what are the signs that a software project is in trouble?

To identify and address symptoms leading to poor software development, one must conduct regular code reviews, implement a robust testing strategy, and foster a culture of continuous learning and improvement. It's crucial to establish clear communication channels, set realistic deadlines, and ensure proper project management practices.

9 mins


Nowadays software development is the backbone behind the success of most projects. Regardless of the market segment a business operates in, all software projects require skilled developers in order to properly meet the project requirements and create the best end-product.

Without software developers who have a keen understanding of the software testing and development process, businesses run the risk of several challenges in software functionality – which can lead to poor end-user experiences and ultimately loss of sales.

Below will cover how to recognise occurrences where poor software development has become a problem for companies, and how the expertise of a software developer could help find the solutions.

What Are The top software development challenges?

Poor project definition

Understanding the project requirements (both functional and non-functional) is fundamental to any successful delivery. If the domain that the project operates within is ambiguous, then all aspects of the proposed system development, such as budget or time constraints, can become unclear too. These are amongst the most common challenges that can impact software development and affect project delivery.

It is essential that the person (typically a business analsyst) who is capturing the system requirements creates a formal specification document that captures the views of the project stakeholders and the end-users who will be utilising the proposed system. Having these different viewpoints will help ensure system meets expectations.

Lack of quality inspections

When pushed to meet tight deadlines, some software developers can be forced to cut corners to save time. If a systems code isn’t properly reviewed, or security features are done hastily, it can lead to a number of project challenges and problems introduced further down the line.

Software development problems of this nature can be down to the developer’s lack of dedication to delivery quality code. Software developers should strive to take pride in their code, hence push for code reviews and additional time to refactor (enhance) code that they were potentially forced to implement quickly to hit tight deadlines.

Generally it is always advisable to hire a professional software development company, as you can be sure to get their undivided focus and expertise throughout each stage in the development process.

No agreed (or ambiguous) user acceptance tests

When testing the final system deliverable of a software project, identifying defects is crucial for development. In order to do so properly, it is vital that clearly defined user acceptance test (UAT) plan is defined upfront. A well structure UAT plan will cover both functional and non-functional requirements expected of the system.

The functional requirements define what the system is expected to do from an end-user perspective (i.e. the business workflows, UI, etc). Whereas the non-functional requirements define system attributes such as security, reliability, performance, maintainability, scalability, and usability. Both sets of requirements should be covered by tests within the UAT plan.

A poorly defined (or absence of) a UAT plan means the development team will make assumptions that may not align with stakeholder expectations.

Out of touch with trends

Being out of touch with market trends is another software development challenge that can hurt businesses. As technology trends change the devices which customers utilise are continually evolving, any software development company that wants to stay ahead of the competition must also adapt and evolve with the times.

Software architects and developers must stay updated on technology developments, evolving systems and keeping an eye on how to match product development with the most recent software. It is very important that the development team are well versed with the latest design patterns and design principles, because this will ensure the software architecture is will structured and easy to maintain.

Frequently internal project teams to not have subject matter experts on all technical domains to efficiently architecture and build the proposed system. These situations can be best addressed through strategically outsourcing to highly-qualified software vendors that have the necessary skillsets to take the project forward.

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Managing outside influence

The phrase ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’  is often fitting in software development projects where there are multiple different influences. When external and internal influences from different stakeholders, managers and other factors do not align it can cause confusion and jamming. This can make finding the best project development solutions harder, as different people want different things.

One of the ways to overcome these software development challenges is to have a business analyst formally capture the requirements of both the project stakeholders and users of the system. The business analyst will review the requirements and collate them ready for a team review. Once reviewed the requirements can be prioritised and added to the software development backlog.

Once the development team commence implementing the software there should be frequent reviews with stakeholders/end-users to capture their feedback. The feedback is then prioritised and fed back into the development backlog. This simple process ensures all parties are kept in the loop and their feedback is actioned in a structured way.

Integrating new applications and technologies

When companies attempt to stay on top of technology trends by integrating new applications it can often lead to technical challenges. Integrating any third-party application into a project vastly increases its complexity, which in turn leads to a higher likelihood of challenges in software functionality.

One of the main problems with these sorts of software challenges is that they often remain undetected until the final stages of project development. This can results in major delays and setbacks to a project, as the developer has to strip it back to identify and rectify the problem. To avoid the challenges that integrating third-party applications and technologies can have on a projects’ development you should always have a solid understanding of the end-user needs and requirements.

The business should also create an enterprise-wide framework detailing the structure of their applications, and run multiple different tests to ensure it is as integrated as envisaged. Testing is crucial before deploying a project solution, and developers should make sure they run any and all appropriate tests in order to avoid further challenges in software development.

Poor project management

Another challenge that software development teams often face comes from poor project management or unclear instructions from a project manager. Any software development team is only as good as the tasks and projects they are set, meaning projects which are poorly managed are at a fundamental disadvantage from the onset. 

Avoiding this requires project managers to ensure all tasks are sequential and logically scheduled, rather than bombarding developers with multiple tasks at once. Outsourcing project management tasks to a qualifieid software development vendor is another way poor managerial difficulties can be avoided, as all tasks will be managed in a seamless and organised manner.

Software Testing issues

When the development of a project is tested within a controlled environment, the results are not always qualitative or useful. This is because it is difficult to assess how a user will interact with the project in a natural and realistic environment and can lead to functionality issues going unnoticed until the end of a plan’s development. As B2B and B2C businesses are becoming increasingly versatile, it is more important than ever that products, software or applications are tested within real-life scenarios throughout the development process.

Cyber security breaches

It is not the sole responsibility of the software engineer to make sure a project is not vulnerable to any security breaches or threats. Everyone who is involved in the project’s development, from stakeholders and investors to project managers, is equally responsible for keeping the infrastructure safe and secure.

The best practices that companies can adopt to ensure their project is kept secure include:

• Seeing beyond the surface technology and focusing on software security.
• Use high-level programming language which has build-in security checks and features.
• Use code reviews and penetrative testing to run assurance tests on your security software.

Businesses concerned over cyber security should utilise our business connect service whereby we identify highly qualified vendors to help with their cyber security assessment needs.

How to overcome challenges as a software product developer

When working on software development projects, there is a traditional approach that programmers can follow. This is referred to as the waterfall methodology and includes the following phases of development:

• Analyse requirements
• Design
• Develop the code
• Test the sub-systems
• Test the entire system

This is very much a tried and tested method for approaching new software tasks, as it clearly sets out a step-by-step process from the beginning of a project to completion. The waterfall methodology is suitable for smaller projects where the scope of work is very well defined, meaning the probability of requirements changing is minimal. Changing requirements can be a very costly experience when following this process because it has the potential to impact all subsequent tasks that have been “fully” defined in the requirements/design phases of the project.

For larger projects it is recommended to follow the Agile software development methodology. This is an interactive approach to development orientated around continuous improvement. The phases of an agile process are as follows:

• Plan (2 week development cycle)
• Design
• Develop the code
• Test
• Release (deploy latest version)
• Feedback (stakeholders / end users)

The above process illustrates a two week cycle (called a sprint or iteration) for an agile project. Each two week iteration see’s the development team implementing the highest priority features (as requested by the stakeholders). At the end of the two weeks the team presents to stakeholders what has been built and receives their feedback and ideas for the next iteration. This iterative cycle ensures the software development team and stakeholders are perfectly aligned and focused on delivering business value.

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Software development best practices

The ‘best practices’ for software development are a set of analytically proven steps and measures that software programmers can follow to make sure they overcome any challenges in software development they may face. 

They are referred to as the ‘best’ not because their individual value is determined to be the best, but because they have been consistently found by professionals and industry experts to be the best form of approach to take towards a software development project.

Team Communication

Clear communication between all involved parties is a key principle for good software development. If there is uncertainty about the software development initiatives or the rationale behind product development from the beginning, then there is a high likelihood of the project encountering obstacles and difficulties as it progresses.

Similarly, if there is not a clearly established chain-of-command in regards to the software development’s progress, it can lead to development challenges as lines of communication get crossed.

Resolve problems early

The worst software development challenges are the ones that are only noticed at the end stages of a project. These often lead to major setbacks as software engineers must dismantle and reassemble the entire application in order to identify the root of the issue.

This is why it is vital that software development projects are checked throughout each stage in their development so that if a problem is present it will be identified and overcome early on before the next stage in the development begins.

Manage the needs of end-users and team

The best software development projects are those which expertly balance the needs of the project team with those of the end-user. These needs can vary depending on the industry in which the application sits, but usually involves a mix of ‘giving the consumer what they want’ and ensuring that software standards adhere to the industries specific goals – such as enabling volume purchasing or avoiding inconsistencies.

Well designed software projects should always be designed with the end-user in mind. Regardless of the software industry limitations, if the end-product does not work then it will always result in software development challenges.

One of the best ways to make sure that an application will meet the needs of the end-user is to employ the services and skills of professional software companies. That way any software development challenges will be met by information technology industry professionals who understand exactly how to align the teams needs with those of the end-user.

Quality assurance

Being one step ahead of the competition is essential to the success of any software development project. Often the most difficult to overcome challenges in software development arise from a lack of quality assurance and testing. This often happens as a result of software engineers cutting corners in an attempt to meet deadlines and time constraints.

If it becomes apparent that software development challenges are arising due to a lack of quality assurance you should always attempt to root this out as quickly as possible and refer software developers to the ‘best code development practices’.

Quality assurance is not something to be taken lightly, and if problems persist you may wish to seek out the services of a professional software development team. That way you can rest assured that all stages of the project’s development will be handled by an expert who has the skills to create the end-product you want exactly – without sacrificing usability or functionality in the process.

Turning the Tide on Troubled Code: A Roadmap to Recovery

In conclusion, recognizing and remedying the symptoms of poor software development is a crucial step towards ensuring the health and success of any software project. By staying vigilant for warning signs such as code complexity, lack of documentation, and inadequate testing, teams can intervene early and prevent minor issues from becoming major setbacks. The strategies discussed here provide a framework for a systematic approach to improving code quality, enhancing team collaboration, and aligning development work with business goals.

As we’ve explored, the journey to excellent software development is continuous and demands a commitment to best practices and ongoing learning. It’s about creating a culture that values quality, fosters open communication, and encourages innovation. By embracing these principles, development teams can not only address the symptoms of poor software development but can also pave the way for a future of robust, scalable, and maintainable software solutions.

Remember, the path to improvement is iterative. It starts with a single step: the willingness to acknowledge issues and the courage to change. With the right mindset and tools, every team has the potential to transform their troubled code into a triumphant success.