20 reasons why software projects fail

From outsized expectations to fundamental feature changes, software development projects get derailed — or declared failures — thanks to a variety of project management and technical factors.

14 reasons why software projects fail

Every software project begins with big dreams and grand visions. Somewhere in an alternative universe, there is a project that fulfills every dream but all too often software projects in our universe stumble toward the finish line and sometimes cross it. 

Of course, by definition, software project failure isn’t a binary thing. You can end up with code that runs well but no one uses. Or you can end up with code that won’t even compile. Sometimes you can salvage something useful from the flaming wreckage and sometimes it’s best to run away before it explodes.

When the smoldering mess cools, the autopsies begin, as people want to know what went wrong. Here are the most common culprits.

Too few team members

Trying to do too much with too few programmers is a common problem. Developers can only grind out so much code before they burn out. I once worked on a team where the manager thought the right way to squeeze more work from agile teams is to schedule each “sprint” so it began immediately after the previous one. No thoughtful pauses to figure out what was working and what wasn’t. Sprint 42 ended Wednesday at 1:59pm and Sprint 43 began on Wednesday at 2:00pm. Retrospective analysis meetings were scheduled after the next sprint already started. Some clever guy suggested they be renamed “marathons” and soon found another job.

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