticking to outdated protocols to choosing a stack that doesn’t really fit into your project deliverables. Then you end trying to fix things on the go that can prevent you from finishing the project altogether. 

The project manager should monitor the project needs through the different stages of it, not only at the beginning, to account for unexpected changes and adjustments. 

Besides those common mistakes, there are risks involved in software development. Since software involves a combination of factors, this can create a number of risks that you need to consider from the start if you want your project to be successful. 

5 Biggest Risks in Software Development

  1. Inaccurate Estimations

Estimations are a normal part of software development, but sometimes can create unrealistic expectations, as we mentioned above. Inaccurate estimations happen more often when you underestimate the scope of the project, causing problems when there is a need for more resources or time.

How do you mitigate it?

  • Define priorities and elaborate first on priority work. 
  • Consider uncertainties and potential time extensions. There can be times that developers need extra time to fix or debug parts of the project. 
  • Add an allocated time for the estimation. For instance, the time that the development team spends during the week for each project task. 
  1. Scope changes

It is natural that projects may undergo some changes during the process. Sometimes you may find the scope of your project changes, encompassing more areas, or the opposite, become more strict. This often happens as a result of customer feedback. Product owners, customers or management can ask to change the scope of a project. It may involve including a new feature or area that was not previously included, or tending to a new audience that surged in the beta testing stage. Changes in scope create a serious risk because it can derail the project timeline and confuse developers. 

How do you mitigate it?

  • Measure the impact of scope variations on the original estimations of the project. 
  • Communicate the customer of the impact, adjusting their expectations. 
  • Agile methodology gives you more opportunities to review and gives space to adapt the project scope if needed. 
  1. Poor quality code

Poor quality code can happen when developers are rushed or take shortcuts while writing. Other characteristics of poor quality code include creating code that can be difficult to review or change. It may have been released without testing, with bugs. Poor quality code creates technical debt and risks the success of the entire product. 

How do you mitigate it?

  • Agile methodology helps to test all the code as soon as it is produced. 
  • Implement code reviews. 
  • Follow QA practices 
  • Set unit tests and continuous monitoring
  • Use coding best practices and standards. 
  1. Not meeting deadlines

There are several reasons for not meeting deadlines. Poor productivity is one of them. Sometimes teams have trouble complying with set deadlines because of lack of planning. As mentioned above, setting non-realistic deadlines generates frustration in the customer and hurts the business relationship. In short, it hurts the trust the customer puts on the developer and can hinder the entire project. Burn-down charts and iteration reports can help managers distribute the work more evenly to prevent productivity issues to affect the outcome of the project. 

How do you mitigate it?

  • Establish a culture of productivity.
  • Set achievable deadlines and timeframes to prevent your staff from burning-out.
  • Set reasonable deadlines from the beginning, accounting for delays. 
  • Send messages in advance if deadlines won’t be met. 
  1. Poor risk management

At the end, when you don’t identify and manage the project specific risks, it results in a poor risk management. You should try to identify the risks inherent to the project from the planning start. Once you identify the risks, consider the mitigations strategies for it and use them through the project. 

How do you mitigate it?

  • Set risk management policies from the beginning including mitigation strategies and continuously throughout the project. 
  • Adhere to risk management best practices, like including risk in estimations. 
  • Determine which risks are inherent to the project and which ones come from outside stakeholders. 
  • Prioritize the greatest risks, impact and likelihood of it happening. 

Now that we talked about the risks, let’s cover briefly some prevention strategies in the next section. 

How Can You Prevent Software Project Failure

Even when there are many factors and risks that can make your project fail, there are ways to ensure the success of your project. Below there are four efficient ways we have tried and tested at SCSS which can help you prevent software project failure. 

  1.  A Great Discovery Session – Having a strong discovery session with the client is the best start for a successful project. At the discovery session, we present accurate questions that let us estimate the nature of the project and its exact requirements. 
  1. A Strong Roadmap – After the discovery session, we define a strong plan with a detailed timeline and scope. This helps prevent delays, misunderstandings and confusion. 
  1. Define the Metrics Early – An efficient development company defines the success KPIs and metrics of the project from the start. This ensures keeping track of the project and lets everybody in the team clear goals to achieve. 
  1. Hire a Team with the Right Skill Set – Hiring the consultants with the specific skills needed for your project is not easy. The best approach is to choose a company that will have full stack expertise and tuned to the latest trends and techniques on software developments. 

At SCSS, a software development company in Sydney, Australia, we see the difference following the above make with our clients. We are experts in custom software development of enterprise applications, mobile, and conversational AI. No matter if you are a large or small enterprise, our dedicated project management process ensures the success of your software development. 

Start your successful project today. Contact us. 

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