Agile Development

7 early warning signs of possible IT project fail





Agile Development


7 early warning signs of possible IT project fail

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Published: 2022/02/10

8 min read

While more and more companies consider digital transformations and software critical factors of their success, and a way of strengthening their market position, a vast majority of IT projects fail. According to Boston Consulting Group, 70% of digital transformations fall short of their goals, while Application Modernization Business Barometer Report indicates that 74% of organizations that launched legacy system modernization projects failed to complete them.    

What’s more, it is not only digital transformations and huge legacy modernization projects that fail. According to the latest 2020 Chaos Report by the Standish Group, only 35% of software projects were fully successful in terms of time and budget. Keep reading to learn what you should pay attention to during software development life cycles to identify early warning signs and join companies that managed to complete their software development project successfully.  

The sooner you notice software development problems, the easier it will be to solve them

While a complete IT project fail is the worst-case scenario, with every passing deadline or low-quality deliverable, companies lose enormous amounts of money and market opportunities, become less competitive and are overtaken by more efficient competitors. So how to complete your project in time and join market leaders? 

Well, there’s no magic potion that guarantees success, employing some proven methods can boost your chances. First, start with identifying the most common problems so as to deal with them before they even occur. Later, when the work starts, keep your finger on the project pulse to detect any early warning signals that may indicate you should consider implementing some changes or look for a helping hand outside your organization. Since you can discover 8 reasons why software development projects fail here, this text will focus on the second element; detecting early warning signs that should raise alarm bells so you won’t waste money, time and opportunities.  

What should be emphasized before we move on is that there are a number of possible reasons for early warning signs, starting with an inadequate process, through having not enough developers or skills that match project needs to even misunderstandings and communication issues between business and development departments. So rather than trying to guess what might be the root cause, we want you to keep in mind that after noticing one of the early warning signs, you should instantly analyze the problem and deal with it before it grows and dooms your software development project. 

1/ IT delivery can’t be modularized

While the rest of early warning signs can be identified during all the stages of software development life cycle, the root cause of these lies in the design of software architecture and will affect all the subsequent development work, thus it’s the first to be highlighted.   

A modular system is not just a buzzword; it is simply followed by a vast number of benefits. It doesn’t matter whether you start building new software from scratch, expand an existing system, or modernize a legacy solution – using silo-like architecture will slow down the work, limit scaling possibilities and make the lives of everyone involved harder. Therefore, rather than trying to convince yourself “it will somehow be enough”, after identifying such an architecture, you should instantly plan and take actions to modularize it. 

2/ A roadmap of unrealized business functionalities that constantly expands

The agile approach to software development expects and embraces scope change to always ensure the biggest possible value, and the roadmap of functionalities might not only change but expand. And on a constantly evolving software market, the ability to pivot accordingly is crucial to outrun competitors.  

Thus, if you start to notice that business opportunities are missed and you have valuable ideas which cannot be delivered, the red light should immediately start blinking. Whether its core reason is simply not having enough development capacity or bad planning the sooner you take action to resolve the problem, the better chance you have to obtain/retain a high competitiveness level.

Read also: What is IT Project Management?

3/ A long release cycle (months or quarters)

Nowadays, the ability to adapt to changing market conditions is crucial for companies that want to grow their operations. Moving fast is vital, but at the same time, it’s critical to ensure reliability. Having the possibility to implement changes in software based on a short feedback loop enables companies to deliver value to customers quicker. Thus, it’s no surprise that according to industry reports, elite performers can deploy on-demand (even multiple times a day), have “lead time for changes” less than one hour while at the same time they can restore their services and their change failure rate is between 0-15%. But, since this text is not focused on the importance of effective deployment and the value of the DevOps approach (discover more about it here), just remember that the more your possibilities fall behind the mentioned “elite performers”, the harder it will be to keep up to them. 

What’s more, DevOps practices are not the only thing companies should adopt to boost the operation speed and maintain high reliability. To make it work, it should be combined with the implementation of automated tests which allows ensuring desired quality while decreasing the time required for testing compared to manual QA. Yet, rather than elaborate here you learn more about it in our text focused on the value of automation and remember to visit our blog every once in a while since we plan an article dedicated to QA automation. 

So, if your release cycle is long, problematic and error-prone, you may lose market opportunities and risk falling behind more efficient competitors. If you can release new features monthly or quarterly you should start searching for any problems and ways of overcoming them, as even the best idea might not be enough to achieve the desired results in such a scenario.  

But that’s not the end of the story. Studies show that improving DevOps practices positively affects employee satisfaction, and people who are a part of high-performing teams are 2.2x more likely to recommend their organization as a great place to work, which transitions nicely to the next early warning sign. 

4/ High IT turnover

Whether you rely only on in-house experts or cooperate with an external software development agency, team members familiar with your environment, project and its goals are much more effective than new employees who need to be onboarded and learn all the intricacies. Therefore, the lower the attrition rate, the easier it is to maintain high performance levels. 

So, if you notice that more people are quitting and, rather than expanding the team due to your growth you need to fill more and more gaps, you should understand that something is wrong. This could be related either to one of the problems described in this text, but also might be caused by company culture and environment. Remember that while creating an organization in which developers can thrive is far from easy, investing in it or cooperating with an outsourcing partner who has proven methods for retaining talent  will provide you with numerous benefits from having a stable team.  

5/ Growing cost and time of recruitment

When it comes to recruiting experienced software developers, the Navy Seals saying “The only easy day was yesterday” is more than valid. With each passing month more and more companies face a talent shortage, and hiring talent is considered the biggest challenge among tech companies according to “State of Software Development 2021”.   

So, if you notice that enhancing your development capacity through recruiting internal employees is getting longer and more expensive, you should start considering reaching out for a helping hand. Even with the best, innovative idea, brilliant inhouse team members and a great market opportunity, you won’t be able to succeed if you lack development capacity, which slows down work and contributes to other early warning signs listed in this blog.  

Download Complete Guide to Software Development Outsourcing

6/ Innovation stopped due to too many ongoing tasks

Software maintenance is a natural part of the software development lifecycle. Yet, if all your people focus on keeping a system up and running, rather than expanding it and implementing innovations, you might soon look at the backs of your competitors. And maintenance is only one part of the story of your slowed growth. 

Sometimes deploying to a new client might be so time and resource-consuming it requires an “all-hands-on-deck” approach and companies have to wager if that even makes sense, not to mention the difficulties related to any potential customization for premium clients. While we can’t predict the root cause of such a situation without being familiar with the whole picture, we know that the longer you need to wait for new features and innovative solution, the larger the gap between your company and market leaders gets.  

7/ More and more temporary work spikes

Irregular, problem-related work spikes that force team members to work late hours to fix some problems or deal with an unforeseen challenge happen in almost any industry. After all, it’s not possible to predict everything, and sometimes things go sideways. However, if your team is forced to work extra hours and be overloaded with tasks regularly, not to mention all the time, something is definitely wrong.   

Whether that’s caused by a talent shortage, bad planning or poor resource allocation, working in a constant crunch (while this term is usually related to game dev, it perfectly illustrates the current point) may decrease your employee’s productivity and eventually lead to burnouts and high turnover, endangering your whole project.   

Every flood starts with a drop of rain

While the early warning signs have been listed as individual ones, you should already feel that software development projects are like living organisms and all elements are interconnected. Therefore, just one can trigger many more and make your IT project fail to meet the desired goals. Thus, make sure to look out for every early warning sign and react as soon as possible, to minimize the potential harm and flood waters from rising.  

So, what should you do if you see any warning signs? First and foremost, analyze the problem and discover the reason behind it. Unfortunately, while sometimes it might be straightforward, usually the issue is more complex than it may seem at the first sign. And that’s the moment when you should reach out for a helping hand – a reliable software development company. Beyond having a deep talent pool, they ensure you get the skills you need to solve the problem from a technical perspective, have experience in various environments and have proven and battle-tested methods for dealing with diverse problems and making development effective again. How can you find such a company? You can either read our guide or simply use the contact form and discuss your situation with one of our experienced delivery managers, who will help you figure out the best approach to take! 

About the authorLeszek Czarnota

Director of Digital Growth

A Director of Digital Growth with over 20 years’ experience in the IT industry, Leszek combines a technical background in application development services with business knowledge from the financial and telecommunication industries. This extensive experience and passion for innovation enable him to create and implement effective strategies for generating new business.

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