Why do software projects fail? Navigating the common pitfalls in adopting bespoke software
24 October 2023
Many businesses view the adoption of new software as a game-changer, promising better productivity, increased profitability, and improved staff engagement.
However, with any substantial operational change there are also a set of challenges that must be overcome.
In this article, we explore the common pitfalls companies face when embarking on new software adoption, offering guidance on how to effectively mitigate against them.
Pitfall One: Lack of customer-side project management
A software project’s most significant risk is the absence of dedicated customer-side project management. If you can successfully address this challenge, then you are well on the way to making your project a success.
A very common scenario is a business owner or manager identifies the need for new software, actively participates in selecting a software product or provider, and then relinquishes the project management responsibilities to their operational team.
This approach often leads to unnecessary project delays and complications as operational staff, while possessing deep operational knowledge, may not be best suited to managing a complex software project alongside their day-to-day responsibilities.
A more effective strategy is for the business owner to designate a dedicated project manager from their side. This project manager takes the lead, ensuring the project stays on track, comprehends and defines business requirements and effectively conveys these needs to the software provider. They also become the ‘software champion’, leading the adoption of the new software with the rest of the business.
Pitfall Two: Overcomplication
When commissioning new bespoke software, it’s easy to become entangled in the myriad of possibilities available and define overly complex requirements. Complex requirements can extend project timelines, compromise software quality, and overwhelm end-users, resulting in reduced user satisfaction.
To mitigate these challenges, it’s crucial to prioritise clear, well-documented, and regularly updated requirements, maintain open communication, focus on essential features, and embrace an iterative development approach.
The key is to keep things straightforward and focus on Minimum Viable Product (MVP). Further insights on the MVP concept can be found in our dedicated blog post, “What is MVP?”
Pitfall Three: Neglecting testing
A common issue is the tendency to delay software testing until the very end, just before the software is set to go live.
Businesses often desire seamless software functionality from the outset, making them hesitant to allocate substantial time to testing. However, neglecting testing until the end of an iterative development cycle can have serious consequences.
Firstly, it increases the risk of not identifying critical issues until too late in the development process, making them challenging and costly to rectify. Secondly, it can lead to a mismatch between the software’s intended functionality and what has been developed. Furthermore, neglecting testing undermines the iterative development approach, which needs a regular feedback loop to be effective.
To mitigate these potential issues, it is advisable to integrate testing throughout the development process. Effective testing should be methodical and comprehensive, replicating various user interactions with the system and making sure you account for ‘non-typical’ or ‘non-linear’ scenarios.
Pitfall Four: Data migration
Data migration is often the final hurdle in many bespoke software projects; especially for well-established businesses with extensive historical data or complex interconnecting datasets.
We have seen data migration challenges bring software projects to a complete standstill. To address this challenge, careful planning is essential. Consider how the new software will handle legacy data, and make management decisions about whether to migrate all existing data or find alternative solutions.
Importantly, don’t leave this until the end of the project. It needs careful consideration at the planning stage as decisions about data migration may well influence how the software is developed.
In summary, adopting new bespoke software can deliver transformative benefits to businesses, but it also presents several challenges.
Recognising and mitigating these pitfalls, especially concerning project management, complexity, testing, and data migration, is essential to increase the likelihood of a successful software implementation.
- Our 4-step process for software delivery
- What is MVP?
- How to create a simple process map for your business
- Measuring productivity: our productivity metrics
- Our Productivity Story