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Failing Software Projects - an everlasting quest for the magic recipe…

· 4 min read
Thomas Karanikiotis


Elpida is a Senior Software Engineer working in a mid-sized software house for the last 8 years. During her career, Elpida has changed multiple roles and has been involved in many projects with diverse requirements and purposes.

Six months ago she was assigned a new project for the development of an in-house platform for the company, as a Product Owner. Elpida was really optimistic about this project and taking into account her skills, her expertise and the great team assigned to develop the product with, she took for granted that it would be a success story.

Today, after a meeting with the Executive Team, it has been brought to the table that they might have to cancel the project, since the progress is not as expected. Looking back at her career, Elpida now realized that she has put quite a lot of work and effort into projects that have been canceled or suboptimally finalized, and she is starting to wonder why. Why is it so common that projects often fail? Could we have prevented this project’s failure and how?

At this point, we have to admit that it is expected that projects will fail. As presented in the “Standish Group Chaos Report 2020”, 50% of software projects are challenged, 19% of software projects fail completely, while only 31% of software projects are successful.

We asked one of the founders of Cyclopt, Prof. Dr. Andreas Symeonidis, to give us the most important reason he believes that leads to project failure based on his experience so far, and he mentioned:

Bad requirements elicitation and misconception of the problem at hand by the product team always generate extra workload that the team has to take into account. If the end-user is not committed from the very beginning and throughout the whole project inception phase, wrong assumptions are made, wrong guidelines are given and valuable development time is spent in the wrong direction.

Additionally to what Prof. Dr. Andreas Symeonidis mentioned, some other components that play a key role in the success of a project, are the following:

  1. Lack of executive support: When issues and conflicts occur within the team or mainly with the project stakeholders, having the sponsorship of the Executive Team to take mitigation actions can be critical for the project’s future.

  2. Misalignment of priorities: Mainly in software development projects, not being able to commonly identify the project’s top priorities can create conflicts, confuse the team and become an impediment in creating the maximum value for the product.

  3. Inadequate planning: Efficient project planning can be tricky and requires time, but is essential for a project’s success. The lack of a good initial plan can lead to inefficient resource utilization, inaccurate budgeting, poor quality, and eventually failure of the project. Monitoring the project’s progress is equally important, allowing the team to identify and overcome upcoming challenges at an early stage.

  4. Lack of testing: Thoroughly testing a software product is often overlooked and project managers ignore its importance. Bad planning can result in tight deadlines, so then not enough time is allocated for identifying bugs and issues that make the software crash or not function as expected.

  5. Lack of Software Quality and Quality Assurance: Apart from testing, high quality code and conformation to industry quality standards are sacrificed in order to deliver the project on time. Design flaws, incomplete documentation, security breaches, high quality metrics like readability, reusability, maintainability, etc. can really make a difference in the project’s evolution.

Project failure can mean several things in different cases, from failing to deliver a product to failing to match the product’s success criteria. Whatever the case, it is important to dig into these failures, analyze them and make the most out of them by identifying and capturing some lessons learned.

Cyclopt platform can assist you in your way to a successful project, by providing you with innovative solutions to manage your project and your team, and improve the quality of your code. Check it out at:

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