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Why Software Projects Fail

When a software project kicks off, expectations are often high, but as the project progresses, it can be frustrating to see it start to fail and not know what is going wrong. Understanding and looking out for the leading causes of failure before it happens can save your project and keep it on track for success.

There can be many reasons for failure, but some of the biggest ones are:

  1. Unclear Business Needs
  2. Not Shipping Iteratively
  3. Lack of Automated Tests
  4. Poor Code Quality

Below I’ll describe exactly what to look out for, for each of these points and ways to avoid making them proactively!

Unclear Business Needs

A common reason projects fail is that the stakeholders and developers haven’t clearly communicated about the project’s business needs. This causes issues because the development team will be building something that fits the requirements but ultimately doesn’t achieve the business needs required to make the project successful.

The best way to make sure this doesn’t happen is to clearly describe the business requirements and needs to the development team. Giving them all the critical context and checking in that the development team is on the right track regularly will ensure the project is clear for everyone. One easy way to do this is to ship features iteratively and have stakeholders test them to confirm what is being built aligns with the business needs.

Not Shipping Iteratively

Like I mentioned above, shipping code iteratively can help stakeholders make sure the software being built fits the business needs. That is just one reason why shipping iteratively is an excellent idea for your project. Another reason is that shipping individual features iteratively will cut down on bugs by giving small pieces of the project for QA to check for bugs. When trying to QA an entire project, it is nearly impossible to check all the edge cases, so iteratively shipping features will provide tremendous value to keeping your project on the right track.

Iteratively shipping features also gives stakeholders a better idea of how the project progresses because they can regularly view the project. It also provides insight into determining if the project will be late, given the current pace. This also allows you to know what is actually completed right now.

Lack of Automated Tests

One of the most frustrating ways a project can go off the rails is because of lots of logic bugs that crop up here and there. These bugs can be tough to track down as they don’t happen often but can cause lots of problems when they show up. The easiest way to approach combatting these is to proactively write automated tests. These tests can check every case for these bugs and catch them well before becoming a problem that derails the project.

The way to think of automated tests is like automated QA that checks each case every time code gets changed! It is well worth the investment to put these tests in place from the beginning as writing or modifying untested code WILL lead to bugs and slow down the project’s velocity at best, or at worse, bring it to a standstill.

Poor Code Quality

Poor code quality often comes hand in hand with a lack of automated tests. Suppose the project’s code is written in a rush, without adequately thinking through the architecture or how the software will interact with the end-user. In that case, you will likely have significant code quality problems and possibly large amounts of code scattered throughout the project. This will bring the project to a standstill if it isn’t fixed quickly.

Having the quality of code slip in a project is a normal part of a project if there isn’t a concerted effort on keeping the code clean. An excellent way to keep code clean is to implement a thorough code review process that focuses on keeping the code clean without taking shortcuts. Writing unit tests is also a way to improve code quality by slowing the code writing process down and writing automated tests to confirm the code works as expected in all cases.

Successfully completing software projects is hard! It requires high levels of discipline and good communication throughout the project from both the stakeholders and developers. Watching out for the mistakes above will help improve the odds of a quality project and a great launch! If you need help avoiding these pitfalls and launch an excellent product, reach out to me, I’d love to chat and see if I can help!

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