Every software project begins with big dreams and grand visions. Somewhere in an alternative universe, there is a project that fulfills every dream but all too often software projects in our universe stumble toward the finish line and sometimes cross it.

Analysts might like to toss out random numbers to estimate what percentage of software projects fail, but these are wildly inaccurate by definition because, well, failure is not a binary thing. You can end up with code that runs well but no one uses. Or you can end up with code that won’t even compile. Sometimes you can salvage something useful from the flaming wreckage and sometimes it’s best to run away before it explodes.

When the smoldering mess cools, the autopsies begin and people begin to look for an explanation of what went wrong. Here is a list of the most common reasons software projects fail.

  • Too few team members.
  • Too many team members.
  • Fundamental feature changes.
  • Picking the wrong technology for the job .
  • Poor prioritization.
  • The market window closes.
  • Bad architectural decisions.
  • Political conflicts.
  • Betting on technology that’s not ready for production.
  • Betting on technology that’s soon to be outdated.
  • Unrealistic deadlines.
  • Unforeseen competition.
  • Rushing the process.
  • False belief in the power of software.

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