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GistLens · 24 Jul 2023

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You’ve already spent a lot of time, money and effort on a project, you’re months or even years in and you’re eager to achieve the outcome you were hoping for, but the entire thing has gone off the rails. Or, at least, you’re starting to suspect that’s what’s happening.

You wouldn’t be the first company this has happened to. Unfortunately, the number of development projects turning into trainwrecks is alarmingly high. If you’ve started to lose faith in your developer getting your project across the line, it might be time to raise your concerns.

Let’s take a look at how to know if your project is failing and what to do about it if it’s happening to you.

How Do You Know If Your Development Project is Failing?

Of course since no two projects are the same, no two failures are the same. There are, however, some clear indicators that might help tip you off, as well as red flags you should keep your eye out for.

For instance:

  • Deadlines are being missed
  • Your developer keeps increasing the price and your budget is being blown out
  • Your developer is working too slowly
  • Your developer isn’t delivering workable code or is delivering code filled with bugs
  • The project’s goals are somehow no longer clear to anyone, and you have no idea how far it’s progressed or how close you are to completion
  • It’s been a long time since you’ve had an update, test or review meeting
  • It feels like your developer isn’t managing the project anymore
  • Communication is minimal or non-existent

Once you’ve worked out that your project is a sinking ship, you need to act fast. The sooner you try to turn your project around the greater success you’ll have. So, how do you go about fixing a failing development project?
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Stop Development

The very first thing you need to do is put a pin in the project – even if it’s just a temporary one. By this point, you’ve probably wasted enough time and money and you can’t afford to waste any more. It’s also difficult to move on to next steps if the project keeps changing.

Figure Out What’s Going Wrong

The next crucial step when trying to salvage a failing development project is to assess where things went wrong in the first place. This requires taking a deep dive into the issues with your project. Often there are obvious topline complaints like scope creep, budget overruns and quality issues, but these are just flagpoles of more structural or systematic issues. Once you’ve figured out the issues, you need to analyse the causes of these issues. Avoid making guesses – you need empirical evidence and data.

Some common reasons development projects fail include:

  • Poor development lifecycle planning and poorly defined project requirements. Inaccurate estimates and poor planning cause problems before you even begin and can be really difficult to fix.
  • Teams that aren’t adequately qualified or are understaffed. Often development teams will overestimate their capabilities or will agree to unrealistic deliverables in order to win the job. A project manager needs to be upfront and honest about what the team can handle.
  • An uncommitted and unmotivated team
  • Poor management
  • Poor communication, including language barriers and misunderstandings encountered when using offshore developers whose first language isn’t the same as yours
  • Use of unsuitable infrastructure, or unsuitable development methodology and practices
  • A key player left midway through the project, or your developers have stopped working for one reason or another
  • Differing views and ideas amongst the team internally, or you as the client, causing tension and preventing meaningful collaboration
  • Software may have been poorly implemented or designed with crucial issues
  • The schedule has not been followed. Even with meticulous upfront planning, IT projects can deviate from the schedule without consistent monitoring and commitment to meeting deadlines

Once you’ve ascertained what’s going wrong, it’s time to think about how to fix it.

Should You Save the Project or Abandon Ship?

Whilst it may seem like the work involved will be enormous or that salvaging a project is impossible, most projects can be saved. With proper diligence and planning as well as the right knowledge, expertise and patience, you’ll be able to successfully turn your project around.

You’ve no doubt thrown a lot of time, effort and money into your project, and no one wants to see that go to waste. An effective project rescue mission will focus on the end goal to bring the project back on track with as minimal impact as possible on your budget and timeline.

Can Your Existing Team Help?

Sometimes problems can be fixed using your existing team with a proper review and plan of attack, however sometimes the team itself is the problem. You’ll know your team can’t help you to move forward if:

  • They aren’t taking accountability for the issues
  • They’re making excuses that don’t hold up
  • They’re at a loss on how to fix things
  • They don’t have enough developers on board to get the job done
  • The relationship has soured beyond salvage and you don’t trust them anymore

Whatever you do, don’t throw good money after bad.

If this is the case, it might be time to look for a new team.

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Hire a Professional Rescue Team.

Choosing to work with a team who is well-versed in rescuing development projects can be a faster, more effective and more successful way to revitalise a failing project. Often, a failing development project is going to need a fresh set of eyes or a unique set of skills to be turned around.

Working with a rescue specialist means you’ll be working with someone who has the expertise to accurately diagnose a problem and its causes, and have the technical know-how to rectify the issues.

Working closely with you, your development rescue team, will:

Undergo a thorough review of the entire project to see what’s gone wrong and why. For this to be effective, you’ll need to communicate all aspects of the original project as exhaustively as possible. Your rescue partner will look into the source code of the project to see what’s already been implemented and what hasn’t been developed yet. They’ll also run a code quality analysis to see if things like coding conventions and design patterns are being properly implemented, and will review the building blocks of the project to assess whether proper architecture principles patterns were used.

Carefully create a new set of goals, objectives and requirements. This stage may involve looking back at your original goals, what has been complete already, and what is still outstanding. Also, your goals may have shifted since embarking on the project, and this will be your chance to change, add or reinforce the objectives you want to achieve.

Develop a recovery plan. Depending on your project and the issues, this might require several actions. For instance, your Code Rescue partner may recommend ensuring you’re using the right project methodology, mitigating security risks, planning to utilise managed cloud services effectively, recovering lost source code or rebuilding broken source code, fixing bugs and errors, and preparing extensive documentation.

Get to work. From here, your Code Rescue team will get started straight away, and work hard to keep on track in order to meet your budget, deadlines and expectations.

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Find the Right Development Project Rescue Partner

Choosing the right rescue partner will be crucial to the success of your development project rescue mission. An effective Code Rescue team will know how critical it is to get to the root of the issue and fix it fast. This team should have the appropriate set of skills and knowledge, as well as the time to get you across the finish line as quickly as possible. To be sure you’re working with a team who can deliver what they’re promising, one thing you can do is read testimonials and case studies of people who have used their services.

Here at GistLens, we’ve come to the rescue of many clients who have been tied up in knots for years. A big chunk of our business is with ‘Code Rescue’. We’ve helped dozens of startups and early-stage entrepreneurs back from the brink of disaster. Digital agencies building their MVP reach out to us because they couldn’t finish. Don’t be left without a working solution – accelerate your project and make it possible to get to market.

To find out more about us and how we can help save your project, get in touch now.