Since we opened shop in 2006, clients have come to us with projects in varying stages of the development pipeline. While some projects were close, needing just a bit of outside guidance to cross the finish line, others were merely in the concept phase, or even in need of re-concepting.
In an attempt to better understand why some projects fail, we noticed several recurring stumbling blocks that seem to derail well-intentioned businesses in their quest. This article will first focus on the top 5 reasons why your software project isn't complete; followed by worthwhile solutions that we offer to our clients.
UNCLEAR GOALS AND OBJECTIVES
Every successful endeavor starts with a well-conceived set of goals and objectives. Forbes says your goal can be thought of as your broad primary outcome - a destination. On the other hand, an objective is a measurable step toward your outcome - a road map.
In order to avoid major scope changes, delays, and frustration, your company must clearly define the project requirements from the start. Furthermore, all project stakeholders - from senior executives to junior developers - must be fully aware of said requirements and their responsibility in meeting them. Smart companies also may benefit from assigning a key Product Manager to the project, to ensure the right questions are asked, the right features are created, and the end product is built to desired standards.
While it is impossible to plan for everything, asking the right questions can clarify the primary purpose of your project. Before the first line of code is written, your organization should have clear answers to the following questions:
What specific business problem is the project designed to solve?
Who are the end users, and what will they gain from the end result of the product?
What are significant technical obstacles we may encounter? I.e. legacy code, complex integrations, etc.
What is a realistic budget to get us to phases 1, 2, and 3 of this project?
Who will be involved?
Do any of the project stakeholders have different goals or objectives?
Why is the project important to the organization?
What is your timeline?
And perhaps, above all else, how do you plan to measure success?
The devil is in the details. Starting a software project without a comprehensive pre-production phase virtually assures failure.
In the context of software development, poor communication will inevitably lead to missed deadlines, budget overruns, design conflicts, broken morale, and incomplete projects. In fact, research suggests "ineffective communication was the main contributor to project failure one-third of the time, and had a negative impact on project success more than half the time."
"All projects require a sound communication plan, but not all projects will have the same types of communication or the same methods for distributing the information... The types of information you will communicate typically include project status, project scope statements and updates, project baseline information, risks, action items, performance measures, project acceptance, and so on."
A robust communication plan involves keeping all project contributors in the loop with regard to their specific duty.
If you're developing software without rigorous user-testing at every junction, your project is woefully mismanaged. Experienced project managers know early UX testing can mean the difference between finishing on time and budget versus costly rewrites.
Usertesting.com says "getting feedback from your users will help you make research-backed, user-centered design decisions. Armed with user insights, you can avoid expensive development errors and proactively address your customer's problems."
Testing early and often allows developers to verify assumptions about user behavior, root out needless features, and uncover where customers experience hiccups.
LACK OF TALENT
In a survey of over one thousand tech hiring managers, Indeed reports 86% of "respondents said they find it challenging to find and hire technical talent, with 36% saying they find it 'very' challenging." More worrying is the fact that many in the industry expect the problem to get worse as we enter the next decade.
We recently published an in-depth article discussing the tech talent gap and the one million developer positions that will go unfilled as a result. Unsurprisingly, such a stark number of job vacancies means existing employees will be relied on to pick up the slack. As highlighted by Indeed's survey, this "lack of timely hiring has caused burnout," thus exhaustion, lack of engagement, and unclear thinking/decision making. Needless to say, none of this bodes good fortune for your project.
LACK OF EXPERTISE
In some cases, your organization may have its software positions filled but still lack the expertise required to successfully complete a particular project. For example, let's pretend you manage a thriving online retail store with its own team of full-stack engineers and DevOps specialist who keep things running. One day your wide-eyed boss strolls in with a new vision for the site, including a robust product recommendation feature that relies on cutting-edge machine learning.
A competent team of full stack engineers should be able to implement a rudimentary version of what the boss wants, but a product developed by a team specializing in ML would be ineffably better.
HOW TECHTONIC CAN HELP
Based in Boulder, Colorado, we're a pioneering software shop focused on development, talent generation, testing, and product management. In our 13 years of business, we've established a well-respected reputation for our unique approach to onshore commercial software development.
Alone in our thirst for tackling difficult challenges, Techtonic is purposefully disrupting the software outsourcing market with our two-in-one business model. Unlike your typical development partner, we specialize in talent development in addition to software creation. Through the Techtonic Academy, we take promising students and shape them into engineers, many of whom are hired by our clients to continue on projects they're already familiar with.
Whether your organization is facing one, two, or all of the aforementioned challenges, partnering with our shop may be your ticket to success.
AUTHOR - Nate Aswege
If you're interested in learning more about Techtonic, please CONTACT US today! Techtonic is the premier partner for developing onshore, commercial-grade software. We've also developed a unique method to simultaneously close the talent gap that exists within technology, by tapping into a new and highly diverse workforce. Our model is pioneering the way clients develop and hire top talent, and we'd love to work with you!