A successful IT project doesn't happen by chance. There are rules that you need to follow in order to increase their chances of success.
And despite years of developing software, new methodologies, studies and articles on the topic, still 75% of IT projects are considered failures by their initiators, Gartner’s study reveals.
So how can you make sure that your project won’t fail? Are there any other resources to read, podcasts to listen to or webinars to attend? All this may do, but I decided to take a different approach with this issue.
Here’s a list of rules to follow in order to set your project for success, based on the most common reasons for project failures.
What makes an IT project successful?
First, you need to establish when we can tell that an IT project succeeded. You could say that these 3 conditions have to be met.
A project has to be delivered:
- according to the specification
- within a budget
- on time
But is it enough for a project to be deemed successful? According to the Project Management Offices there’s one more thing missing here: meeting business criteria.
Based on the most common causes of project failures, I’ve proposed 8 tips you should follow at every stage of your project.
Setting IT project for success
1. Find a skilled team
Hiring a software development company you don’t only hire the programmers themselves. You get an access to a whole team, including other important roles like PMs experienced in product development, QA specialists and graphic designers.
Plus, hiring a team has a huge advantage over choosing freelancers. What is it? A team of IT professionals have most probably already worked together.
They know each other, they communicate with each other well, so they are able to better support each other, share information and collaborate on your project.
Looking for software developers, find a vendor that is an expert in their field. You can use directories like Clutch to filter companies by their expertise, and then use reviews and ratings to find developers with a proven track record.
Sidenote: We’re software developers with over 6 years of experience in delivering IT projects. We can help you find what’s best for your startup and turn your idea into code. Estimate your project with us.
2. Choose the right tech stack
Along with choosing a skilled team goes deciding on the right tech stack for your project. It matters because, depending on this choice, your project may be prone to changes in technology, so the code is up to date longer.
As new frameworks and libraries come up all the time, you need an expert’s judgement whether they are worth using in your project. Or maybe it’s safer to use the tried-and-tested ones?
Need a hand choosing a tech stack for your project? A good IT company will guide you towards the best tools tech stack you should go for.
3. Form a plan
To make sure you create a successful IT project, you need to create plan before you start. Is there an order of deliverables you would like to maintain? Do you want to focus on an MVP first before coding the rest of functionalities? Have you planned a launch campaign already so there is a strict due date for the project?
Creating a plan will help you and your tech partner decide what is possible in what timeframe, so they can include as many variables in their own planning.
To have a bird’s-eye-view of the project, create a high level plan. This way you’ll be able to manage goals, dependencies, available resources, together with a timeline and a budget, so you won’t miss any important factor.
4. Gather requirements and objectives
After you choose a software development team to deliver your product, requirement gathering is an important next step. Your tech partner will need detailed information including both business objectives and the scope of the project.
You can share your big idea with a team during one or more scoping sessions. These are generally followed by a proposal or a Statement of Work (SoW) – a document that states exactly what should be delivered by your tech partner in order to meet your requirements and business objectives.
Scoping sessions rely on questionnaires that help to organize your idea and what’s needed to deliver the project. A SOW we use ourselves includes:
- Phases and tools
- Project description
- Description of services
- Supplier and client deliverables
- Known technical considerations
- Known design considerations
- Budget and payments
- Caveats, assumptions and dependencies
- Certain terms, conditions and requirements
5. Follow a proven methodology
Reinventing the wheel may not be the best idea, especially when your project is at stake. That’s why you should trust dependable methodologies instead of trying to figure things out yourself.
Hiring a software development company, use their project manager’s help to establish processes you will follow later on. Agile is nowadays a commonly practiced approach to deliver software.
Agile project management breaks down the project into smaller deliverables and deals with them one by one, iteratively, streamlining software development. Its focus is on communication and feedback, adapting to changes, and producing working results.
Another term you should get familiar with is Scrum. It’s a framework used to make software development even easier. Unlike Agile, Scrum isn’t a methodology. It’s a heuristic approach using events (e.g. sprints, meetings) and artifacts (e.g. product backlog) to improve cross-functional team collaboration within a project.
Following Agile and Scrum principles will improve communication between you and your vendor, and will help to put structure into building your project.
6. Focus on communication
An important aspect of every project, stressed by both Agile and Scrum, is communication. It covers both the information flow within the team, but also between you and your vendor.
The reason you should take this issue seriously is that poor communication is one of the reasons IT projects fail. According to researchers, it’s not the lack of technology, as we have emails, phones, messengers and communication platforms to use. The problem is rather in “how” it’s done.
To communicate with your software vendor effectively, apply these rules:
- Focus on limited number of issues to make the subject clear.
- Be explicit.
- Aim for regular communication to avoid longer emails.
You should also agree on the channels you and your team will use to communicate, to avoid duplicating messages across different platforms or missing some important information later on.
7. Get involved
Lack of top management involvement is another reason of IT projects’ failures. As you’re the one who knows best what’s your business objective and how you want to achieve it, get involved in the project early on and monitor the progress till completion.
Getting involved in the project and supporting your team may improve their performance, financial efficiency and timely execution. Be careful, though, as too much of control may be a barrier for innovation.
Get involved in the planning and implementation phases, to later on focus only on reviewing the progress, ideally every iteration. The reason for that is simple – it’s easier to fix something as it occurs, than redo the same work later on.
8. Set realistic deadline and budget
Unrealistic timelines result in low quality outcomes. There is a small chance that rushed software development will result in successful IT projects, but it’s more likely that programmers will make mistakes or overlook something.
Inaccurate estimates may lead to unfinished project (if you end up out of funds) or to project going over budget. In another scenario you might also need to cut some functionalities as developing them will turn out to be too costly for you.
Setting realistic deadline and budget will give programmers time and resources they need to fully implement project requirements.
If you want to join successful entrepreneurs and grow your startup, then focusing on these tips to better start and manage your project is a definitely a step forward.
Need a hand with developing your idea? We’re a team of software developers with over 6 years of experience. Get in touch with us to estimate your project.