Software Problems are Business Problems

Only 28 percent of projects are developed within budget and delivered on time and as promised, says a Standish Group report. The primary reasons for project failure are:

  1. Unclear or missing business requirements.
  2. Skipping SDLC phases.
  3. Failure to manage project scope.
  4. Failure to manage project plan.
  5. Changing technology

1. Unclear or Missing Business Requirements 

The most common reason systems fail is because the business requirements are either missing or incorrectly gathered during the analysis phase. The business requirements drive the entire system.If they are not accurate or complete, the system will not be successful.

It is important to discuss the relationship between the SDLC and the cost for the organization to fix errors. An error found during the analysis and design phase is relatively inexpensive to fix. All that is typically required is a change to a Word document. However, exactly the same error found during the testing or implementation phase is going to cost the organization an enormous amount to fix because it has to change the actual system. exponentially the later the error is found in the SDLC.

2. Skipping SDLC Phases

The first thing individuals tend to do when a project falls behind schedule is to start skipping phases in the SDLC. For example, if a project is three weeks behind in the development phase, the project manager might decide to cut testing down from six weeks to three weeks. Obviously, it is impossible to perform all the testing in half the time. Failing to test the system will lead to unfound errors, and chances are high that the system will fail. It is critical that an organization perform all phases in the SDLC during every project. Skipping any of the phases is sure to lead to system failure.

3. Failure to Manage Project Scope

It is natural for users to want everything—they would be especially happy if their computer even got up and fetched them a cup of coffee! As such, it is imperative to reduce or minimize features and functions. Feature creep occurs when developers add extra features not part of the initial requirements. Scope is a collection of requirements. Scope creep occurs when the scope of the project increases beyond the initial scope statement. Scope creep and feature creep are difficult to manage and can easily cause a project to fall behind schedule, increase costs, or both. Often, scope creep occurs, at times, innocently enough by a simple hallway discussion of adding ‘bells and whistles’. 

The key to reducing time and money is constraining scope to just those elements that are absolutely necessary. Optimizing scope minimizes risk and maximizes return. Project managers can discourage an unwieldy scope by keeping the executive sponsor informed and using a formal change management or change control system.

4. Failure to Manage Project Plan

Managing the project plan is one of the biggest challenges during systems development. The project plan is the road map the organization follows during the development of the system. Developing the initial project plan is the easiest part of the project manager’s job. Managing and revising the project plan is the hard part. The project plan is a living document since it changes almost daily on any project. Failing to monitor, revise, and update the project plan can lead to project failure.

5. Changing Technology

Many real-world projects have hundreds of business requirements, take years to complete, and cost millions of dollars. Gordon Moore, co-founder of Intel Corporation, observed in 1965 that chip density doubles every 18 months. This observation, known as Moore’s law, simply means that memory sizes, processor power, and so on, all follow the same pattern and roughly double in capacity every 18 months. As Moore’s law states, technology changes at an incredibly fast pace; therefore, it is possible to have to revise an entire project plan in the middle of a project as a result of a change in technology. Technology changes so fast that it is almost impossible to deliver an information system without feeling the pain of changing technology. Change management is all about setting realistic expectations. The importance of this critical factor cannot be understated. Almost nothing can cause a misalignment between expectations and deliverables more quickly than a failure to manage change.


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