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Why do software development projects fail? And how to avoid it.

Many industry studies put the failure rate of software development projects  between 50% – 80%. Even from an optimistic point of view, half of these projects fail. And seeing as pretty much all businesses today rely on software one way or another, the impact is even greater. So, why do software development projects fail? And how can we avoid it. Or at the very least reduce the risk of it happening.

Vague or unclear requirements

Collecting requirements is the first step in any software development project. And it’s important. A lot of the time, due to the eagerness of the client to launch the solution and/or a focus from the vendor on getting the client, the requirements look more like a wish list than a thought-out set of functionalities.  

That’s why, as a client, you must have a clear picture in your mind of what you want from your software solution. If it’s your key selling point, do some market research beforehand. Make sure that what you have to offer is of interest to your potential target market. If you need it for internal use, try to involve some of the end-users from the beginning so that you don’t end up with a piece of software that no one wants to use.

Spend as much time as possible at the beginning of the project talking to your software development partner and answering all their questions. Some may be silly or obvious, but if they are asking them that means that you were not clear or they didn’t understand something. It’s better to have thorough and detailed discussions from the get-go. 

At the end of this process, you should have a comprehensive document highlighting all your requirements. Expect changes in the budget or timeline once this document is completed. There is a big difference between an initial discussion you have with your software developer where the budget and timeline are based on very general estimates and the final proposal.

Unrealistic expectations

We understand that as a customer, you want your software cheap, fast and good. But expecting that from any vendor will just set you up for disappointment. The software development process is complex and it’s important to be realistic in your approach. 

Try to start with an MVP. An MVP or Minimum Viable Product is a software solution with minimum functionality, usually one or two core features. Just enough to satisfy your early customers’ needs and allow you to get valuable feedback. Make sure that you go Agile and work in iterations, giving you the chance to test each function as it’s developed.

Furthermore, if you want to add requirements, make sure you take into account the fact that this means an increase in terms of time and budget for development. This is the case, even in situations where you need to change existing requirements. Some may be easy to do, but others such as changes to the tech stack or software architecture will require time and money.

Cost and time

A survey conducted by Innotas showed that 55% of IT professionals said that their development project failed due to a lack of time and budget. Whether you’re a large organization or a scrappy start-up, your budget is important. So, you need to pay attention to these issues.

When it comes to pricing, the two most popular models used in the industry are fixed-price and time & material agreements. A fixed-price contract is friendly to your bottom line and ensures you don’t get any surprises when the invoices come. But at the same time, it doesn’t allow for any flexibility in terms of adapting your software mid-development.

The other option involves being billed for the number of hours spent on the project along with the costs of necessary materials. This means that you have a lot more flexibility in terms of changing or adding requirements but you don’t have as much control over the budget. 

It’s the same issue with deadlines. Make sure that they are flexible and offer some wiggle room. If you are dealing with a bespoke software product, it will be hard to come up with a clear deadline. That’s why the MVP option is better. You get a chance to see how long it takes to implement various features and you get an idea of when the product will be done.

Poor communication

When it comes to communication there is a lot you can do, as a client, to make sure that it is a productive one. Be open whenever your software supplier asks for meetings, especially in the initial stages. Once the project starts going, try to be involved regularly in meetings, but don’t overdo it. Time spent by developers in meetings is time they are not spending working on your software. 

Ideally, from the beginning of the project, you should establish a rhythm in the way you communicate. Or a point-person from your side, in case you don’t have the time. 

Also, try to encourage open communication. There may be times when there are mistakes or deadlines which will be missed. In these situations, you can start a blame game but this will only mean that in the future you might not receive the correct info. Or you can choose to have a constructive approach that fosters trust and transparency. And allows you to have a correct overview of how the project is doing.

How can we help

Whether you want to upgrade your current software or develop something custom from scratch, QTeam Solutions is what you need. Don’t believe us? Check out what our other clients had to say. Plus you get a free 60-minute consulting session to start things off.