Software Project Success – 5 Keys of Responsibility

Quick Summary - Who is responsible for software project success? What about failure? It’s necessary to divide the outcome into two parts. Your executives or senior managers commissioning the software are responsible for ensuring it meets your business requirements.

Software Project Success – 5 Keys of Responsibility

Due Diligence - business requirements

The first key, as we recently underscored the importance of due diligence in Choosing an IT Staffing Agency in Six Easy Steps. To quickly recap, the top five reasons why software projects fail according to the Project Management Institute owe to a lack of due diligence. The consequences of changing priorities and objectives mid-stream equate to increased costs and a delayed-release, often a fatal combo. Defining the wrong or incomplete business requirements is not something that can be laid at the feet of your development team – in-house or outsourced.

Who’s in charge? Designating company representatives.

Who “owns” the software project? They may or may not have been part of the due diligence evaluation. This individual is responsible for overseeing its development, answering business/industry questions, and approving work at each stage of development. It’s a good idea to also appoint an assistant to fill in on their behalf. That’s contingency planning for sick days, vacations, and turnover. Both of your designated company representatives need to be fully engaged with the project, alongside their regular job responsibilities.

Two methodologies or processes work together to make sure your designated project owners get everything right with your software project – Participatory Design and Minimum Viable Products (MVP). Continuous Product Development covers optimization.

Participatory design and development

The principles of Participatory Design and MVP’s are closely tied together. In starting with Participatory Design, we want to emphasize the importance of keeping ALL stakeholders involved in the software development project from the very beginning.

How will your intended software interact with all elements of your business – sales, marketing, customer support, operations, finances, etc? Someone from every department should know what the software will do, what their support requirements will entail, and the benefits it can deliver for their activities. Moreover, the software team – designers and developers, as well as actual end-users are involved in the process, too.

Noting such features they would like to add can be useful – for future validation. Most importantly perhaps is identifying user data, metrics, and KPI’s they would like to collect. The development team can then examine if and how specific user data can be collected and offer alternative options. The point here is that in today’s Big Data economy, sometimes the value of user data is worth more than the product or service some companies offer.

Highlights of participatory design and development

  • All stakeholders are involved – project owners, business SME’s, engineers, developers, designers, and end-users.
  • End-users are involved in answering questions about the product from the very beginning. You always stay informed about what customers want.
  • All decisions are validated by user data to eliminate guesswork.
  • You save time and money by avoiding features your users don’t care about.
  • Faster and stronger monetization potential.
  • Intrinsic to MVP’s.

Understanding MVP as a process

Perhaps the most important business lesson “ever” is that you don’t have a great idea until your customers are happy even after buying it. This is the basis for always starting with an MVP. As coined by start-up consultant Eric Ries, “[A] Minimum viable product is that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.”

It’s best to understand that an MVP is ultimately a process that’s driven by customer demand to find the perfect product-market fit. The Participatory Design process can lead to a long list of desired features and functions. MVP’s focus only on why end-users will love to use your product over any other software products. Once you’ve functionally perfected the one thing users love most, you can prioritize other items on your list according to user demand.

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Continuous product development

An MVP will get your software to market faster and at less cost than a full-feature release. We won’t go into them here, but there are some reasons why you might want a full-feature release. Regardless, MVP or full-feature launch, software development doesn’t end at launch. There will always be bugs to fix for it to work with certain operating systems or devices. There’s likely to be an enormous amount of optimization needed based upon all the user data, metrics, and feedback you receive.

Even launching a simple e-commerce website, companies spend time to optimize content, social sharing, catalog placements, prices, and checkout processes. Continuous small improvements of each metric will make the website progressively more profitable over time.

Software project success is your responsibility… but you’re not in it alone.

If you’ve done your due diligence, you’ll be working with a development team fully capable of delivering exactly what you ask of them. They will build to your specifications, but whether or not the specifications will prove successful is really on you. However, this does not need to be a scary experience.

Participatory Design, MVP’s as a Process, and Continuous Product Development all apply to a collective effort to define a perfect product-market fit while fulfilling your business requirements. Your colleagues, developers, end-users, and user metrics will inform you every step of the way toward software project success.


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