Why does software development often take so long? This question can frequently come up during project implementation and make project owners ponder what goes wrong.

Well, the first answer lying on the surface is that development teams often face various challenges when delivering a project and trying to meet deadlines. As a result, we can see changes in delivery time and face software project delays. But does it mean that these delays are inevitable?

Of course, no. The good old proverb ‘forewarned is forearmed’ works here, too. So, while you naturally wonder what challenges contribute to deviations in the project timeline and how to address them, we’d like to help you find the answers. For that, we’ve written this article.

Top 13 Challenges Leading to Software Project Delays

Even without going into detail, it’s obvious that thorough planning and effective management can save the day and mitigate the risks of moving back the deadlines. By focusing on these aspects, you can optimize resource allocation, minimize costs, and ensure predictable outcomes while building your solution within the established timeframe.

However, there are always more factors and risks to consider, and thus more effort is required to implement a project. Below, you will find a list of reasons that cause delays and the ways to deliver your software solution on schedule.

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1. Poor Requirements and Specification Changes

Poor Requirements and Specification Changes

Take it on trust that effective project planning involves comprehensive specifications or requirements. In fact, any misunderstanding or missing components in the requirements can significantly impact the project timeline and may even lead to project failure.

It happens because inadequate project requirements or changes in specifications make a team turn to a product owner to clarify things. Unfortunately, seeking clarity can lead to a loss of time. To mitigate such issues, it is important to thoroughly review and align the requirements with your project vision and overall business strategy. This will help you ensure clarity as well as avoid ambiguity, omissions, and frequent future changes.

On top of that, if you still have to deal with changes, encourage your team from the very beginning to address any ambiguity with you. Your efforts to collaborate and provide clarification will prevent software developers from second-guessing your intentions.

2. Insufficient Time and Effort in Planning

Insufficient Time and Effort in Planning

The adage “if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well” resonates perfectly with the planning stage of any software development project. Having said that, effective planning demands expertise and a wealth of experience in both development and non-development tasks.

Together with your team, you should follow a meticulous approach when allocating resources for various parts of your IT project, which include coding, setting up the environment, testing, and others. It’s crucial to dedicate ample time to set the stage and avoid initiating the process until you’ve done with a strategy.

Consider it as the art of preparation. And any good preparation without a solid roadmap feels incomplete, so don’t neglect even the minor details as they may lead to unforeseen issues and increased time investment.

3. Over Optimistic Time Estimates

Over Optimistic Time Estimates

It happens at times that developers may offer unrealistic project estimates as they truly believe they can complete the work faster than possible. It’s not because they have a secret plan to ruin your project; it rather stems from genuine estimation errors, overconfidence, or excessive optimism.

Unfortunately, the consequences of poor estimates include increased work pressure, lower efficiency, and errors that ultimately lead to deadline extensions.

Realistic Software Project Estimates

Project Estimates

Watch our webinar to learn about the practical ways to evaluate your software project estimates.

On the other hand, it’s quite natural that project stakeholders are eager to release a product faster, so they don’t take time to sleep on the proposed project timeframes. That’s why balancing the desire for high-quality software within a reasonable budget and a swift delivery timeline becomes a delicate challenge.

To address it, project managers should factor in unforeseen circumstances when estimating deadlines. Such a comprehensive approach should encompass all stages of production, from initial development through testing to deployment. As a result, it will help ensure a seamless and punctual project delivery.

Read more on the Tips to Get a Realistic Software Project Estimation

4. Losing Key Development Team Members

Losing Key Development Team Members

Today, IT specialists can experience professional shifts quite often, and that has become commonplace, reflecting the trend in various business sectors. Consequently, it’s prudent to expect that some experts from your development team may pursue new opportunities before the project’s completion.

The departure of a team member, particularly if they play a crucial role, can have significant consequences and lead to project delays. Obviously, to mitigate this risk, you or your software development partner will need to swiftly fill the void with someone possessing similar skills.

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As another option, it’s also possible to redistribute the tasks among other team players. However, it comes with the drawback of potential work overload, especially if the team is already handling multiple projects.

You now wonder how to avoid dealing with these cases? Well, as a product owner, inquire in advance about backup plans from your development team or software vendor. Questions about how they handle team member exits and manage work overload are crucial as well.

Usually, small teams have partners on standby to quickly replace absent experts. Larger teams, given their size, generally find it easier to cover the gaps. So, as you can see, there’s always a way to mitigate the impact of unexpected team changes and prevent further delays in software delivery.

5. Working on Too Many Projects Simultaneously

Working on Too Many Projects Simultaneously

You know well that juggling multiple tasks and stretching the team across numerous initiatives is seldom a wise approach. It’s a scenario where, sooner rather than later, you’ll hear from your team that they’re struggling with their routine and can find many excuses to explain project delay reasons.

So, if you want this reason for project delays to elude you, ensure that your development team isn’t overwhelmed with an excessive number of concurrent priorities. Just like with your personal goals that you usually prioritize in life, verify that your software project takes precedence over others. This will prevent unnecessary setbacks and facilitate smoother project execution.

6. Making Decisions and Giving Approvals

Making Decisions and Giving Approvals

As the project owner, you hold the reins; thus, delays can arise if you’re hesitant about making decisions or too slow in your replies. You see, the team will often rely on your guidance and seek your input on various requests, both simple and crucial.

Missing these engagements can lead to project delays. On the contrary, when you’re actively engaged throughout the entire development lifecycle, you reduce the risks of issues with your project schedule.

It doesn’t mean that you should be available 24/7. It’s more about aligning your pace with the project and maintaining consistent communication with the development team to keep the project on track. If you have a hectic schedule, consider delegating this part to a stakeholder with a similar mindset to bridge the communication gap and ensure the project progresses smoothly.

7. Bottlenecks with Third-Party Integrations

Bottlenecks with Third-Party Integrations

There are certain challenges you may stumble upon when dealing with technology. One of them is integrating your solution with third-party tools, especially if they’re too old or have just been released. Even when it comes to commonly used technologies, building custom software can still present integration difficulties.

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For example, issues may arise from inappropriate technology use or poor interfacing with hardware and operating systems. While your team will look for solutions through guessing, troubleshooting, experimenting, and research, time will fly. And we all know that time is precious.

To overcome these bottlenecks, first, ensure that your team is experienced in leveraging API development and knows robust integration tech. It will be a good idea to engage skilled system analysts and project managers who will allocate sufficient time to identify potential risks associated with your chosen technologies and pinpoint vulnerabilities.

Let’s plan your systems integration

8. Negligence in Quality Assurance

Negligence in Quality Assurance

When working under pressure, a development team might defer software reviews and testing to gain time. That often leads to late bug discovery and increased resource allocation to fix them. And this means your project will be delayed.

Based on our experience and best practices in software development, we recommend implementing a frequent and rigorous cycle of tests, quality assurance, and reviews throughout the project. Plus, there are certain software development methodologies that support this approach.

Read up on Software Development Methodologies

You don’t want to wait until the end of the project to test your solution. Instead, adhere to professional standards that focus on conducting tests and reviews every two weeks. This routine ensures the timely identification of issues and helps maintain your project on schedule. Keep a close eye on the process to prevent unnecessary delays and time loss.

9. Subpar UI/UX Design

Subpar UI/UX Design

Another prevalent factor that causes project delays is inadequate UI/UX design. Regardless of the software type you’re working on, prioritizing a positive user experience is essential for the solution’s utility.

Insufficient discussion of the design concept or miscommunication among stakeholders may result in multiple design revisions to align with the initial requirements. This, in turn, can lead to schedule overruns. Again, preparation is already half the battle. So, emphasize a thorough UI/UX design planning stage to reduce the likelihood of your IT project delay.

Explore the Difference Between UI/UX Design

10. The Gold Plating Phenomenon

The Gold Plating Phenomenon

The concept of gold plating refers to the practice when the team tries to exceed the client’s expectations by doing more than they were asked to. When it comes to time and project management, it can lead to diminishing returns within a project. For example, project delays due to gold plating occur when designers and developers delve excessively into details, surpassing the original scope.

In other words, the challenge may arise from investing significant time in refining project details beyond the owner’s standard requirements, which, in most cases, will lead to potential delays in product delivery. It doesn’t mean that incorporating more details is always unacceptable. It’s still possible but only if meticulously planned.

Thus, you need to consider a range of activities like evaluating risks to initial planning, conducting additional testing, managing increased documentation, and assessing the impact on software development costs. Neglecting these factors may result in project failure or, at least, significant shifts in deadlines.

11. Research and Development Project

Research and Development Project

Another possible cause of software project delays is engaging in research and development endeavors. It implies delving into innovations, where the work processes revolve around studying and incorporating fresh technologies and methodologies. These projects typically encompass the development of new IT products or significant enhancements to existing solutions.

The unique nature of research-oriented projects makes them particularly challenging to manage. That, in and of itself, increases the level of unpredictability associated with both the outcomes and the timeline of such initiatives.

If you decide to embark on this kind of project, you’ll likely need to adhere to a flexible and adaptive project management approach to navigate through the intricacies of research and development.

12. The Incompetence of the Team or Some of Its Members

The Incompetence of the Team or Some of Its Members

This aspect extends beyond developers, engineers, or QA specialists, encompassing such experts as project managers and business analysts. As you can guess, effective project management and business analysis play vital roles in assessing, coordinating, estimating, and overseeing the development process. Thus, these competencies serve as a linchpin, influencing other factors mentioned above.

Learn more about the Role of Business Analysis in App Development

No wonder that to ensure timely completion and delivery, your project development team and its members must possess robust qualifications and experience. If not, you may have to deal with setbacks.

13. Breach of Contract

Breach of Contract

Project implementation is a mutual responsibility for you and your development team, particularly when collaborating with a software development vendor. So, it’s crucial that both sides follow the agreement and diligently uphold their commitments.

However, sometimes disputes may arise when project owners overlook their substantial role in the entire process. Failing to fulfill the terms of the agreement in a timely and comprehensive manner can result in project halts and additional delays while resolving conflicts. Even if you’re in the right and pursue legal action, the litigation process is time-consuming and expensive.

So, while you still, of course, may receive compensation for incurred losses, the time that you spent walking this road cannot be recovered. Therefore, it is essential to entrust your projects only to reliable software development partners who uphold their promises and fulfill their obligations.

5 Smart Tips for Avoiding Software Project Delays

While talking about all the above-mentioned causes that lead to delays in project completion, we also tried to highlight how to address them. However, there are five key tips we’d like to focus on that will help you navigate the uneasy road of software development and find the way out.

Without diving into overwhelming details, let’s briefly go over these recommendations.

Establish Realistic Deadlines and Goals

Establish Realistic Deadlines and Goals

As it often comes, unrealistic expectations lead to unnecessary pressure and induce the error-prone development process. To avoid this, your team should carefully assess project requirements and break them down into achievable milestones. This way, you can rely on realistic timelines that account for potential challenges.

Set Roles and Responsibilities

Set Roles and Responsibilities

If you want everyone on the team to be aligned with the project’s objectives, make sure that each member understands well their responsibilities and specific tasks. This will help you enhance accountability and prevent confusion, delays, and superfluous efforts, which leads to a more efficient workflow.

Plan for Unexpected

Plan for Unexpected

Life has plenty of unforeseen moments, and so software projects do, given their dynamic nature. You can do nothing about that, however, you can take some steps to get ready. For example, anticipating potential risks and having contingency plans prepared will help you respond quickly to challenges like technical issues or project scope deviations.

Allocate and Manage Resources Thoroughly

Allocate and Manage Resources Thoroughly

We’re not talking only about human resources here. It’s also essential to consider taking time to plan the budget, technology, and even tools. Your software development partner or in-house team should lend you a hand on this. By following this step, you can meet project requirements better and reduce the likelihood of delays caused by resource shortages.

How to Deal With the Shortage of Software Developers

Lack of Developers

Find out how to deal with the lack of IT talents without compromising project delivery.

Monitor and Improve Continuously

Monitor and Improve Continuously

Finally, your team should keep an eye on project progress to timely identify any potential issues and implement robust measures. And this should be done regularly. On top of that, there’s a term called continuous improvement that involves learning from past experiences, refining processes, and adopting best practices.

As a bonus tip, always prioritize effective communication as it ultimately contributes to successful project delivery, helps address challenges promptly, and substantially reduces the risk of project delays.

Webinar: Software Project Health Check

Project Health Check

Learn the actionable steps to keep your software project on the right track, aligned with your initial goals and designated priorities.

Breaking Free from Software Project Delays

So, now you hopefully have a better idea of the reasons for project delays in software engineering. These reasons affect not only your project’s timeline but also development cost, which we all admit is often more important. Yet, following effective planning and robust management practices will leave you out of unnecessary changes and ensure project delivery on schedule.

In addition to considering all the factors mentioned in this article, choose carefully a development team to partner with if you don’t have enough in-house skills. Taking this step is already half the success since an experienced team is able to foresee the risks and mitigate them.

Velvetech has always been a pacesetter in software production by applying the most effective development strategies and methodologies. We have more than 20 years of expertise in delivering custom tech solutions for companies from various industries. So, contact us today to kick-start your project with the development team that has all the skills you’re looking for.

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