Why do many software projects fail today?

Business software

Do you know that? The project manager reports to the management team on his project for weeks and months. Of course, the classic status light should not be missing. And she stands up all the time Green: everything OK. But one day the traffic lights suddenly change Red! As a result, a very unpleasant processing process begins for those responsible. Usually the first question is about the guilty party, the second is about the causes and only then is it possible to deal with the possible solutions.

If you consult the Standish Group's statistics from 2015, this is exactly the scenario that occurs every day in the conference rooms of IT companies around the world. Because just 29% of all software development projects are successful, the rest fail completely (19%) or only went live with restrictions (52%). So more than 2/3 of all projects do not achieve their planned goal: manifold optimization possibilities!

Below are 7 typical factors that almost guarantee failure.

Factor 1: Disregard the human factor

In many years as a developer, project manager, coach and crisis manager, I have found that interpersonal tensions are the greatest obstacle in the implementation of IT projects. Conversely, if the chemistry between the employees is right and there is an open, fault-tolerant climate, solutions can be found for all difficulties - even in critical situations.

It is human nature to avoid conflict. And so it is only natural when people implicitly or explicitly entrusted with personnel management (e.g. the project manager) completely ignore bad moods or look the other way for too long. But conflicts usually do not resolve themselves. Research into the causes, moderation and at least the perspective of change or solution are required.

Sometimes it's the little things that make a big difference, like a new job for an employee. Often, however, greater efforts are necessary, such as the reorganization of teams, in order to bring the project back to normal. The worst alternative, however, is disregarding the human factor. 1st place.

Factor 2: Think too big or make too small

Some companies take on a project. They underestimate the complexity, the risks and the immense human and material effort. Regardless of the costs, is my organization even able to handle a project with 100 employees? Do we have enough workplaces, meeting rooms, network capacity, development servers, etc.?

Is the company able to meet the requirements of a large agile development team for a development and test track including continuous integration / delivery? Before such questions, the business case should have been calculated realistically. I have seen it several times that only shortly before the start of a gigantic project it became clear that the resulting system was actually not needed because it did not fit into the company's business model. Unfortunately, no one had noticed that before.

Another recognizable pattern: A protagonist absolutely wants the implementation of a software, e.g. for reasons of prestige or to utilize employees, and calculates the costs. If the future project manager is not strong enough to present the discrepancy within the framework of decision-making bodies, this creates high potential for crises. Place 2.

Factor 3: 100% rely on estimates and planning

A common myth is the reliability of estimates and planning. The concept of the project is defined by its uniqueness. Perhaps there have already been similar projects, but basically a company is breaking new ground with each project. This means that estimates can only be as good as the experience of the creator and their ability to adapt to the current project.

However, plans can never include spontaneous events, changes in requirements, technology or the occurrence of unexpected risks. Ultimately, estimates and the plans based on them are nothing more than a bet on the future! Accepting this fact is a first step forward. Discipline, courage and a systematic approach help prevent or alleviate possible crises. Place 3.

Factor 4: Consistently disregard the magical PM triangle

Study of computer science, first semester, first lecture project management: "The magical PM triangle". Those interested in management tasks are introduced to the laws of this triangle very early on. These state that changing one of the three parameters of time, budget or content (quality) inevitably leads to consequences for at least one of the other parameters.

But in practice these laws are only too happy to be ignored. As already mentioned in the context of estimation and planning, a project is something unique and the probability of unplanned influences is extremely high. Therefore, sooner or later in almost every project it is necessary for those responsible to react to these influences. However, if all parameters are fixed, i.e. the customer continues to demand compliance with time, budget and content, failure is only a matter of time. 4th place.

Factor 5: Documentation about everything

Freely adapted from Franz Beckenbauer: "We call it a classic!" Although more and more companies are relying on agile procedures (mostly Scrum), one can still find organizations and projects that attach greater importance to extensive documentation than to the software to be created. This is a high risk, especially in large projects. Often for months or even years a host of consultants and departmental experts work on thousands of pages of descriptions, which are later translated into SW by another team.

The more extensive the documentation, the longer the implementation time and the less likely it is that the software will meet the actual requirements of the user. Reactions to changes in the market are not possible or only possible with great effort and time concessions. It is true that a document provides a basis against which the product can be accepted. Unfortunately, what has been written is not necessarily clear and the result is different than originally thought. How often have I heard the sentence from department employees and end users: "Oh, I imagined it to be completely different!". 5th place.