Top 3 mistakes that can lead to software project failures

Inexperienced and/or over-eager technology workers often unintentionally increase the risk of software project failures due to three common mistakes:

  1. Lack of transparency
  2. Over engineering
  3. “Shiny objects”

shiny objects syndrome

One of the biggest challenge with each of these classic mistakes is they often go unnoticed, potentially even rewarded or encouraged by project leaders and project managers … until it is too late and the damage is done.   But why and how does this happen so often in our industry?

Lack of transparency.  This comes down to one thing.   Communication.   In over 25 years of experience, I have observed that this is often a skill that many software developers simply have to work on as it does not come naturally.   Most software engineers are logical, introspective thinkers and very much focused on getting right to work problem solving.  Generally, people of action and few words.   The problem is, software developers often have a tendency to jump right in and start “doing” without sharing or vetting their ideas, or taking the time to research all viable options before starting to change code.   Communication, and full transparency are critical for cost-effective design selection and productive development phases.

Over engineering.  This is a personal pet peeve of mine because I have been burned so many times by this mistake, both as a developer and project manager!  WAY TOO MUCH time can be spent on creating an elegant, clever, over-engineered solution, especially when a simple direct approach is available, can be a huge time waster … and is often very costly!

As problem solvers, we enjoy technical challenges and like to avoid having to revisit code by  (over) engineering a solution trying to anticipate when end users will change their mind … um I mean requirements.  But in doing so, we may fail to realize or consider the unnecessary cost and effort involved.   Don’t fix what aint broke, yet!

Often, complex solutions that may be considered by the creator to be “brilliant” and “ultimately flexible” can be poorly documented and extremely difficult to understand or maintain.  Worse still, after hours of attempting to make these over engineered solutions work, the effort can prove fruitless and abandoned as unfeasible.  Use the KISS principle …

keep it simple

Shiny objects.  In a word, distractions.   In a software project, this typically manifests itself in scope creep.  This, however, is scope creep that originates from within the development team … “hey, let’s do this too while we are in here”, or “wouldn’t this be cool?”   These suggestions can often be encouraged and accepted by the Project Lead or Manager as a client “bonus” … as it comes from an enthusiatic developer team member who swears they can do it without affecting the delivery timeline.   The PM may also accept these to get buy-in from the developer and to avoid discouraging this type of proactive behaviour for team building.  However, these types of side-tracks, often combined with lack of transparency, can be a project killer.   Stay on track, stay focused, don’t get tempted by shiny objects.

Change impact analysis tools by FinditEZ provide a full 360 degree view of your entire code stack.  Produce more accurate estimates, identify the right resource skillsets required, quickly run “what if” change impact cost scenarios to confidently select the most cost effective option.   Transparent, easily distributed change lists for clear and simple communication.  Perfectly engineered solutions.  Find-it-EZ – Software change made simple.

About the author

Ken Gnazdowsky holds a Bachelor of (Computing) Science degree from Simon Fraser University. A recipient of the Governor General of Canada bronze medallion, he began his post-secondary education at Brandon University on an academic scholarship, Ken has worked in the software development industry for over 30 years. Ken is co-founder and President of Find it EZ Software Corp., creators of the Microsoft award-winning products, Code Search Pro and Dev Surge 365.

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