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When software projects fail, the impact can be devastating.  During our own project rescue experiences, we’ve arrived on the scene to discover a whole host of reasons for project failure.

In most cases, we find the writing is on the wall from the very beginning.  If a project is going to end up going wrong, it will be because some important upfront planning stages were missing, or that both parties – the software development company and its customer – have built their engagement on a fundamental misunderstanding.

Read the eBook on Why Projects Fail (and How to Avoid it Happening to Yours) for a full guide to the project pitfalls and tips for success, garnered from over 10 years of major software development project rescues.

The following are the six most common causes of project failure we encounter.

1. Lack of controlled budgetary flexibility

Complex, transformative software projects are almost impossible to put a price on from the outset.  The customer understandably wants a fixed cost to plan against, but if they refuse to entertain any budgetary flexibility whatsoever then they could end up with bigger and more expensive problems further down the line.  Fixed prices are not necessarily a problem when the software development provider has established a deep understanding of what the business needs.


2. No feasibility study or scoping exercise

Feasibility studies and scoping exercises are absolutely imperative.  Time and time again we see the issues that arise when these essential steps, which establishing the purpose and practicalities of the project, are overlooked.


3. Incorrect or absent legal framework

A little bit of time sorting out an appropriate contract with your software developer will always pay dividends in the end.  The last thing you want when your software project is under pressure is a bitter legal dispute.  Not only does it eat up lots of time and money, but your long-term technology evolution could be put off indefinitely.


4. Failure to understand digital assets

Failing to get your head around the concept of Intellectual Property (IP) law as it applies to your various digital assets, could leave you high and dry.  There can be no room for confusion or ambiguity about who owns various aspects of the IP from the software project.


5. Poor management of supplier/customer relationship

It takes two to tango, and both the customer and the software developer are responsible for promoting a constructive relationship where expectations are realistic, and communications are crystal clear.  Many projects failures are simply down to inexperience from either or both parties.


6. Bad change management

A project could easily last a year or more.  Any shortcomings in written specification, documentation or roadmap during that time will all but guarantee its failure.  The non-linear development processes typically involved in creating bespoke software also need to be understood by customers, who might otherwise insist upon a ‘blinkered’ blueprint implementation that won’t benefit from lessons learned along the way.

Spotting the early signs of failure can be a challenging prospect, even if this isn’t your first foray into commissioning a bespoke software development project.  However it’s crucial to jump on them as soon as they emerge.  If any of these are happening to your project right now, you could be headed for project failure.

  • There are disagreements about money between you and your software development provider

  • The key people who were involved at the start of the project have suddenly gone quiet or disappeared entirely

  • Your own people don’t like the software as much as you do

  • You know it will utterly paralyse your business if you decide to change developer mid-project

  • It doesn’t look like anybody is bringing the requisite technology leadership

For more insights on these, and a complete guide to assuring your project’s success, read the Helastel eBook on Why Projects Fail (and How to Avoid it Happening to Yours). If you have any questions about project rescue services or software development projects in general, drop us a line or request a free consultation.