How to determine if your software project will fail and what you can do to save it

So you’ve just started a new software project. Perhaps you’re on a new team and new company or maybe you’re a consultant or a full timer. No matter, you may have experienced this feeling, You’ve quickly surmised this project will fail. If you’ve been doing this for a long time most likely have an idea of what causes these failures. I’ve broke them down to the most redundant items I’ve experienced  as a developer. These three things while seemingly are obvious, derail the best intentions. I’ve come to realize you can only have two at a time to have a successful project. When you see a project with all three most likely it’s headed for failure.

Wrong People

Angry developer yelling at team

Crazy people like this on your team?

A successful team can be the most critical aspect to a successful project. Having people in place that trust, respect and complement others skill sets.  This person is usually a diva developer. The person who’s opinions scream in the face of the facts. Usually they are the squeakiest wheel that is always heard but, has the least valuable input. The person who seemingly is in a bad mood 90% of the time and lets everyone share it.  Move this person  off the project or in a silo.  Working on a team where this doesn’t happen can quickly deteriorate a projects path and quickly derail the project.

 

Poor Projects

Sometimes it’s most difficult to realize that you’re working on the wrong stuff.  The team has done some amazing work and people are impressed. The customers however are mum on what’s been produced. Maybe you’ve been on a project like this. It started out as the cool thing to do and priorities shifted, scope was modified but the work tasked didn’t. If you’re a developer you’ve most likely seen this occur when you’ve been working months on a project and you release the final product and it’s a null victory. No one cares if a tree falls in the forest. Always take time to ensure that this is the right thing to be doing. If no one cares then most likely it’s the wrong project.

Awful Politics

Politics is something that most developers never have to play into. Sadly this is where the uppers make decisions and the developers have to live within these means.

Politics are usually things that are hard to change. Usually this can be summed up to occurrences such as:  XYZ committee needs oversight before we can decide or we need include “{person with no seemingly valuable input}” on this. Sometimes this falls into the category of deadlines have been set by our customers who don’t realize this is twice the amount of work we initially agreed upon but we need to get our foot in the door quickly. Usually with politics it doesn’t change fast at all. It takes a long term solution to fix. Working with the business owners to help them realize what is possible while keeping them satisfied is usually a tight rope walk.

Help I have all three!

What can you change to quickly fix to save your project you’re most likely asking? Most project managers quickly realize they need to change their team. Usually it’s the fastest thing that can me modified. Next, evaluate the project and make sure it’s still the right course of action. Last, but not least is working with the customers to modify political relationships. In most successful projects you can only have two. Usually these two boil down to difficult projects & politics. I’ve been on several projects where the only thing that can be changed is the team. Work to figure out what you can change quickly to have a successful project.

 

TLDR;

Choose wisely

Crazy People, Politics & Projects cause project failure. You can only have two. Choose wisely.