Building new software can be a time-consuming project. Their complexity often makes them prone to delays. In fact, it's not uncommon for a software project to take longer to complete than initially estimated. However, such delays can have negative consequences. Any time a project falls behind schedule, it will cost money, making it more likely that the project will go over budget. Setbacks can also delay its launch, which can tarnish the public perception of the project.
Many factors can lead to project delays, from poorly defined requirements and unrealistic deadlines to a lack of project management. Understanding how such delays happen can help you prevent them or at least account for them during the planning stages of your software project. Familiarize yourself with these primary causes that lead to software projects falling behind schedule.
1. Bad Project Planning
Bad project planning is one of the primary causes that leads to project delays. Project managers and business analysts should be clear about what needs to happen, and when and who is responsible for it, but this isn't always done. Poor project management can lead to unclear project requirements, communication problems, misunderstandings over deadlines, and other project issues.
A lack of effective project management can cause bad project planning. However, be aware that project delays are inevitable; it's rare to complete a project without setbacks. The key is to develop the project plan with contingencies in mind to make up for delays.
Tip: Prioritize Tasks
Prioritize project tasks and set deadlines so that the most difficult tasks are completed first. When project managers prioritize tasks, they consider how long the task should take and who is responsible for it. Prioritizing will help you stay on schedule and avoid revamping your project plan later because of unforeseen delays. Project Managers should also get input from the developers regarding priorities that may have contingencies that must be developed first.
2. Vague or ambiguous requirements
It's critical for your business to define exactly what the software is expected to do, where data comes from, who users are, and security expectations for instance. To avoid confusion it's better to take a little extra time up front to define the business and technical requirements. It's faster and less expensive to change requirements in a document than change code after it's been written.
3. Improper Goals Were Set
Poorly established goals can lead to project delays because the project manager doesn't have clear objectives. For project managers, setting the right goals is essential for project success. For example, if your project goal doesn't include a project timeline, the project will likely go over budget and end up delayed. It’s impossible to hit an unknown target.
The most effective way to prevent delays due to poor project management is to set project goals that are measurable and clearly defined so you can see the project's progress.
Tip: Implement A Realistic Schedule
Project delays are inevitable, but project managers can significantly reduce the impact by implementing a strict project schedule. A project manager should set clear deadlines with all project team members and stick to them as much as possible. Ideally the developers should have input into how long tasks should take to complete, otherwise timelines that are assigned may be arbitrary and inaccurate. For example, if team members are expected to complete a task within 4 hours, they should be accountable to meet that expectation as long as they helped come up with that estimate.
A project manager can use a project schedule to predict and track project progress, which will help you stay on the right path without falling behind. A project schedule is a strict and realistic project plan created to outline project tasks and deadlines.
4. Challenges During A Step
When project managers create a project plan, they usually start by defining what steps will be needed for the project's completion. After identifying your project tasks and deadlines, it's normal that problems may arise when you're in the middle of a project step.
For example, if you are in the middle of developing your project's wireframes and one member cannot complete their tasks for that day, project managers must understand how the delay might affect future project steps.
Fortunately, there are a few ways project managers can prevent project delays due to challenges during project steps:
Tip: Use SOPs
An SOP (standard operating procedure) provides detailed instructions for project managers to follow to help them complete project tasks. SOPs can help you avoid project delays by outlining what needs to be done and how long it should take.
A project manager can use SOPs as a guideline for project tasks, which will ensure the project is completed on time without any unexpected setbacks. For example, if your team members are not following project guidelines, you could use project management software to help identify if they are working within project SOPs.
Tip: Track Progress Closely
If you're not monitoring project tasks and check in often to ensure they're being completed on time, there will likely be a delay when project deadlines get too close, or team members take longer than expected for their assigned task.
There's always a risk of project delays when project managers don't track progress. If you're not aware that team members are not meeting their project deadlines and tasks take longer than expected, it could result in project delays or even lead the project to be unsuccessful.
4. The Client Is A Challenge
There are a variety of project challenges that project managers may face, one being the client. Project managers may have difficulty staying on track when they are working with clients who aren't communicating their needs clearly or who may have trouble collaborating with the team. There are a few ways project managers can avoid project delays due to issues with clients:
- Understand your client's vision and create realistic project tasks that align with their objectives.
- Be clear on project expectations and always keep the project's timeline in mind.
- Document project tasks so they can be accessed at a later time if needed.
Tip: Forecast Results & Estimate Timelines
Forecasting the results and project timelines is essential so that clients can better understand what to expect. You may also want to set aside extra time in the schedule for revisions in case the client changes their mind about something or wasn't clear about what they wanted in the first place. By setting aside such time, you can prevent the project from falling behind schedule due to issues with the client.
5. Having An Incohesive Team
In project management, an incohesive team may result from not using project management software or project guidelines. For example, if project managers are assigning work to team members without following SOPs and project tasks don't align with what is outlined in the project plan, there will likely be a communication issue among team members, leading to project delays. Ways that project managers can avoid project delays caused by an incohesive team include:
Tip: Hold Active Team Meetings
Project managers should hold active project meetings and encourage team members to be in attendance. There will likely be project delays if team members don't know what's going on, whether a project is behind schedule, or if new requirements have been added. Project managers can relay such information to the team during team meetings. In Agile software development projects, a daily standup meeting is essential and should only last 15 minutes. This will help ensure everyone is on the same page.
Tip: Be Proactive
Communicate expectations to your team and use project management software for task delegation. This allows the project to be completed efficiently without any communication issues among team members. Some tools to help you include:
- Using SOPs as guidelines for project tasks which will ensure collaboration doesn't suffer.
- Making project tasks clear and assigning specific persons responsible for each task to ensure project guidelines are followed without exceptions.
6. Lack of Transparency and Open Communication
Clear and open communication is critical. There will be challenges during development, and they must be addressed when discovered. Blaming others or having a large ego that prevents constructive criticism generally prevents successful development projects. These best practices will help avoid this:
- Encourage open communication among project stakeholders and team members.
- Admit when mistakes are made and correct them immediately. Quality software development is difficult and errors will be made. Catch them early and often and move on.
- Share project goals with all project stakeholders. Do not assume that stakeholders understand what is expected of them.
7. Ineffective Third-Party Collaborators
Software development projects often make use of third-party collaborators. If project managers don't create a contract with these collaborators and set expectations for deadlines, there are bound to be project delays since it will take longer than expected for them to deliver their work. Standard procedures for third parties entail:
- Creating project contracts with third-party collaborators.
- Establishing deadlines for project tasks that need to be completed by the collaborator. Include a list of deliverables and specifications in the contract.
Tip: Communicate Better
Project managers should always make sure project stakeholders communicate with third-party collaborators, such as vendors, to ensure project timelines are met and deliverables match what is expected. It's also vital for project managers to use project management software for third-party collaborator communication to keep better track of the project timeline and milestones.
7. Sudden or Gradual Changes In The Scope of
One of the leading causes of project delays is sudden or gradual changes in project scope. Project managers should always be aware of this and be prepared to change project plans accordingly. Since there's no way to avoid such changes if they occur, you'll have to be able to adjust. Keep track of all the little feature changes along the way. They add up over time.
Tip: Set New Deadlines
Project managers should always be aware of project scope changes and adjust project timelines accordingly. He or she must include all stakeholders in this process to prevent project delays. When project scope changes, it will take time for all stakeholders to adjust and set new project deadlines accordingly. Communicate project scope changes to the client as well to keep them informed.
8. Approval Issues
Project delays can happen because of approval issues. If it's taking too long to receive feedback or approval, project delays can occur, especially if a request has been denied or feedback ends up being poor. Avoid such issues by:
- Making project deliverables stand out in the project plan.
- Following up with stakeholders about feedback, and requesting for it to be delivered.
- Scheduling project meetings in advance to avoid last-minute changes or surprises.
9. Wrong Development Methodology
When planning your software project, choosing the right development methodology will go a long way towards avoiding potential delays. The wrong methodology can kill your ability to stay on schedule. For example, choosing a waterfall methodology means that the client won't see the software until later in the development cycle. If the client isn't happy and requests changes, it may require you to track back to the beginning of the cycle, putting you way behind schedule. An agile methodology requires owner approval at sprints, making it easier and quicker to make adjustments and changes when needed.
The right development methodology will enable project stakeholders to see project progress and provide valuable feedback, which will allow project managers to manage project scope better.
The Benefits Of Using A Project Management Tool
Project delays are a project management problem. But project managers can help to avoid project delays by using project management software, such as Basecamp or JIRA. The following are a few of the features you take advantage of when using a good project management tool:
The project manager can use the product backlog to allocate project resources and better plan project timelines. Basecamp, for example, automatically tracks project progress, project deliverables, and project updates. Product Backlogs are a helpful way to manage project scope changes because they maintain project goals and project milestones while changing project scope.
Gantt charts visualize project dependencies and project deadlines. The project manager can use the tool to plan project milestones, which will help stakeholders know when they need to approve or review particular project phases. The Gantt Chart will also enable project stakeholders to see project progress and deliverables without needing to ask for status updates or wait until the end of the project cycle.
A visual timeline is a project management tool that provides project stakeholders with an overview of project progress and project deliverables. Such an overview provides users with a better understanding of the project's schedule.
Project Management Software
Using project management software can help make it easier to keep track of your team's progress. You can monitor each member to determine how far they are in their assigned tasks and whether they're behind or not. You'll be able to foresee potential delays based on whether team members are behind. Using such a tool can also help hold team members accountable for their work since they know that they're being monitored and that the next steps in the development cycle are dependent on their ability to get their work done right and on time.
Completing A Software Build On Time
Software project delays are a common occurrence. However, project managers can proactively plan the project to prevent potential delays and account for potential delays. The most effective way to do both is to use project management software. Project management software can help improve your ability to set milestones, track progress, hold your team accountable, and keep stakeholders in the loop, preventing many of the common issues that tend to cause delays. The more capable you are of accounting for potential delays and preventing them altogether, the more capable you'll be of completing your software project on time.