8 Reasons Why Software Product Engineering Projects Fail


Software product engineering projects are large and challenging projects that involve a lot of planning, implementation, and monitoring to be completed. However, there are so many situations that fail to achieve their intended objectives as a result of avoidable mishaps. In our experience as software engineers and project managers, we have witnessed firsthand how projects fail and the catastrophic effect it has on organizations in terms of finance, manpower, and time. Here are eight key reasons projects go off the rails, along with technical problems and solutions for each.

1. Flawed Architectural Design

When the architectural design of a project is not well done, it is likely to be heavily handicapped right from the onset. Lack of proper architecture results in many problems, like the possibility of poor scalability, low performance, and hard maintenance. Some of the problems inherent in architectural design are that it is difficult to scale the monolithic structures, there is a poor division of responsibility and non-modular designs. These design flaws can lead to the intimate coupling among the components, which can be very hard to modify or swap within the whole system.

Our Solutions to successful Architectural Design

a. Microservices Architecture: Decompose the application into or between loosely coupled, independent services that can be deployed individually.

b. Layered Architecture: Aim at using layered architecture to minimize dependencies (e.g., UI layer, business layer, data layer).

c. Design Patterns: Make use of such design patterns as MVC, Dependency Injection, and Repository Pattern that would help to create more modular and easily maintainable projects.

d. Code Reviews and Architecture Assessments: This means performing code reviews and architecture assessments from time to time to ensure that no design defects are overlooked.

2. Poor Testing and QA

Lack of testing & QA, or inadequate testing & QA, can be costly as a faulty product may be released to the public, causing dissatisfaction among consumers. This is usually reflected by weaknesses such as low unit testing, poor integration testing, and rarely end-to-end testing. This arises from such factors as time constraints, shortage of funds, or not recognizing the value of QA. Because sometimes some bugs manage to escape detection in all these stages, unanticipated problems arise in the production process, and companies have to spend time and money to rectify them.

Our Solutions to Ensuring software quality

1. Automated Testing: Incorporate automated unit, integration, and end-to-end tests with the help of tools such as JUnit, Selenium, or Cypress.

2. Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment (CI/CD): This means that CI/CD pipelines should be used to guarantee that the modification of code is automatically subjected to tests and deployment.

3. Test Coverage Metrics: Monitor test coverage and always strive to achieve high coverage in order to target to cover all critical paths in the project.

4. Dedicated QA Team: Ensure you employ a full-fledged group of qualified testers whose imperative is to create and implement elaborate test strategies.

3. Lack of Scalability Planning

Scalability used negligently may make your product well developed for initial hit but it may reach a point where it does not operate effectively when larger traffic is applied on it. This is because such compatibility issues can bring about performance hitches, system crashes, and unsatisfactory usability. These problems are evident when an application deals with large numbers of users or information, such as database contention, server overutilization, or algorithms that don’t increase proportionally with user load.

Our Solutions for scalability

1. Horizontal Scaling: To implement scalability in your system, ensure that you use a horizontal growth approach to your system where you include more servers or nodes than the existing ones and use a load balancer.

2. Database Optimization: Optimize the high database usage and slow query rate by partitioning the database, creating indexes on the tables, and replicating the database.

3. Caching: Use caching approaches (Cache servers like Redis and Memcached) to off-load databases and enrich response rates.

4. Asynchronous Processing: Messages, such as RabbitMQ or Kafka, should be employed for asynchronous, non-h time-critical functionality.


4. Insufficient Backup and Disaster Recovery

The unfortunate thing about disasters is they occur when least expected, and if your project is not backed up and has no disaster recovery plan, then it is in a vulnerable position. Lack of proper backup approaches leads to data loss; inadequate emergency recovery plans cause companies to be offline for extended periods. Each of these situations is disastrous for your project, compromises your credibility, and costs you a lot of money.

Our Solutions to Ensure Data Resilience and Continuity

1. Automated Backups: Create periodic and frequent, if necessary, copies of all essential data and systems using a backup system such as AWS Backup or Azure Backup.

2. Disaster Recovery Plans: Create a detailed disaster recovery plan that should indicate failover solutions and define the terms RTO (Recovery Time Objective) and RPO (Recovery Point Objective).

3. Geographical Redundancy: To be on the safe side, it is advisable to employ geographically dispersed data centers so that data might be accessed even at the time of a specific geographical tragedy.

4. Regular Drills: Disaster recovery rehearsals should be performed on a regular basis in order to evaluate and improve the recovery plans.

5. Scope Creep

Scope creep, also known as scope blowout, is a common problem in project management where the scope of the project increases and gets out of control because of the addition of new features and requirements to the project without any analysis or planning. This can often result in emerging scope and continued to grow, extending the timeframes, increasing overall costs, and burdening the development team. If it is not well managed, scope creep may lead to the creation of a product that seeks to do everything then necessary yet fails to do so effectively.

Our Solutions to Effective Project Management

1. Requirement Management Tools: Tools should be used for controlling project requirements and changes; they are JIRA and Confluence, for example.

2. Change Control Process: Introduce a strict change control mechanism to assess the merits of new requirements before they can be incorporated.

3. Stakeholder Communication: Consult stakeholders with the aim of checking on the prevailing expectations and confirm on the defined project scope.

4. Prioritization Frameworks: To narrow down the core and the interesting features, use prioritization frameworks such as MoSCoW and Kano.

6. Accumulating Technical Debt

Technical debt can be defined as the failings that are deliberately incurred in the course of implementing a software system and which are made knowingly in order to meet certain schedule or cost requirements. Even though such measures are beneficial in the short run, they turn out to mount up in the long haul as they cause extra maintenance charges, lower capacity, and difficulty. Technical debt can be quite dangerous in a project sense. If not managed well, it will slow down development work and scaling.

Our Solutions to Managing Technical Debt

1. Refactoring: Always keep the codebase clean and review frequently to change or improve poor code to better solutions.

2. Code Reviews: Technical administrators must practice a peer code review technique in order to discover possible technical debt at an early stage.

3. Technical Debt Tracking: To deal with technical debt, one needs to apply such services as SonarQube for tracking the problems and plan improvement.

4. Allocate Time for Debt Repayment: Sprints should be assigned to fix and/or reduce tech debt and improve the overall quality of code.

7. Disjointed Large Teams

It is clear that large teams are useful, but if there is no coordination, the team might get out of control and slow down the overall progress. One disservice of having a large team is that communication may fail, goals may not be well aligned, and people may be duplicating their efforts. If unmanaged, these issues can cause systemic issues such as timeliness, product quality, and general team morale to suffer.

Our Solutions to Effective Team Management

1. Agile Frameworks: The large teams can be managed by applying sections that are inherent to the agile frameworks, including Scrum and SAFe.

2. Collaboration Tools: Leveling use of collaboration apps or project management apps like Slack, MS Teams, or Trello in order to improve the communication and cooperation.

3. Regular Stand-ups: It requires 15-30 minutes implementing Daily Stand-Up Meeting to keep the team in lineage and make prompt responses in case of issues.

4. Cross-functional Teams: Integrate a coordinate structure: break down large teams into smaller groups with cross-functionality in order to enhance both concentration and productivity.

8. Working with a Project Mindset Instead of a Product Mindset

A project mentality entails the achievement of a set of predefined objectives within the given timeline, unlike the product mentality, which mainly aims at the continuous enhancement of the product. Project-oriented thinking often results in a narrow perspective, considering time consumption as the dominant KPI and not the efficacy or quality of the end product. This can lead to the creation of a product that fulfills the initial/”first wave” needs but does not develop and address the second wave or subsequent needs.

Our Solutions to Streamlined Product Development

1. Continuous Delivery: To persistently deliver timely updates and enhancements, incorporate continuous delivery strategies.

2. User Feedback Loops: Use the feedback loops to ensure that customer feedback can be collected frequently and integrated into the system.

3. Product Roadmaps: Oversee the development of a product roadmap to indicate the long-term direction for the particular product.

4. DevOps Culture: Encourage a DevOps culture that promotes cross-teams’ constant cooperation for the ongoing development and growth of products.

In a nutshell

If you are aware of these eight reasons why software product engineering projects fail, you are to do away with them in cases where you find yourself implementing the software product engineering project. If these issues are tackled properly, there can be an enhanced likelihood of producing a satisfactory product that will be useful to the user and profitable to the business. In what ways do you deal with such issues in your projects? Let’s discuss it!

Azeez Bijin April 24, 2023