The total cost of poor software quality in the United States was an estimated $2.08 trillion in 2020, according to a report by Synopsys.
This is sure to be discouraging to entrepreneurs and other leaders in the tech space and beyond. After all, nobody wants their project to fail. But all too often, businesses encounter hiccups and believe them to be insurmountable — when, in fact, they can often salvage their projects.
Not sure what to do next? Here are common mistakes and how to fix them, plus tips for overall project success.
6 Common Sources of Problems and How to Fix Them
1. Failure to Understand the Requirements
Confusion about the requirements for a particular project can delay — or worse, derail — the software development process entirely. Requirements serve as goals that gear your project toward completion, and when team members, clients, or stakeholders are unclear about what those requirements are and what they mean, it will be difficult to know when you’ve achieved success.
The Fix: Involve all stakeholders in the requirements-gathering process early on. Make sure you and your team translate them into non-technical terms that laypeople can understand, and articulate them in all official contracts and documents associated with the project. Clarify any priorities and concerns upfront, too.
2. Changing Requirements
Another common problem software development teams experience is frequently changing requirements. Every time a requirement changes, the project timeline usually lengthens, and the team is forced to deal with more workarounds.
The Fix: Again, software development teams must work closely with clients to establish clear requirements. They should also explain the importance of solidifying these goals and list the issues they will inevitably experience should they change too frequently. This, too, should be outlined in the contract. Now, I’m not saying that requirements should remain unchanged from start to finish—modern projects often need to modify requirements as development progresses. What I’m saying is that you don’t change them all the time, just when it’s critical to do so.
3. Lack of Deadlines
Deadlines give workers something to work toward. Without them, they are, in a way, unconstrained by limitations — they can, instead, take a more lackadaisical approach. This is no way to approach a software development project, which demands close monitoring at all times.
The Fix: There’s a very simple fix to this problem: have deadlines! Establish realistic timelines and benchmarks for key deliverables along the way, such that your project is broken up into approachable, easy-to-tackle pieces.
4. Conflicts Among Team Members
Disagreements happen from time to time, but larger-scale conflicts can threaten to wreak havoc on your software project. They can lead to less productivity, poor communication, delays in delivery, and other issues.
The Fix: Team members don’t have to be best friends, of course. However, it’s important that everyone is able to function as a unit. It’s the leader’s job to ensure that disputes are settled before they escalate. One way to help address them is to hone your communication systems so everyone has a chance to raise concerns. It’s also your responsibility to check in with developers routinely to ensure they feel heard.
5. Skipping Key Steps
Sometimes, development teams take the time they need to build the product but fail to complete critical steps. The quality assurance (QA) process, for example, is one important step that is absolutely pivotal for any software development project. If development teams overlook it, they risk sending incomplete and buggy products to market.
The Fix: In order to deliver quality products to consumers, you must not skip steps that are necessary for your project. Make sure you have a thorough plan accounting for each necessary step prior to starting the creation process.
6. Lack of Skills on the Team
You could have an exemplary team, one that consistently produces high-quality work, but it’s possible that you need certain specialized skills that are simply lacking among your employees. If that’s the case, you won’t be able to build the product you want.
The Fix: If you have the requisite skills on your team already, that’s great. But often, that simply won’t be the case. For particular skill sets, one cost-effective option is to look elsewhere, such as by outsourcing. By choosing an outside team, that doesn’t mean you’re replacing your in-house workers — you’re just augmenting your current team by adding professionals with the qualifications you need to complete your project.
4 Tips to Improve the Process
1. Find the Cause of the Problem
This is a key step before you attempt to resolve anything: you need to figure out the source of the issue itself. Perhaps it’s a lack of communication, or you’re lacking the resources you need to complete the job effectively. Whatever it is, make sure you launch a thorough investigation before you go any further.
2. Keep in Close Contact with the Client
Always remember the reason you’re building this software: you’re doing it for the end user. The client may be this end user, or they could be the intermediary, the one that will deliver the product to the consumer. Either way, it’s pivotal to stay in close communication with the client, ensuring they are up to date and satisfied with the way the project is going.
3. Budget Appropriately
Establish an appropriate budget for your project, accounting for resources, labor, and other costs. This will require extensive research to determine how much you’ll need to spend, accounting for timelines and other factors that could cause costs to rise. Work closely with vendors and clients to have a clearer picture of the budget you need.
4. Define KPIs
Key performance indicators (KPIs) aren’t identical to project requirements. These time-bound performance measurables serve as benchmarks and goals for your project, and you should clearly define them upfront. They could refer to the amount of time in which the project should be completed, the processes by which they should approach each step, and the value of the software itself, for example.
Too often, salvageable projects are left by the wayside because teams encounter issues and don’t know what to do next. By taking a step back, examining what the issue is, and considering how you can feasibly tackle it, you could very well save your project — and even make it successful.