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Why Do Software Development Projects Fail? Here are 6 Reasons

Software development projects can be intense, exhausting, expensive and fairly disruptive to organizations. Yet, it can get worse. Software development projects can and do fail. It’s such a major problem that three in every four IT and business executives expect their software projects to fail. Here are the most common reasons.

1. Poor Communication

Effective communication is a basic ingredient of a successful work environment. It creates a healthy atmosphere for employees to work as a team and creates strong partnerships with stakeholders and customers.

Internal communication fails when the members of a software development team fail to talk openly with each other. Projects have deadlines and team members will usually seek to complete their assigned tasks on time. That may leave serious problems left unsaid until it is too late thus jeopardizing the entire project.

External communication comes short when management isn’t open with clients about what they should expect. Poor communication can lead to failed projects, frustrated employees and unhappy clients.

2. Resistance to Change

Reluctance to change is an intrinsic part of the human psyche. It’s easy to get addicted to the predictability of the comfort zone. A successful project manager is one who can resist the resistance to change.

Change management is such a serious concern that it has led to hundreds of project management tools being developed in order to help teams be more receptive to change.

Project failure due to poor change management can also be prevented by adopting some emerging software development trends such as Agile, Lean or Feature Driven development that are more tailored towards making change a staggered process that’s easier to embrace.

3. Absence of Progress Review

Assigning tasks to project team members and only checking on them months later can be a costly mistake. Project plans, timelines and milestones must be reviewed regularly and monitored for progress. That helps you avoid big unpleasant surprises that would be too difficult to rectify later on.

There are a number of mechanisms through which you can keep track of a project’s status including one-to-one conversations and email updates. The most effective though is the project status meeting. It provides a more comprehensive view of the entire project including how the different components relate to each other.

4. Ambiguous Requirements

Few things guarantee project failure more than the absence of clear agreement on software requirements between the development team and the client. At the start of a project, it’s tempting to rush through steps in order to secure the contract. Overlooking these steps can come back to bite you and render all coding efforts useless.

Following the first set of meetings with the client, develop a document that details the requirements and outlines the solution that will best fit the requirements as well as the client’s timelines and budget. Discuss this document in-depth during a client meeting and make sure all parties are on the same page before you move on to actual coding.

5. Unrealistic Goals

No one deliberately sets out to make unrealistic demands. It’s something that creeps on you over time. For example, after failing to kick off the project in time, clients will set unreasonable completion targets. They may also demand high quality work at a rock bottom budget. You don’t want to appear incapable and so end up agreeing to these unattainable goals.

When the project eventually fails to meet these expectations, the client will get angry and frustrated. To avoid getting caught up in this trap, don’t commit to what you cannot deliver. No matter how demanding they might be, make it clear to the client from the get go what you can and cannot do.

Sometimes the client’s lofty expectations are born of ignorance. You’ll find that they’ll be more accepting of reality once you explain what they can and cannot expect.

6. Absence of a Competent Manager

A project comprises multiple moving parts. No matter how skillful individual team members may be, they won’t deliver as long as they aren’t coordinated by a good project manager. The absence of coordination and leadership leads to chaos, confusion, unhealthy internal competition and a blindness to the bigger picture.

A competent project manager communicates, monitors, controls and estimates the different components of the project from start to finish. A good manager must constantly have both a bird’s eye view and an understanding of how each component contributes to the overall goal.

Software development projects rarely fail because of the technical knowledge of the project team. Actually, it often comes down to the above mentioned administrative and procedural missteps. You’ll increase the chances of your project working if you try to steer clear of them.

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