The 7 Most Common Pitfalls of Software Development Teams
Did you know that 1 in 6 IT projects fail big time and cost 200% more than they should? One need only take a cursory look at a company’s software development practices to realize why projects fail more often than not. Just how many development teams stick to time-tested project management principles? Well, one study found that 25% of organizations are failing to adopt project scoping fully.
In most cases, the problem boils down to a company’s inability to build a solid software development team structure. The result is an entrenched cultural barrier that resists change, lacks leadership, and restrains best practices.
In this post, we will outline the common pitfalls in development and discuss how to effectively address these issues and at a fraction of the cost of keeping a highly skilled team.
7 Common Pitfalls Software Development Teams Should Avoid
1. Unclear Goals
Many companies mistake having a project goal for clear direction. But if the goal is poorly defined, either too broad or vague, the development team can just as easily lose its way akin to being stuck in a remote location without a map.
Worse, an unclear goal is open to different interpretations that lead to disconnected priorities. Think of how a goal like “To launch a successful system” is open to different and opposing interpretations: Does it imply a leaner system or one with more functions? Does it mean more profits or fewer costs? Could it be interpreted as a timely MVP delivery or a delayed but complete rollout?
An unclear goal becomes even murkier between the development team and other units with different priorities such as management, marketing, finance, and the client-side.
A poorly defined goal sets off more snags down the line, and a project's success hinges on your ability to address this issue. PMI’s Pulse of the Profession 2021 found that organizations with mature goal-setting processes outperformed those with lower maturity by 21%.
We suggest taking a page from the S.M.A.R.T playbook where a goal should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound. Or, borrow from journalism’s credo of addressing the 5Ws (what, when, where, why, who) and 1H (how) when covering a story. These principles will help you set clear, coherent, and convincing goals that get everyone on the same page. A clear goal sets up the development team to measure the correct KPIs because it is measurable.
2. Scope Creep
A close cousin of unclear goals is scope creep, which occurs when new “requirements” are added midway into the project’s progress. While changes are inevitable in software development, they generally should stick to the project scope or goal.
Usually, scope creep happens when the team adds new functions beyond the original feature set, pivots from a goal, spends time on non-essential tasks, performs an unauthorized task, or, an agency’s nightmare—a client’s change of mind. Scope creep derails sprint goals, delays product launchings, and, ultimately, harms the bottom line.
PMBOK’s 6 scope management processes light the way in rooting out the scope creep phenomenon:
- Plan the development process
- Define the stakeholder’s needs
- Define a scope statement
- Break down deliverables into smaller tasks
- Have the scope approved
- Monitor and manage project scope
These processes should be documented and filed, something the project head or lead developer turns to in time of disputes.
3. More is Less--The Ringelmann Effect
Project leaders may throw in more heads at a problem, thinking it will fix things faster. However, the reverse may be true.
The Ringelmann Effect, discovered by the French engineer Maximilien Ringelmann in 1913, found out that team members with similar skills put in less effort as the group size increases. Thus, the more-the-better approach is a dangerous precedent to prolonging, if not complicating, a particular scenario.
That’s because getting new members up to speed with project specs and bonding with the team eats up time and resources. Likewise, with more people in a team, interpersonal friction in a large group may be likelier than in a smaller one.
But you don’t want to be facing skills gaps with a small team either, lest you fall short of the project’s targets. This is where a nearshoring team like Growin enters the fold.
Rightsize the team based on skills. A larger team should mean more unique skills, not just more people.
Likewise, keep tabs of adjacent members. One of the common redundant roles is found at the supervisory and auxiliary levels. You may have one too many team leaders or administrative support in a cross-functional role. For instance, a project manager can wear the hat of product owner, team lead, and QA lead, saving you two extra heads.
4. Hit the Ground Running
Many teams pay scant attention to the onboarding process, assuming it is an HR function. They assume that newbies can hit the ground running, and teams with stellar developer skills tend to be more susceptible to this mindset. They rely on the new hire’s innate talent to catch up with project specs.
But without a clear onboarding path, a new hire will waste valuable time learning the project’s ropes instead of being a productive member sooner than later. This pitfall translates to delays, talent wastage, and even low employee morale.
Likewise, when onboarding is reduced to DIY, a new member can easily get waylaid by unnecessary tasks. It is not unheard of to see a developer multitasking just for the sake of having to show output at the end of the day.
As the project leader, you should task yourself with being the onboarding lead and design the process aligned to the new hire’s role and responsibilities. Looking at the project from the prism of team effort, you understand that even top talents need a settling-in period to get a handle on, not just the code, but how it is processed throughout the project lifecycle.
5. Faulty Documentation
A lack of proper documentation can lead to gaps down the road in software development. This pitfall blinds you from spotting critical paths to errors before they emerge or escalate. It also prevents you from capturing best practices that otherwise might fall into the cracks and lay forgotten, the team unable to leverage them for future projects. And yes, inadequate documentation makes onboarding of new talents chaotic.
Worse, the impact of poor documentation is exacerbated in projects faced with more changes, more members, or a more complex system design. Your team may end up with disjointed outputs or communication gaps that build mistrust within the organization.
When an IT team fails to prepare the different technical documents required through the entire software development lifecycle or SDLC, it compromises QA and process control, which results in patchy outputs.
For starters, understand the different types of software documentation and their purposes, such as separate files for architecture, project, and technical requirements on top of the user manual. You may also consider hiring a technical writer so the developers can focus on their expertise. No doubt, investing in documentation pays off; it fosters transparency and promotes greater autonomy to the development team.
6. Process Roadblocks a.k.a. Red Tape
Project control is a set of processes designed to keep the budget and schedule on track. Sometimes, though, it leads to process roadblocks that can bog down the development team.
Nothing showcases process roadblocks in their stark nakedness than in a change request. Here, the case of Homeland Security’s USCIS is a classic example. The agency took a year just to make a few tweaks to its web page, something its CIO admitted he could do in minutes.
The federal agency’s experience is nothing unique in the corporate world, albeit on a smaller scale. IT teams in large enterprises would be familiar with the process of needing to fill out a change form in hard copy and, heaven forbid, in triplicate, have it signed by several stakeholders, await their approval, and queue the ticket before any change is started.
Adopt an agile project structure if you haven’t yet. A team may already be utilizing the agile model but hasn’t embraced its core values. Agile practitioners attest to cutting through red tape with a decentralized model, lateral control setup, and mission-critical goals. However, shifting to agile demands an organizational shift in philosophy and culture, so executive buy-in is a must.
7. Wrong Project Timeline Estimates
Overshooting deadlines in software development is never a pretty sight, one that reverberates throughout the organization: panic-stricken sales, disgruntled finance, executives with frayed nerves, while the development team works at their wits’ end. All because someone underestimated the project timeline.
A missed project timeline is often caused by underestimating both time and tasks. While project delays are common, they are more frequent and far-reaching when you:
- are unable to break down tasks into their measurable components
- did not factor in contingencies
- cut the revision cycle
- left little room for beta
- conjured up estimates to comply with submitting a report
Master the art of time estimation. Here are some tips:
- Analyze the requirements in detail
- Use bottom-up estimating by calculating deadlines from the subtasks to their respective tasks, and all the way up to the milestones.
- Break down the timeline into smaller deadlines for a more digestible view of your targets
How Outsourcing Helps to Avoid These Pitfalls
Most of the solutions above demand time, resources, and attention that may not fit into your company’s daily grind. For instance, subscribing to PMBOK guidelines, adopting an agile methodology, or implementing S.M.A.R.T. are usually set at the policy level.
These changes usually mean a cultural shift or executive approval to take effect. Companies looking for a quick fix against software development pitfalls can leverage the advantages of an outsourcing partner like Growin, an IT consultancy that helps you find highly-skilled IT teams to deliver your projects faster, on time, and on budget.
Here are three compelling reasons:
1. A Software Development Team Can Help You Achieve Developer Velocity
Developer velocity (DV) is a loosely defined strategy of improving the business’ bottom line by giving the development team more room, skills, and tools to innovate. In short, developers move away from being a backend support and into a lead role that influences business outcomes.
In many ways, achieving DV is all about avoiding the problems with software development, but it’s not that simple.
A McKinsey report identified the key drivers of DV as product management, tools, talent management, and culture. However, many businesses are hard-pressed to gain DV because software development skillsets and resources are often outside their core business.
Even organizations with a full complement IT department are finding it challenging to keep pace with technological trends, keep their talents updated with new skills, or, in fact, compete for top-notch developers amidst the talent shortage in the tech industry.
How can a Software Development Team help you pivot towards DV?
A nearshore software development team like Growin is built for DV. Years of exposure to projects of varying complexities, requirements, and goals can only add to an outsourcing team’s experience.
Growin can provide a talent pool with:
- leaders who understand a developer’s daily routine
- team members trained in proper communication and documentation
- skills depth attuned to new technologies
- the latest tech stacks that are capital-intensive
Tapping a nearshore team lets you scale your tech abilities to DV-grade quickly and helps you leverage advanced technologies such as AI, big data analytics, NLP, and edge computing without significant capital outlay.
A development outsourcing team provider like Growin can meet the talent sourcing challenges above because its business model directs it to develop a talent pool continuously. It does the job of hiring and training developers in the latest technologies that you need, if not today, possibly tomorrow.
2. Outsourced Teams Help to Break Down Cultural Barriers to Change
Organizational shifts face significant obstacles, not the least cultural barriers. Internal teams are territorial and tend to resist change that disrupts their routine. Enforcing new processes to entrenched teams is problematic at best.
On the other hand, an outsourcing partner comes in with an objective eye. That means you can avoid the common software development pitfalls without having to wait for an organizational change.
3. An Outsourcing Partner Gives You a Highly Skilled Team Without the Overheads During Downtime
It’s the proverbial chicken and egg scenario. When projects are few and far between, keeping top talents bleeds out the budget. However, you need a highly skilled team to get more projects.
With a nearshore team, your problem is solved. You only pay for talents on demand. During business lowdowns, you get rid of the overheads until the next project comes along. All the while, a multifaceted team equipped with the latest skills and tools is at your disposal.
From recruitment and career management to project development and delivery, Growin has a deep understanding of the stakes and technical challenges of each IT Outsourcing project. Get in touch today and discover how we can support you in reaching your business goals, saving you time and money so you can focus on what matters most – Growing your business.
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