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Software development delays: Why do your projects end up late?

Business and Management

12 minutes read

Have you ever felt annoyed because your development team didn’t manage to deliver on the agreed deadline once again? How often have you felt let down by your own team?  How many times have you been erratically calculating all the potential losses you might have to face after each software development delay? We know the drill. 

Having a team of developers working on the product you’ve been passionately sculpturing for years is overwhelming, confusing, and stressful. Especially, when you keep receiving news about another feature delay because of A, B, or C problems from your team. What can you do? How to fix it? Should you fix it? Thousands of questions are popping out every day and we are here to answer them.

stop facing software development delays - why your software projects late
If you have been spinning in this cycle of endless late deliveries for too long and feel fed up with all these software development challenges, then you are not alone in this. As it’s stated in Forbes, 7 out of 10 software projects are delivered not within the previously set deadlines. So, why are software projects always late? Let’s work our way to figure reasons for software projects delays, but for that, we need to take a step back and look at the roots of the problem.

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Anastasia Kosovan
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To highlight, the correct software development flow consist of three key elements:

Technical Design: This part is all about creating requirements with further planning, and estimating your software product based on them. It is the most important step because it is how you know what your team is going to do, what the result will be in the end, and how it will work. 

Development: Based on the previous step, developers start coding the project, turning defined plans into functioning features. 

QA Testing: At this step, your QA engineer detects bugs, while you check if the end result matches your expectations.

When all these steps exist in your development flow, and are done right, then it equals on-time delivered features and happy you. When any of these steps fails, the whole projects is delayed. 

Reasons why you have software project delays

reasons why you face software development delays - key challenge in software development

1. Unclear requirements

Imagine a situation: you are managing the launch of a new project to create an advanced analytics open data portal that provides users with customized financial dashboards. You want people to enhance the effectiveness of their datasets with the help of a user-friendly interface. However, your first and easy step is to create a basic login page. 

So, you come to your developers with a request: “I want a simple login page”.

The developer’s team says it will take them three days to code the login page and make it work. Next thing, changes are deployed on the testing environment, and emails with a page are sent for review. A few days later you receive feedback from the marketing team. They suggest that customers should be able to log in using their Apple ID information. You agree that an Apple login would be more comfortable and secure.

After that, you contact the team to inform them of the new request. The team says that it will take another ten days to properly implement the feature and ensure security across Apple devices and operating systems. You are upset that you have to extend the deadline. That means that the development team also has to change their task priorities and allocate more resources to meet the new deadline for the login feature. This affects other parts of the project and leads to development delays and changes in the project’s schedule and budget.

How do you know that your problem is requirements-wise?

  • You don’t have documented requirements (in a shared repository)
  • Your requirements don’t specify user flow
  • You change requirements before feature delivery
  • You generate requirements inconsistently
  • You give only UI design tasks with no descriptions

You might be also interested in the role of software development requirements

2. Not efficient task review 

Now you are starting to test your login page. You decide to do it on your mobile to check how it’s working but forget the password and see no “Forgot Password?” button. 

You realize that you had to discuss the need for such a feature during the meeting with the development team. It seems like an error on both sides, a crucial detail left untouched in the rush of assigning tasks and discussing requirements. You think about this mistake and understand the importance of efficient task review. If a small issue is not addressed properly, it may quickly become a major pitfall.

You quickly gather the team for a discussion. Together you examine the impact of adding a “Forgot Password?” feature and balance it against the project’s timeline and resources. The team recognizes its importance in providing a user-friendly experience. This critical failure results from the fact that during the review session, neither did the developers ask about the need for this button, nor did you specify the requirement.

Signs that you most likely deal with inefficient task review:

  • You don’t have review meetings with developers at all
  • You don’t have an organized and structured plan during the meeting
  • You have no team managers who are responsible for task-reviewing process

These signs can be a solid indicator that some work needs to be done. It is important to keep in mind that inefficient grooming can create a domino effect, which will cause more bugs to be fixed in the development process, and, as a result lead to overall software development delay problem.

3. Absence of estimation 

After successfully integrating the “Forgot Password?” feature, the next step is to integrate an email notification. The developer estimates it to code in 1 day. In the process of coding, the development team comes and says that they have connected to the local server but it doesn’t send email. To fix that, they will need at least four more days. You sigh but have no other option than to extend the deadline again. Four days pass and they come back with feedback: “We have no connection to the server that sends the emails“.

Now you have to invest another $100 and give your developers some time to connect to a suitable mail server. The team gathers, considers alternative approaches, and analyzes the costs and benefits of each option. You look at everything from outsourcing email server setup to looking for open-source solutions.

The whole problem was in the absence of estimation steps. First of all, at the review session, you had to make sure that all the tasks were divided into sub-tasks for precise estimation of completion of each step. That would help reveal hidden processes and estimate the time of steps like connection to the servers. This way it wouldn’t be a shock to you that it could take a few more days. Usually, estimation includes breaking down the project into smaller pieces, which you didn’t do before. The project is delayed again and you are annoyed again as well because of missed deadlines. 

So, what can be wrong with your estimation process?

  • You did not facilitate a separate estimation meeting
  • There was no separation of the task into subtasks

The truth is there is no progress without clearly defined estimation step. You will not be able to measure project progress, set expectations, and meet deadlines effectively without it. Next time you are arranging tasks pay attention to your estimation process. By the way, here is another thing that can delay your software project: technical incompetence. 

4. Technical incompetence 

Your development team continues to progress despite challenges. After finishing coding an email system, they switched to working on setting up and integrating the mail server. The work is going steadily. You finally catch a breath imagining that your login page launch is right around the corner. Well, not exactly. At a weekly meeting, one of your developers says: “We have a problem with integrating the mail server connection library to the current code”.

Just as the mail server was finally connected, this challenge once again put the team’s progress in danger. The team’s technical incompetence comes out at the worst time possible. No one has the expertise to navigate this library from your team, and you have no idea what to do.

Stress remains in your team, as you face technical challenges in software development and technical incompetence from people that are supposed to do their job diligently. You refuse to give up and start making quick (and expensive) decisions. You reach out to your ex-partner of the previous startup you worked with and ask for the contact of the senior developer your partner has been on a team. You need the expertise of a professional and you get it. This developer agrees to help you but charges double the market price since you request to finish this task ASAP.  In a short time, the work is done but you are left stressed and overwhelmed by your incompetent team and the additional expenses they brought.  

Sorry, but there is only one reality check right here: 

  • Developers are chosen by someone who does not have technical expertise

You must ensure that everyone on your team is technically competent before you hire a software development team. Otherwise, the snowball of technical insolvencies will become bigger and one day destroy your product.

Let’s talk about your project?

Feel free to ask any additional questions you might have. Our experts will be glad to assist you.

Sales Manager
Anastasia Kosovan
Sales Manager

5. Lack of testing 

As the long-awaited launch date approaches, you get a relaxed feeling. Finally, the login page is done and you will be proud of the result. Without a moment of hesitation, you approve the launch and the next day decide to check it. As you are going through each detail and feature of the page, you realize that there is a two-character password set up on your login page. This can result in a huge security problem for your users. 

A standard 8-character password should be enough, but your development team needs time to do it. That also means you need to pause the launch. You are frustrated. Why no one did testing before this exact moment? You really have no time to waste. That’s why you call the team in for an immediate meeting to fix this problem as soon as possible.

Signs that software development delays are due to the lack testing:

  • You do testing by yourself
  • Your developers do testing
  • You do not have the testing in plans at all (which is the worst sign)
  • You have no security testing 
  • Edge cases are not taken into account (1 or 999 characters)

Testing is some kind of a safety net for your project. Without it, one small bug can lead to a major disaster. That’s nice if you did testing in the right way, but how to prioritize what tasks should be finished first? 

6. Prioritization

As the focus shifts to solving the password difficulty, a deeper issue lies beneath. The previous problem derives exactly from the fact that no one prioritized testing a login page before the launch date. The absence of prioritization delayed the project, as your team focused on tasks that were not high priority at the moment. As a matter of fact, you didn’t even have a categorization of tasks by their priority range. Why? 

Prioritization is necessary to ensure that important features, such as password recovery or login testing before the launch are prioritized among other tasks. This creates the right workload and reduces stress all over the team. It doesn’t take a lot of time, as you can do it during the meeting by preparing a plan beforehand.

Signs you have prioritization issue in your project:

  • You don’t have a stable prioritization plan
  • You and your team don’t have a clear task board

Yes, you got it that your team might need more clear task prioritization. But even with that onboard, the project still isn’t moving forward the way you want and you face software project delay once again. What’s the problem now?

7. Work in progress limit

As your developers make sure an 8-character password improvement takes a day to make, you have a security analyst on board claiming you need hash functions to add as well. You approve that request and set up a meeting with your development team to include it in the process of coding. Seems like everyone understood each other. The next day you return to see if the task has been completed, and your hopes are destroyed again.

You are upset because the 8-character password improvement remains unfinished. The development team was overwhelmed with doing an additional task from a security analyst, and they didn’t put a limit on the number of hours they could dedicate to each task. Instead of doing one task at a time, they simply tried to do everything at once and ended up needing more time to finish both tasks.

Now you start realizing that you need to include WIP limits in your project to prevent bottlenecks and create a smoother workflow. These limits usually foster a culture of “stop starting, start finishing”. The more work your team tries to do at once, the worse result you have at the end (and software project will be late again). 

Signs that you developers might struggle with WIP limits:

  • There is no task-tracking in the team
  • There are no limits to how many tasks are in progress
  • Tasks are just randomly assigned to progress the project
  • Tasks are pushed to progress when it’s obvious the team is overwhelmed with the tasks list.

Expert advice on figuring out your project delays 

If you recognize multiple causes of delays in your projects, it’s time to review and optimize your development process. Anyway, we understand that sometimes clients want perfect outcomes, but if your team delivers 80% of the features customers have requested, consider it a standard. In case a team does less, you better establish your workflow and finally solve this software development challenge. 

For personalized advice, sign up for a FREE check-up of your project delivery. It is basically 2-3 meetings lasting 45 minutes each with one of our technical experts who will help you identify the key challenges and causes of software project delays at your company and how they can be solved.

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Sales Manager
Anastasia Kosovan
Sales Manager


Why my developers don’t deliver projects on time?

Developers fail to deliver projects on time due to poor task estimation, which can lead to unrealistic timelines and unexpected delays. Without proper planning and estimation, it is difficult to move forward as planned.

What causes delays in software development?

Software project delays may be due to inefficient management processes. This includes not having an issue manager to track tasks and clear understanding. Also, leads to unknown deadlines and awful communication between the team and the customer.

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