Why Software Projects Fail

August 10, 2016
Aug 11, 2022
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Why Software Projects Fail

The key factors when evaluating a project success include (Time, budget, and Scope). Most project initiatives fail at least one of these factors and much more are canceled having failed multiple factors.  To understand why this happens, we need to take a deeper look at the root cause for many of these failures.

Lack of User Involvement

A lack of end user involvement results in unclear requirements and unrealistic expectations.  Imagine describing the type of car you want to a relative and then having them go buy it for you.  Is it really a surprise when the SUV you wanted ends up as a bright orange station wagon?

Requirement Issues

Many projects start with ambiguous high-level requirements or are so well defined that they constrain a developer’s ability to implement them successfully.  Open channels of communication must be in place at every stage of development to avoid these sorts of issues.

Scope Creep

Scope Creep is not something that can be avoided and happens in 99% of larger projects but it can be mitigated.  If scope changes are not addressed early and regularly, the result will be cost and time overruns and potentially project failure.

Poor Testing / Quality

Most projects do not budget sufficient time to adequately test software.  As a result, testing time is often squeezed resulting in a poor quality product being released.  It is a well documented fact that it costs more to fix bugs after the fact than to prevent them.

Excessive Planning

This is particularly true in large scale projects where technology can outpace dated requirements.  Planning is a necessary part of any software project but there is danger in attempting to predict the future.  If you get lucky your planning may pay off but if you aren’t good at predicting the future, the results could be project failure.

Most of these factors can be mitigated simply by setting clear expectations and operating in an open and transparent environment.  Agile methodologies provide a good framework for this but it should be noted that Agile is NOT a magic bullet.  It must be embraced and not simply followed if companies wish to improve their odds of success.