Is your Software Project doomed from the start?

Five Proven Findings for Success

A software project is a balance between business and IT. Each team needs the other in order to deliver an on-task, on-time, on-budget product. From the very beginning, the teams need to have shared ownership with each one understanding they are essential to success.

Although it is true that the IT team will log in more hours in the project, their success is measured by the business. They need the business team to participate fully. A common complaint of IT teams is never having enough of the business leaders’ time. On the other hand, the business team members have full time jobs outside of helping with the software project. Whether they are in sales, marketing, customer service, or another division, they have plenty of work to do every day. A common complaint of business teams is not having enough time to help IT do their jobs appropriately.

How can these two different viewpoints come together for success? By building on knowledge gained from research into projects that failed and best practices utilized by companies who have built large numbers of software products, leaders can take practical steps toward success.

Read on for 5 key research findings to help you achieve success in your next software project.

1. Out of Sync Stakeholders

Software projects need to begin with a shared vision between the business team and the IT team. The business understands why the software needs to be built and the IT team understands how it should be built. If the two teams are out of sync, the when and how will be greatly impacted and result in project failures.

78% State that the business and IT teams are always or usually out of sync with each other

43% Responded that there is confusion around what the business is asking for in the project

32% Identify lack of a common vision on project success criteria as the greatest barrier to success in project completion

Perhaps the most concerning response is the huge percentage who believe the teams are rarely in sync. If the project becomes us vs them, failure truly is inevitable. These responses indicate that projects begin to fail before they have even started; however, you can take several simple steps to start for success.

In order to forge a project team where business and IT work collaboratively and in alignment, you will need to clearly articulate goals and examine team language choices.

2. Unclaimed Accountability

Who is responsible for the software project? The answer needs to be “all of us.” The IT team should never build software for the business, but instead with the business. With a variety of cooks in the kitchen, setting up roles, responsibilities, expectations, and accountability becomes a necessity, not a luxury.

38% Identify confusion around team roles and responsibilities to be the greatest barrier to delivering successful software

30% Identify a lack of clarity around team roles and accountabilities to be the greatest frustration during a software project

24% Believe that stakeholders do not align in staffing, budget, time, and progress tracking

By identifying responsibility both as a barrier and a frustration, responses indicate the unsettling nature of confusion. People want to do good work and, to do so, need to have clarity in roles and responsibility.

To create a project team with clear accountability, you need to create a cohesive plan and foster a culture of ownership among every member of the team.

3. Unclear Requirements

When asked to define requirements, less than 20% of team members—business or IT—selected “articulation of business need” as the purpose of the requirements process. If the needs of the business are not at the center of the requirements process, how will the final
product be what the business needs?

70% Of respondents believe that requirement issues will result in a project that is over budget or fails to deliver the desired capabilities

57% State issues with requirements will result in a project not being considered an overall success

61% Relate poor requirements to the project taking longer than the estimated time to complete

Of all the findings, unclear requirements can be most easily tied to project failure. Requirements most often take the blame for where the project went off track, providing strong insight into problems lurking in the software development process.

For a software project to be successful, the requirements need to be broad enough to road map the business need but detailed enough to allow the development team to code

4. Inconsistent involvement

Many organizations consider technology projects to be exclusively an IT responsibility rather than a joint responsibility with business. As a result, business involvement in the project often decreases with time. As their participation decreases, project failure increases and the predictability of success diminishes.

25% State the business does not remain engaged in the project or leaves the process to IT

42% State that IT does not build what the business asks for

70% Believe their CEO would rate the ability to deliver software projects without surprises as most important

Surprises occur when people are not involved throughout the project. By participating as the project evolves, the business team maintains the visibility needed to avoid being surprised. Instead, they provide feedback and make informed choices contributing to project success.

Consistent involvement prevents making reactive decisions through false urgency and provides proactive ways to make the plan become a successful reality.

5. Rework & Scope Creep

The resigned acceptance by developers that a majority of their time will be spent in rework could be the biggest indicator that projects are not set up to succeed from the start. Without a clear and shared vision, it is inevitable that developers will need to build and rebuild which increases the project budget and extends the timeline

80% Admit that at least half of their time is consumed by rework

46% State they are unsure of the details the business needs them to achieve with their project

23% Feel business and IT always agree on when a project is fully completed

For a project to end on-time, on-task, and on-budget, rework needs to be minimized. To prevent rework, all team members need to understand the main causes of scope creep and rework and have strategies to avoid causing the extra work.

Strategies include providing access and openness for the types of communication that will prevent members from making individual decisions that conflict with the best choices for the success of the project

Although most projects are considered by those surveyed to be doomed from the start that does not need to be the reality. By examining the 5 key findings closely looking for interconnected issues and opportunities for change, leaders can set up software projects with a collaborative view of success moving forward.