A Software Project isn’t a one-man show! Sure, there will be one to put forward the idea (usually a senior member of the team), a project manager to shoulder the responsibilities, or a chief engineer to steer through the troubles. However, it is a collective deal. Like you cannot pinpoint a project’s success on someone, you cannot entirely blame one individual for the failure!
Again, Software Projects are highly volatile. Even in the age of disruptive strategies and business leaders carefully aligning technical aspects with transformational initiatives, the success curve for software projects still runs flat.
Now, let me give you an alarming statistic, it costs around 9.9% of every dollar to make for poorly performing software projects. So, practically all that money goes to waste! You could argue that the market leaders and the investor’s favorites are increasingly driven to build customer centricity and optimize productivity. However, a recent BCG report says that around 70% of digital transformation efforts lack objectives. I personally find that more distressing than the financial figures.
As leaders, our end goal is to build bionic capabilities for leveraging the potential of disruptive technologies, integrating them into new processes, and building ways of working around them. New digital capabilities do not just drive growth but propel business model innovations. But change management at a large scale combined with short-term pressures often leaves us in a dilemma: to risk the odds or stay behind the competition. The world has shaken up to new business procedures. There have been massive reevaluation of goals and organizational objectives in the past two years. Perhaps, it is time we reevaluate failure.
As a technocrat, before embarking on a drive to expand digital capabilities, we should ask ourselves these basic, but very important questions:
1. Do we need this? Does our organization need to become more responsive towards changing client demands? Do we lack innovation in our solutions?
2. What are we going to do? Digital overhauls can be of several scales; they can be people or technology-focused. You have to determine your specific business outcomes – it can be eliminating legacy frameworks to propel productivity, end-to-end customer journeys, boosting supply chains, and many more.
3. How will we implement the transformation? How to ensure complete alignment between product, channels, support, and the technology function? How to sort bottlenecks in terms of resourcing, governance, focus, and approach issues?
Although these insights may seem very basic, they can give up invaluable answers related to your project objective. As people leaders, it’s one of our most important functions now to identify the gaps in our own business. We may brand a project ‘a recipe for disaster’ right from the time it shows signs of struggle – the real failure would, however, be when we refuse to dissect the cause of the claimed disaster.
In my years as a senior technocrat, I have been a part of several software projects; some very successful, others though that lost steam mid-way and resulted in losses. But over the years, I have learnt that every failure leaves you with a takeaway. As leaders, it is on us to go to the bottom of the cause and learn from mistakes or leave it there as a ‘myriad of problems’.
Let me put down a few reasons that I have seen propel promising software projects into disasters:
Faulty Change Management
It is human nature to resist change! And this is one behavior you see replicated even in market leaders and highly innovative businesses. A recent study by The International Project Management Association says that merely 63% of companies account for Change Management in their projects.
This resistance to anything new( emerging technology or a new business process) stalls productivity inadvertently by high figures. It is the responsibility of people leaders to gradually habituate the resources with changes and gently integrate new processes rather than going for a complete overhaul at once.
Lack of Coordination Through The Organization
For most enterprises, the flow of information top-down is flawed. Although the objective is to bring in an alignment throughout the business units, there are silos in terms of the flow of information through the ranks. As a result of this, coordination and collaboration between tech-led teams are often hindered, and individual resources fail to identify their place in the organizational roadmaps.
Unclear expectations and undefined responsibilities always mean that some part of the team will be clueless about their own delivery time and will result in an overall delay of the project.
The Time Budget
No project can go on and on for years, true. And every firm should have a frame of time in mind by which they would want to implement the transformation. However, having a strict and non-negotiable deadline is often the reason why coders rush headlong without a proper design.
If you want a smooth development phase, you need to be somewhat flexible about deadlines. Take time to curate the perfect design plan – that way, you optimize both time and budget constraints.
Agility In Concept, Not In Action
The success of a project depends a lot on the flexibility of approaches. In my years as a technocrat, I have learnt that one should never trust a full-proof plan, for there will be detours! You can plan 100% ahead of the project because no leader can ever predict with precision the roadblocks the project is going to face.
The success story of the agile methodology lies in the fact that the projects adopting agile work on a pre-defined roadmap but leave scope for feedback integration and changes with each passing stage. The testing phase may throw up inadvertent challenges which would need immediate innovative responses. A strict plan is thus a NO when talking Agile!
The Curious Case of Unaccounted Potential Risks
The world has made stunning advancements in the area of business intelligence. With predictive AI and ML being the order of the day, every project these days are data-backed. Intelligent data studies and reserves not only brings up a unique take on challenges but also spearheads innovative solutions to thwart development hazards.
However, many enterprises still falter with the scope of analyzing potential risks before taking up disruptive projects. It is all about intelligently walking this thin rope between driving innovation and identifying potholes.
Poor Communication Between C-Suite And Those On The Line
Poor communication is as disruptive as having unrealistic expectations! Communication breakdowns are most often the cause of silos between departments. Ask yourself these questions: Does everyone in the team understand you and your views? Do they have a clear idea about their responsibilities? Is there adequate inter-department communication?
As the C-suite, you might often feel the need to withhold certain bits of information. However, the severity of a task and the importance of a certain procedure should be adequately communicated to those who work on the front line. As the higher-ups you may have a certain plan of action, but you must realize that the individual resources are focused more on one task at a time!
The Resourcing Menace
It is reported that around 60% IT managers complain that they struggle with filling roles adequately. Inadequate resources can endanger an IT project to the highest possibilities. Not only does it impede development, but also leaves the existing workforce overworked.
Apart from a scarcity of developers having the true potential, many firms also go through the struggle of level funding concerns, which further burns the prospect of having good resources on board. This is why most firms opt for outsourcing IT services. Software outsourcing services often cost you less than in-house teams. Perks, you have the freehand to upscale and downscale services as per requirements.
As a people leader for years, I have worked closely with the higher-ups of successful teams. The most successful leaders follow these outlines to make their projects a success:
1. Crafting a clear and integrated digital strategy
2. Committing to leadership from top down
3. On-point resourcing and knowing the true potential of resources
4. Adopting and adapting to an agile mindset for a truly agile approach
5. Monitoring and measuring project progress at strategic intervals
6. Reevaluating and modernizing the tech stack
Blaming a project failure on inadequate funding and inadvertent challenges is an easy thing to do. But we fail to realize that this is what makes us go on a loop of further failures. Assessing the reasons for failure is the sure-shot way to prevent walking on the same rope. As higher-ups in the systems, one can wash his hands of a disaster by blaming it for a myriad of reasons. A true leader would, however, dig deep to the bottom of the pit, point out his own incapacities if need be, and find a way to steer clear of repetitive mistakes.