7 Tips to Prevent Your Software Project from Failure

how to avoid software project failure

Software projects fail. According to the Standish Group, as much as 66% of technology projects end in partial or total failure. In this scenario, large projects are most at risk of breaking down, and only one in three software projects can be considered truly successful.

While large technology projects come with more challenges, it doesn’t mean that small projects don’t fail. In fact, one in ten small projects fails. 

The reason behind these failures is common and come up time and again:

  • Lack of proper planning
  • Lack of expertise
  • Over-optimism
  • Poor communication
  • Wrong tech stack

Software development teams need to adopt a proactive and adaptable approach to avoid project failure. But how do you do it? Here are seven tips to prevent software project failure.

1. Map out a Clear Software Product Vision

Software development comes with many challenges. A good and successful software product starts with a clear vision. It begins with a transparent software roadmap that describes the product’s core essence and the objectives you want to achieve with it.

Your software product vision will state why the project exists (in the first place) and proposes a direction for development and project delivery.

The essential components of your software product vision are as follows:

  • Target persona
  • Opportunity statement(s)
  • Product name and category
  • Primary benefits (of using the product)
  • Primary competitive alternatives/key differentiators

A product vision forms the foundation of your development project. All your decisions are made based on your product vision. It also helps ensure that all stakeholders (including your marketing team) are on the same page.

When you move straight from idea to development without investing some time in research and establishing a clear vision, it usually leads to delays and (in some cases, total) disaster.

2. Clearly Define Roles and Responsibilities (before the First Iteration)

When you have a clearly defined vision, you need to clearly define everyone’s role and responsibilities to realise it. When the leadership team is closely aligned articulating the purpose, value, and rationale, everyone will work towards the same goal. 

But it isn’t enough. You have to clearly define each stakeholder’s role within the project and what’s expected of them. This approach also helps minimise the risk of people working on the same task and so on. 

In this scenario, it’s crucial to put the right people with the appropriate skill set in each role. For example, the project lead or product owner should be an individual with proper management and leadership skills and experience.

Whenever you don’t have the necessary expertise in-house, take an extended team approach to maintain project momentum.

Learn more about working in extended teams.

3. Set Budget and Prioritise Resources (But Stay Flexible)

It’s vital to budget and prioritise resources as things won’t go exactly the way you envision it. For example, even if you map out a step-by-step plan to develop, test, mitigate risk, and deliver a successful project, it still won’t be enough.

No matter how much time you spend planning, there’s always the risk of the unknown. As a result, even if the project vision is clearly defined with wireframes or prototypes, it’s best to go with a “broad-strokes plan” that provides some room for agility.

When you take an agile approach to software development, you don’t work towards a massive public launch. Instead, you grow gradually, increasing features and complexity with each iteration.

The ability to adapt is critical. This is because the ability to make changes quickly can mean the difference between product success and failure. For example, suppose you start testing your software product, and you realise that it isn’t as user-friendly as expected. In this scenario, you’ll have to initiate several meetings and go back to the drawing board.

It’s better to stop and make changes than deliver a product that’ll tank in the marketplace. So always leave some room to be flexible, even if it means more development costs. 

Check out how much it costs to build a SaaS MVP.

4. Leverage Wireframes and Bring Your Product to Life

More than coding, what makes good software is excellent communication. While you need to communicate your project needs in words, it’s even better to draw it out in a wireframe.

These simple static drawings help take the idea a step further and breathe a little life into it. This approach also helps bridge the gap between technical software engineers and business professionals.

Wireframes and prototypes are also critical to get all stakeholders to buy into the project. It’s a valuable communication tool that encourages increased project ownership. 

5. Choose Agile Over Waterfall

As mentioned earlier, agile is the best way forward. While the traditional waterfall project management isn’t all bad, it doesn’t provide the flexibility needed for software development.

The agile approach already incorporates the need to change requirements as you progress. It makes room for it even if it doesn’t happen (on that rare occasion). In agile, changes don’t equal failure. Instead, it perceives it as an opportunity to realign the development project and the overall vision.

The primary benefit of agile project management is that the required planning, design, and documentation don’t go beyond what’s necessary to start coding. Its primary focus is on delivering working functions and features (or your unique selling point). 

As the agile framework concentrates on breaking down the work into small chunks or short bursts, it’s also more manageable for the entire team. This approach usually follows a two-week development cycle known as a sprint.

6. Expect and Prepare for Evolving Requirements

It’s always better to fix bugs in the system before the product goes live. As such, testing should start early rather than when development is complete. This helps product owners maintain time to market while ensuring brand value.

Quality Assurance (QA) testing should cover any or all of the following:

  • Automated testing
  • Cross-browser testing
  • Functional testing
  • Unit testing
  • User acceptance testing
  • Penetration testing
Read how Evolve has embedded penetration testing into our clients' SDLC.

If you’re partnering with a third-party developer, it’s vital to ensure that they have a qualified, dedicated team of testers. It’s also important to set up protocols to manage bugs in the system. The best way forward is to streamline the process of raising and responding to issues.

7. Find a Strategic Technology Development Partner

With the on-going tech talent shortage, chances are you don’t have the necessary expertise to run a software development project successfully. In this scenario, the best option is to engage an established bespoke software house.

It’s vital to find a third-party developer with a proven track record of delivering successful software products. Before committing, ask some questions and discuss how they have overcome challenges in the past. Ask about their QA protocols, agile approaches, and so on. It’s also a good idea to talk to their previous clients.

Bringing an idea to life isn’t easy. You have to put in some work to go from discussion to deployment. However, you can follow the tips above to mitigate risk and avert software project failure (and benefit from our extensive experience in bespoke software development).

If you like to pick our brains and formulate a strategy to avoid software project failure, we'll be more than happy to help! Schedule a commitment-free consultation now.

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