In the technology industry, you will repeatedly find that as many as 50% of custom software development projects fail. This age-old problem is a nightmare for many CTOs and tech managers. On the other hand, advance warning means you can prepare yourself and your team and minimize the risk of failure. This is a challenge that every team of developers, product designers and you – as the leader – should meet.
I have no doubt that custom software projects are demanding and you need to take care of even the smallest details to succeed. To be honest, having looked at the statistics on this subject, I am amazed at the scale of the problem. I personally realized how important it was when I read the stories of companies whose cooperation with tech partners ended in failure or their team lost a project due to a significant budget or deadline overrun.
I began to wonder why this should be so. I have several years of experience in custom software development projects, so I was particularly interested in this topic. I decided that, based on my own experience, I would identify all the biggest threats associated with custom software development, which I am now going to share with you.
My personal list of the biggest challenges with custom software development
1. Language barrier. This is one of the most common problems when people are looking for a tech partner. However, I have no doubt that this factor can be easily solved. Namely, you just need to choose a software development partner who can guarantee hassle-free communication. Fluency in English is obligatory. It’s an international language, and you can’t communicate properly without it. Imagine the situation that you want to talk with a developer about some problem or bug. If it turns out that the only person who can speak English is a project manager who is not a technical person, then there’s a problem. You must know that communication with developers – to be effective – must be very precise, which requires knowledge of the English language. Remember this simple rule.
2. Poor communication. Communication aspects are somewhat related to the language barrier. In addition to language, you must be convinced that your daily cooperation is well-organized. In my opinion, this aspect is often overlooked. The competence of the development team might be an essential part of their job, but so is communication with a client. Besides – and I know this from my own experience – if the process of mutual communication is properly managed, then the whole project runs much more efficiently, and you will avoid unnecessary problems, such as delays.
3. Breaking deadlines. This is a very common situation, which you may have experienced yourself. It is very difficult to estimate timeframes for software development projects. Often, the initial assumptions are completely wrong. Inability to meet deadlines can be influenced by many factors, including the ones I describe in this article. I think that the proper method of project management plays a big role here. Recommendations? Definitely Scrum.
4. Insufficient knowledge. Software development projects usually require a broad knowledge of technology. This is a major challenge if we consider that technology is constantly evolving and developers must be up to date with all the news. On this point, it is important that your own team is up to date with tech news. This is not as obvious as it may seem, especially when the software development project is implemented in-house by a small group of developers. There may be a situation in which your team’s competences just turn out to be insufficient, which can quickly lead to problems and, as a consequence, the failure of your project.
5. Incoherent vision. Imagine a situation in which you embark on cooperation with a tech partner – for example, a software house and talk about your needs. You describe the product that you would like to create in detail. In the beginning, everything seems to be going smoothly. Over time, however, it turns out that your vision is completely different from your partner’s. As a result, a problem arises because the work of the team of developers and product designers does not meet your expectations.
I think this is a fairly common problem. Sometimes it is difficult to combine the client’s vision with “hard” solutions used by developers. In this situation, technical team experience and soft skills are definitely helpful. It is important for your tech partner to meet your expectations, but as a customer, you must be aware that a certain solution suggested by the software company may in fact prove to be more effective. Bear this in mind.
6. Changes during the project. In the case of IT projects, scope creep (from the owner’s site) and gold planting (from PM, Scrum Master or developers) are the most usual threats. Uncontrolled changes in the project, adding new functionalities or introducing changes undoubtedly fall under threats affecting both the efficiency and speed of projects. The right approach to management is to ensure the first key stage is 100% accurate, as this will influence the project’s later success.
7. Insufficient funds for project development. Funding is essentially one of the most important factors in the success of your project. This is obvious. However, I would like to draw your attention to a slightly different aspect. It is important that you have a guaranteed budget in the long run rather than just the development period assumed at the very beginning. Why so? The reason is simple. It is very often the case that development time is extended by up to 20-30%. You must take this into account so that your project is financially secure. You will minimize the risk that your project will still be in the development phase when budget deficiencies start to appear. This is directly related to an incorrectly estimated project duration.
8. Undefined threats and weaknesses. Before starting the project, you probably know that the whole process may not be simple. You will probably agree with me that every project is a challenge. So, I think that before you embark, you should analyze potential threats and weaknesses that may affect the final outcome. It is important to properly manage such threats from the very beginning.
I would not like to suggest which of the threats listed above is the most common. I think there is no rule for this – it all depends on the specifics of the project. However, if you face the challenge of successfully implementing your own project, bear in mind what I have written here. I think that taking into account the problems I describe may be a guide for you, indicating what not to do and how to deal with a threat. All this so as not to become a victim of brutal statistics but, rather, successfully complete the project.
And that’s what I wish for you. If you have any questions related to custom software development, please contact me. I will be happy to answer all of them. A short form is available HERE.