When you embark on a software development project, those early days are marked by a palpable enthusiasm as you think of all possibilities when your application is finally available to the market. Unfortunately, many software projects end in frustration and failure, a far cry from the excitement that marked their beginnings.

Some failures are unavoidable (for instance, sudden market disruption or regulatory changes that render the application irrelevant). Most times though, it’s what you do before and during the project that will determine its success. We look at the most common causes of software project failure.

1. No Feasibility Study

Every idea can feel perfect before it’s tested and subjected to critical analysis. If the idea behind a software project is unworkable from the get-go, then any effort you apply towards developing the software will be pointless. Before you commit yourself to the project, undertake a comprehensive feasibility study to prove the idea’s sensibility and practicality.

Have a clear picture of what you want it to do, who is the target market and how you will measure the idea’s success. A feasibility analysis eliminates ambiguity and helps identify threats you hadn’t envisaged before.

2. Unrealistic Budgets

It’s not always easy to accurately predict the cost of a software development project. In particular, large and complex projects have so many dependencies, stakeholders and moving parts that it can be difficult to tell just how much the final expenditure will be. However, it can be and has been done before. Just give sufficient time and thought to it.

It doesn’t have to be a fixed price — allow some flexibility to accommodate necessary changes and unexpected events during the project’s lifetime. The more information you have on the project requirements the better prepared you will be to create a realistic budget.

3. Unrealistic Timelines

A software project helps breathe life into an idea. The owner of the idea is often keen on getting it to the market as quickly as possible. Many software developers fall into this trap and make unrealistic promises due to client pressure. You may feel that giving a long delivery timeframe may make the client question your competence but it’s far better than promising delivery times that you can never meet.

Most clients and project sponsors are fairly reasonable people. If you can provide a logical explanation as to why the project will take as long as you think it will, they’ll be happy to give you the time you need to deliver a high-quality product. Remember that most software project budget overruns are due to missed deadlines.

4. Poor Communication

Lack of communication is one of the most common causes of project failure. Irrespective of how many people are involved, software projects ride on teamwork and collaboration. The project sponsor, project manager, developers, and third-party vendors must all work in harmony to ensure seamless project execution.

Channels and frequency of communication must be agreed upon at the start of the project. Contact persons for different aspects of the project should be identified and announced to all stakeholders. There must be an escalation procedure when conversations appear to hit a brick wall.

5. Lack of the Right Tools

Software development is a technical task. Ergo, you cannot deliver on a software project if you don’t have all the technical tools needed to do so. The tools the developer will need range from computers, servers, and routers, to the right operating system, programming platform and even security applications, such as data loss prevention software.

The lack of technical tools can be a paralyzing impediment to the most skilled programmers in the world. After going through the feasibility studies and the project requirements, a software developer should seek to have a meeting as early as possible where they can lay on the table what technology infrastructure they’ll need to deliver on the project.

6. Scope Creep

Scope creep is a stubborn problem especially for software projects that have relatively long delivery times (such as 6 months or 1 year). As the name suggests, it creeps up on you. The client or project sponsor will think of new features they need but hadn’t included in the initial requirements.

Since they don’t want to wait for a new version of the software, they may approach the developer to add these features. In severe cases of scope creep, the software product may be radically different from what the developer had in mind at the start.

Avoiding scope creep takes a polite but decisive approach by the developer. The window for new ideas should only be open at the start of the project. Once this is agreed on by all parties, there should be no changes to the scope until the project is eventually delivered.

Projects do not fail by accident. By steering clear of these pitfalls, you can give your project a much better shot at success.