What makes — or breaks — successful software projects?
We could have interviewed hundreds of software developers and project managers to find the answer to this question. However, we knew that this would get us a lot of anecdotal evidence and little hard data.
That’s why we decided to dig a little deeper — and found this treasure.
In 2011, researchers M. Nasir from the University of Malaya and S. Sahibuddin from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia compiled an extensive survey of the literature on the critical success factors for software development.
After reviewing 43 previous studies from 1990 to 2010 reporting on different-sized projects in multiple domains and countries, Nasir and Sahibuddin isolated the seven factors that facilitate software project success the most.
We know you’re short on time, so we read and simplified the survey results for you, enriching them with insight from our experience in running a successful software development company.
Critical Success Factors for Software Development
Here are the key factors from the survey you want to keep in mind when managing software development projects:
1. Clear Objectives and Goals
A lack of clear objectives is one of the most common reasons why software projects fail.
To set your project up for success, you need to define clear objectives for the software development process, including development cycles, milestones, release plans, etc. You also want to have clear goals for the end product itself, including its features, your overall vision, the target market, what problems it will solve, and more.
A well-thought-out technology roadmap can be indispensable when setting project goals. Technology roadmaps are tools that enable both short and long-term strategic planning of software development projects by helping you to:
- Define your goals
- Break them down into action steps
- Set clear timeframes
- Mitigate risk factors
- Track progress
2. Clear Requirements and Specifications
Nasir and Sahibuddin’s study found that for the vast majority of practitioners, precise requirements are the single most critical predictor of a successful software project.
Project requirements are not the same as project goals. Goals are about what you want to achieve, while requirements are about how you want to do it and include things such as:
- System specifications
- Tech stack specifications
- User interface requirements
- Functional requirements
- Nonfunctional requirements
- Business and market requirements
These are typically laid out in the Software Requirements Specification (SRS) document, which also outlines the product’s purpose, intended use cases, and functionalities.
3. A Realistic Schedule
At the end of the day, software project management is all about striking the right balance between creating high-quality products and hitting the market while demand is still high.
If you don’t get that balance right, you risk building a rushed, subpar product, possibly without even testing it, that no one will want. Alternatively, you may take too long to fine tune your product only to have your competitors beat you to it.
To avoid that, keep it agile. One of the biggest benefits of the adoption of agile methodology in software development is a shorter time to market that doesn’t come at the expense of product quality. Thanks to the short delivery cycles, developers can fix bugs, incorporate user feedback, and respond to market changes quickly and in real time.
4. Good Management
Product owners, project managers, Chief Technology Officers (CTOs), and other managerial staff play a critical role in the software development process.
To increase the chances of project success, you want to create a supportive and inclusive environment where the software development team is free to ask questions, flag concerns, and seek help. For that, you need not just strong managerial skills but also an understanding of what ethical leadership entails.
Good communication is also essential for effective management. You must be able to communicate your vision, the project requirements, the workload, deadlines, and all other aspects of the product journey.
5. User Research and Testing
Successful software companies design and develop products specifically for their intended users.
To understand the target market and its needs, you should research the customer experience in-depth before starting development. In fact, you should do your due diligence and create a customer journey map even before brainstorming and strategizing the development process itself.
It’s also a good idea to collect user feedback throughout the software development process if possible. Test and control groups generate invaluable data. You could use it to improve the product design as the software gets developed and boost customer satisfaction down the line. Empirical analysis always trumps assumptions.
6. Regular Monitoring, Reporting, and Feedback
Having a system for continuous project monitoring and reporting, both from users and the product development team, is another must.
You can measure how well the product is performing against its goals using key performance indicators (KPIs). These include metrics such as the number of defects found during code reviews or test runs, the number of new features added, and so on.
7. Experienced Developers and Correct Team Structure
Last but not least, ensure that you map out and allocate human resources properly when planning your project. Questions to ask at this stage include:
- How many developers are there on the team?
- How experienced are they?
- Do they have the specific skill sets required for the job?
- Are there enough developers to cover all existing and planned projects, or will they be stretched thin?
- If you need to recruit more developers, is the budget for the project enough to pay the new hires?
If you don’t have the time or money to hire in-house developers, need to build and deploy a high-quality product quickly, or are finding it hard to recruit the right people in your location, consider nearshore agile software development. Out of all software development process models, dedicated nearshore teams offer the highest level of flexibility, speed, and quality.
If you decide to go down this route, be sure to read our tips on finding the best outsourcing company for your needs.
Set Your Software Development Project Up for Success with Zartis
Nasir and Sahibuddin’s study found that 94% of the most critical factors in project management were nontechnical. Clear requirements, realistic schedules, good managerial skills, and, crucially, competent developers were far more conducive to success than technical factors.
At Zartis, we understand the importance of the human element. This is why we specialize in assembling outsourced teams of highly skilled developers specifically for your project and your unique requirements.
Our dedicated teams integrate seamlessly into your existing workforce but deploy faster than in-house hires. And here’s the best part: you don’t have to do anything. We involve you in final decision-making, while deploying the team and taking care of operations and equipment so that you can focus on your project.
You don’t have to take our word for it. Simply read our agile software development success stories:
The Critical Success Factors for Software Development, Guaranteed
Do you need help planning or developing your software project? Whether you want to set up a dedicated outsourced team or just need software consulting, we can help.
Contact us for a free consultation today.