How To Save A Failing Technology Project


It’s the first big technology project your small business has taken on, and things are not going well.  Maybe your web design is behind schedule.  Maybe your custom software developer is creating bugs, but can’t fix them.  Maybe that email marketing integration with your website still isn’t done.  You’re starting to worry.  What can you do?

Don’t feel like you’re alone.  It is said that as many as 50% of all software and web project fail.  You may have one of these projects on your hands right now – a project that held tons of promise, but veered off course along the way.  Having been called in to rescue dozens, if not hundreds, of such projects, 3 high-leverage actions have proven to be valuable in trying to save a project – reduce, re-examine, and re-affirm.

Reduce the size of the project.  Size matters!  In software and web work, we refer to the size of a project as “scope”.  The #1 cause of project failure is trying to do too much in too little time.  Would you like to successfully deliver most of the project, or fail to deliver any of it?  When dealing with an at-risk project, this is the first hard choice you have to make – deciding what must be included now, and what can be left for later.

Pull back on that scope lever hard, and trust your development team – only they can tell you how long it will really take to implement the remaining features.

Re-examine the original project plan.  Every project plan has assumptions built in – yes, even yours!  Common assumptions often have to do with scheduling – assuming that each team member will take X sick days and holidays, that critical feedback will be provided on time, that no emergencies will arise and de-prioritize the project in your business, etc.  Scour the plan for assumptions and test them; are any of them wrong?  If so, you’ve just found a contributing factor to the project being at-risk.  Change or eliminate the problematic assumption, see how that changes the project plan, and whether it buys you additional time, money, staff or other resources.

Re-affirm the buy-in of your top levels of management.  You can cut features, add budget, slip the delivery date, and re-write all the assumptions, but if your top managers are not on board with the project, odds are it will fail – even if you’re the owner or president of the business!  Whether you’re managing up or down, management needs to be bought in and willing to be an advocate for the project team, not an adversary.  Removing obstacles from the path of the project team should be the #1 priority of anyone managing a project that finds itself in trouble.  Once management is truly bought in, their influence and protection can make for an environment that allows the project to recover.

Software is difficult; many organizations deliver failed software projects, and Cogeian Systems can help you to save your at-risk or broken custom software projects the right way.  Contact us today to save a project.