3 (Very Human) Reasons Software Projects Fail

Ward Andrews
By Ward Andrews
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There is one fundamental reason many software projects fail - because we're all human.

That’s more than a trite saying. In over 20 years of working on software projects, we’ve found the human factor is the most critical to success.

No matter how hard we try, we aren’t perfect robots creating perfect products. We’re people trying our best to help other people have better experiences.

In fact, it’s usually our attempts to hide these imperfections that gets us into the most trouble.

We try to focus on the business and what makes sense to the bottom line.

We pour money and resources into projects and set hard deadlines meant to keep us on track and in scope.

We assume that if we establish the right process everything will fall into place.

In this month’s series of blog posts, we’re taking a deeper look at three human reasons software projects fail.

1. Lack of Empathy: There’s a reason we start every Drawbackwards project with research. It establishes empathy as a core focus of the end product. If you don’t know what your users, stakeholders, and teammates need, you’ll have a hard time knowing when you’ve been successful.

2. Lack of Planning: Every project needs time, staff, and budget. Every project also needs the flexibility to scale up or down to find the right balance of all those things. You can’t do that without planning and allowing for adjustments along the way.

3. Lack of Communication: The most human factor of them all is also the trickiest to master. The key is finding the right way to make sure everybody is on the same page as priorities change.

Our goal with these posts is not to show you how to avoid these mistakes. Rather, we want to show you how to lean in with empathy.

By acknowledging the challenges the people in front of - and behind - your software projects face, you can better set them up for success.