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Why Do Over 70% of Software Projects Fail?

Recent research from the Standish Group indicates only around 30% of software projects are deemed successful, i.e. they were completed on time and within budget. An older study (2011) from McKinsey and the University of Oxford suggests large IT Projects run 45% OVER budget, 7% over time, and deliver 56% less value than expected.

So what factors cause this inordinate rate of failure? And what can we do to prevent becoming a statistic? In this article, we outline 5 key reasons for project failure as well as our suggested solutions.

Reason 1: Planning and Project Management

Problem: A lack of clear goals and objectives, poor communication and collaboration among team members, and a lack of focus on risk management and quality control often lead to poor project performance.

Solution: Every project must start with a clear plan with well-defined goals, objectives and deliverables. The project management framework should be selected (we use Agile) and adhered to throughout the project implementation to ensure that the team stays on track. This can include setting up a project steering team, defining roles and responsibilities, and establishing communication and coordination processes.

Reason 2: Scope Creep

Problem: Scope creep is a common challenge in software development projects. As we receive feedback from stakeholders during execution, the scope of the project expands beyond the original plan. This often results in changes in requirements or unrealistic expectations which can lead to delays and cost overruns, as well as a lack of focus on the core goals of the project.

Solution: The project team needs to remain vigilant Identify potential Scope Creep and take steps to prevent or mitigate it. To curtail Scope Creep, the project team needs to be in regular communication with stakeholders to understand their changing needs and expectations, as well as establish a Change Request process to ensure that the client is aware of the impact that changes to the scope will have on the project’s timeline and/or budget.

Reason 3: Lack of resources

Problem: Three big resourcing issues faced in projects are lack of experienced personnel, inadequate budget, or scheduling conflicts preventing the right team members from being available at the same time.

Solution: While it’s not always feasible, project teams need to ensure the right personnel with the necessary skills, experience, and tools to complete the project successfully are available to start when required. In some cases this can include recruiting additional developers, providing training and support to upskill existing team members, and ensuring that the client has the budget and their expectations have been set realistically.

Reason 4: Communication

Problem: A lack of communication among team members, as well as a lack of communication with the customer or stakeholders, can lead to misunderstandings and misaligned expectations, which can impact the success of the project.

Solution: Clear and consistent communication channels between project team members, clients, and other stakeholders need to be established before the project commences. Some tactics we use are daily (or frequent) standups, sprint planning sessions, client demonstrations, and regularly planned meetings with the project steering team (including representatives from the project team & client side). We also use collaboration tools like Jira and Slack to facilitate communication and coordination, ensuring that everyone involved in the project has a clear understanding of their tasks, roles, and responsibilities.

Reason 5: Technical Challenges

Problem: Insufficient technical expertise within the design and development teams, inadequate QA processes, and challenges in integrating the software with other third-party systems through APIs are common issues encountered on projects.

Solution: The right resources need to be assigned at the right stage of the project to best ensure project success. QA should be involved from the early stages to catch bugs and incorrect work early before they snowball. If any missing information or documentation is noticed it needs to be escalated immediately to the appropriate party to make sure gaps can be filled

There’s no such thing as a perfect project. Things go wrong, key personnel leave, expectations are often misaligned and communication can be a sticking point. Reduce the risk of your projects running awry by working with an experienced, delivery-focused team like Trienpont InternationalJustin MacCarthy, our Head of Delivery, and his team are committed to understanding your needs and ensuring velocity is maintained so your projects can be delivered on time and within scope.