June 21, 2018 - by Manan Thakkar
Organizations that carry out software development often only plan for success within allotted budgets, expected deliverables, management expectations and go-live targets. Yet, despite their best efforts, project failures are common. With 75% of business and IT executives anticipating that their software projects will fail, the reasons for software development failures are many: nonexistence of top management commitment (33% of projects fail because of a lack of involvement from senior management), unrealistic expectations, improper vendor selection, gaps between software and business requirements, unrealistic budgets and schedules, poor project management, lack of change management, lack of training, and poor communication.
With such an extensive list of failure factors, increasing the success rate of software implementation might seem impossible, but it can certainly be achieved. By embracing certain best practices, you can ensure that projects are delivered on time, milestones are met, and surprises are minimized. Here are six project management best practices to keep you on track and within budget.
1. Prioritize Communication and Partnership
Communication between the various team members of the project is immensely critical for successful software development; 59% of U.S. workers say communication is their team’s biggest obstacle to ensure project success. Also, clear definition and allocation of roles of team members is important; this ensures tasks are clearly listed and allotted to avoid redundant efforts and chaos.
Documenting everything helps in having access to all the data you need to make better decisions and learn from previous challenges – project steps, bottlenecks, scope changes, and task dependencies. Periodic meetings between important members of the project management team ensures that everyone is in the loop and aware of the current status and challenges of the project.
At the leadership level, business and organizational issues should be identified and analyzed with clarity and without emotion. According to executive leaders, lack of clear goals is the most common reason for project failure. Therefore, it is a good idea to remove organizational barriers both within the organization and outside – ensure all stakeholders work with the common goal of project success.
2. Report Statuses Transparently and Proactively
Many organizations tend to set overly optimistic go-live dates despite the realities and limitations of the actual project; the design phase extends, but the timeline doesn’t. Monitoring project progress throughout the implementation and discussing key milestones early in the project’s lifecycle can help avoid a downstream impact. If KPIs are only addressing past phases, but not the readiness for approaching project tasks and activities, then they should not be blindly accepted.
To ensure smooth progress throughout the organization, it is advisable to identify, align, and continuously monitor project tasks. Understanding dependencies from the start of the project and monitoring them throughout the project lifecycle can ensure proper resource allocations and project time frames.
3. Plan Thoroughly
If you want to maintain control of the project, you need to ensure balance between overly optimistic go-live dates and the impact of outside influences and interdependencies – proper planning is an indispensable aspect of successful software development. Start by setting realistic expectations and confirming that project team members don’t lose focus through the course of the project. Objective oversight can help overcome organizational roadblocks and ensure protection against the high cost of failure. Also, continuous assessment of project progress can help you identify failure indicators, intervene to accommodate changes, and adjust expectations accordingly to ensure milestones are met.
4. Prepare to Handle Change Management
Very often, project stakeholders change their mind about what must be delivered. Sometimes the business environment changes after the project starts, so assumptions made at the start may no longer hold true. The scope or deliverables of the project would then need to be altered. Blindly accepting all changes into a project creates additional risks in the project, subjecting it to potentially going over budget or overshooting timelines, risking that it may never be completed.
Therefore, this makes change management critical for software development success; by managing changes, decisions are enabled with a process to assess whether or not to incorporate changes immediately, in the future, or reject them altogether. This increases the chances of project success since there is not control on how changes are incorporated, then resources can be allocated accordingly and deployment changes can be fully planned for.
5. Provide Support for Critical Business Applications
For software development to be a success, don’t take chances with the core systems and critical business applications on which day-to-day operations depend. You need to constantly understand the intricacies of how critical applications work and what it takes to avoid costly and disruptive system failure. As people move on, or IT support gets outsourced, it can be hard to maintain continuity of knowledge and support for those essential system components.
Therefore, providing end-to-end support for critical applications where failure results in expensive downtime and dissatisfied customers is vital for successful software development. So, it’s essential to continuously monitor system availability, proactively troubleshoot issues, and enable timely system upgrades and enhancements to keep the most important applications in the business operating at peak performance.
6. Follow Standard Risk Management Strategies
Every project is subject to different levels of risk. That’s why you should always have a risk response team that acts as the first line of defense when problems occur and ensures the project stays on track. By identifying all risks at the planning stage and determining the probability of risk occurrence and the potential impact on the project, a specific plan is in place to ensure high-risk events do not occur at all.
Medium-risk events may also come into play and should be evaluated to see whether they need to be proactively managed. For low-level risks, they may be viewed as assumptions; although there is a potential risk involved, it can be assumed that a positive outcome is much more likely. As soon as the project begins, consistently performing risk assessments to determine if other risks have surfaced that need to be managed.
Implement Robust Project Methodology for Software Development Success
In a world where software development innovations are crossing all boundaries, it is shocking that only 26% of all projects succeed. In order to improve the success rate of projects, what is required is the implementation of a robust project methodology that empowers you to go beyond traditional barriers and gives you the answers you need. It helps you identify and resolve the strategic, tactical, and intangible issues, and manage human factors before they become unmanageable. Although following best practices such as frequent communication, pro-active status reporting, planning, change management, timely support for critical business applications, and standard risk management strategies cannot guarantee a successful project, it provides a better chance of success.
Learn more about ensuring success at all stages of the software product development lifecycle.