A lot can go wrong in the software development process. Unclear and shifting project goals can turn the code into a complicated labyrinth that is nearly impossible to navigate. Lack of expertise on board can become evident too far into the development process. Incorrect scope of work evaluation can lead to a project being unable to be completed on time and under budget. Does any of this ring a bell?
Actually, 50-80% of software development projects fail wholly or partially. Why? Lack of refined workflows and processes, leading to increased costs, missed schedules, and low quality of deliverables.
But this is totally avoidable with the right tools and approaches in place. Today, I want to share some tips based on our software delivery expertise and show how you can improve the software development process or get it back on track.
Types of Software Delivery Challenges
While every product idea might be unique, software development uses ready-made components, third-party libraries, and API integrations, so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Similarly, processes and workflows must be repeatable.
We’ve delivered quite a few software projects and know what software development challenges to expect. From our experience, the most common pain points can be grouped into three categories:
These are the types of problems we’ve encountered most often when stepping in as technology partners for our clients. Here’s more detail and InventorSoft’s recommendations for overcoming each challenge.
Organizational Software Delivery Challenges
A lot must happen even before developers write a single line of code. A dedicated development team with relevant expertise must be chosen. They must establish communication channels with stakeholders, plan a detailed project roadmap, automate routine tasks as much as possible, and outline and agree on a long-term product improvement strategy. Proper organization from the get-go helps keep the project from devolving into a disorganized escapade.
In-depth Planning and Execution
In-depth planning and execution are paramount for software development success, irrespective of an organization's size. CEOs of smaller companies must navigate resource constraints and scalability challenges, while project managers in larger companies wrestle with complexity and the management of risks.
Moreover, when driven by a brilliant idea and the desire for rapid implementation, it becomes challenging to maintain focus on individual features and ensure code consistency. As a result, project code can turn into a half-baked mess, which might eventually have to be tossed away. Startups are particularly prone to this problem, while more mature companies can avoid this pitfall due to more established processes.
Solution: First, prioritize features and requirements based on immediate business needs, focusing on high-impact, cost-effective solutions. These practices align closely with the core principles of Agile methodology and lean development, making them indispensable for your project.
Next, the mistake is that founders start designing their own methodology that doesn’t work.
The solution is to adopt the Scrum methodology, which entails working in short, well-defined sprints and necessitating daily team reports on progress, plans, and roadblocks. This software development approach enables teams to closely monitor the project's status and respond promptly to emerging issues. It also empowers team autonomy, ensures roadmap adherence, and enhances stakeholder collaboration.
Instilling Good Communication Practices
Regular Scrum meetings are too short to discuss development issues at scale effectively. If regular communication doesn’t occur between development team members and stakeholders, work can degrade into a bunch of self-run mini-projects that won’t coalesce into a cohesive product. Result-oriented communication between project stakeholders and project managers (PMs), between PMs and developers, and between developers and testers is all equally important.
Solution: Have regular team calls/meetings where people share their progress and the biggest problems they face and where they can brainstorm to find solutions together. Keeping project stakeholders in the loop also helps prevent miscommunication — it keeps team awareness high, ensures people don’t stray from the project’s goals, and reduces the risk of missing the next release date.
We hope there’s no need to explain why missing release dates is bad, but to ensure we are on the same page, we briefly highlight its importance.
Establishing a Timely Release Schedule
For many startups, following a lax release schedule and postponing release dates might seem acceptable if the latest code batch isn’t quite ready. However, a rigorous schedule can lead developers to cut corners and use quick and dirty fixes to release “just a day late.” This adds technical debt to deal with later down the road. Finding a balance between these two polarities is a challenge every company has to deal with.
Solution: A release schedule splits the development process into predictable and manageable chunks and keeps developers disciplined. Moving a feature or story point to the backlog and next sprint is a better outcome than releasing buggy code — or not releasing at all.
Reporting all issues as they arise and tracking them to resolution can keep releases on schedule — but this raises the challenge of efficient collaboration.
Inefficient Use of Collaborative Tools
Issues reported via Slack, email, phone, or vocally across the desk might lead to quicker resolution, but knowledge of the solution can vanish without a trace. Half a year buzzes, and it becomes nearly impossible to recall what caused a particular bug or how it was fixed.
Solution: Documenting issues in Jira, Redmine, YouTrack, or any other project management system helps keep track of all the problems that arise and their solutions. Confluence, a great collaboration platform from Atlassian, helps keep all the documentation, guides, and how-tos neat and organized.
You can also use issue-tracking and knowledge-sharing tools like Asana, Trello, Notion, or Zimbra to keep needed knowledge at the team’s fingertips and support informed decision-making for product improvement.
Implementing a Continuous Improvement Strategy
In the ever-changing tech world, CEOs and CTOs are constantly under pressure to improve their products in business and tech. So, they put in the effort to create a solid plan for continuous improvement. Nowadays, it's pretty rare to find totally unique software. With the fierce competition, customers have plenty of options to switch to if they find tools or services that suit them better.
Solution: Develop a general long-term improvement strategy, keep track of market trends and competitors, predict customer expectations, and continuously improve your product to meet and exceed expectations.
By the way, continuous improvement is impossible without investing in automation. By automating routine tasks and workflows, your team can redirect efforts toward more strategic and value-added activities. It indeed enhances productivity and frees up resources for innovation and improvement.
Maintaining CI/CD Processes
Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment are part of a bigger DevOps software delivery approach that automates repeatable tasks through software like Docker, Kubernetes, Terraform, Jenkins, and many other tools.
At startups, however, automation expertise is not widespread because the amount of DevOps work per project usually isn’t enough to justify hiring a DevOps engineer full-time to implement automation. Manual deployment and lack of automated testing pre-deployment lead to bugs, errors, and lost time.
Solution: By employing DevOps CI/CD engineers and software developers through technology partners like InventorSoft, you can access skilled talent who can assist you in building an automated code delivery pipeline and teach your team to use it, reducing deployment-related human errors.
Once all the challenges mentioned above are addressed, you can commence proper product development. However, a set of challenges related to code delivery may arise next.
Coding-related Software Delivery Challenges
Even when there’s full buy-in and support from management, all the routine tasks are automated, and communication with stakeholders is clear, on-point, and leads to solving issues — a host of challenges that originate from the complexity of writing code still remain.
Lack of Knowledge-Sharing Within the Team
Frequently, only a few people on the team (the PM and the Team Lead) have full knowledge and understanding of the product’s architecture and aim, users’ needs, task prioritization, and other details. Naturally, explaining every single point to every developer would be overkill — but it’s essential for everyone on the team to have a good understanding of project goals, team members' roles and responsibilities, and ongoing work. Even more important is to ensure this knowledge remains accessible to everyone at any time.
Solution: Team members might come and go, but project expertise must remain available. Developer documentation and in-depth onboarding procedures are crucial to ensure a smooth knowledge transfer. When everybody on the team can follow established processes and workflows, the need for trial and error among new entrants is significantly reduced, resulting in substantial cost savings for the overall project.
Limited or Non-existent Group Code Review
While developers may excel at their assigned tasks, unchecked mistakes can escalate bugs. It's normal to have one developer work at one feature or story point at a time — but it’s not normal for them to be unaware of what their peers are doing and how his code will interact with theirs.
Solution: Group code review and cross-code review are great tools for checking what your peers are doing and highlighting any errors. The direct outcome is the reduced risk of pushing a new batch of code full of mistakes to the testing environment — or to the production, God forbid. Established processes like code review also help prioritize the tasks in the backlog correctly to ensure consistent code delivery.
Failing to Prioritize Backlogs
A backlog ensures that team members do not duplicate each other's work. It is also essential for developers to plan their schedules. With a backlog, developers can prioritize tasks by choosing between new and backlog items. However, if tasks remain in the backlog for extended periods, they can disrupt the product's structure when eventually integrated into the codebase.
Solution: Product owners and team leads must correctly prioritize backlogged tasks so developers can accurately budget their time and ensure the development process is predictable. Otherwise, the risk of last-minute fixes and cutting corners grows exponentially, resulting in copious amounts of technical debt.
Speaking of which…
Accumulating Technical Debt
One of the biggest developer maxims is “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” This mindset leads to products running in production with technical debt — dirty fixes to complete a feature quickly to meet a release deadline or reach other short-term goals. Be it intentional, unintentional, or completely unavoidable technical debt, it can make further product development and maintenance nearly impossible.
A product can run for a long time, and then something inevitably goes awry — believe us, it always does. If left unchecked long enough, fixing technical debt can consume up to 30% of the budget for software development.
Solution: Treat your product’s technical debt like your consumer debt. Continuously work on repaying it, and never let it pile up, or your product risks being buried under the rubble.
Naturally, merely writing code on time and under budget isn’t enough to guarantee stable software operation. New code batches should always be properly tested to ensure they won’t break an app in the production environment and that new features work as expected. Next, let’s look at testing-related challenges.
Testing-related Software Delivery Challenges
One of the biggest mistakes a startup can make is not testing their code thoroughly. A lot of factors can contribute to this oversight, from the team’s lack of CI/CD automation expertise to not knowing what types of testing are needed. Below, we list the most common testing-related mistakes we’ve had to solve.
Discrepancies Between the Production and the Testing Environments
This is quite a common situation, especially when there aren’t CI/CD workflows. A testing server farm might run from project start to finish and be adjusted over time, but not all of the adjustments mimic the production environment. As a result, code that behaved just fine in testing can break the app in the production environment.
Solution: Treat testing servers as cattle, not pets. Automatically deploy and destroy them on demand through CI/CD pipelines so the testing environments are deployed and run using the same components as the production environment. Selenium Webdriver immensely helps in achieving this result.
Absence of Pre-deployment Regression Testing
Yet another widespread mistake is not recognizing the importance of regression testing. If the old code worked before, and the new code works fine in production, why waste time running regression tests? Later, a minor dependency error crashes the whole release, resulting in a rollback, wasted time and effort, and unhappy customers.
Solution: Use CI/CD pipelines for automated unit, integration, and regression testing. This way, your QA engineers don’t become overburdened with routine work. Instead, they can apply their skills and time to more important matters.
Scarcity of Automated Unit Testing
We’ve said it time and again — automated testing is essential. However, writing unit tests for every new batch of code seems excessive for most developers, especially when managing a test codebase takes nearly as much time as writing the product code. Thus, only key features are covered with automated tests, and edge scenarios can result in crashes, security flaws, and data leaks.
Solution: Embrace the need for automated unit testing. Use it proactively, constantly increase its coverage, and remember — an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
As you can see, while a wide variety of software development challenges exist, there are solutions for every single one. And in most cases, choosing the correct technology partner helps keep all the difficulties in check.
Startups and established companies alike can find themselves overwhelmed by software development challenges. Seemingly minor problems can spiral out of control and break a product. To avoid this, clear procedures, polished workflows, and time-proven best practices are essential.
Keep the team in the loop regarding overall progress; regularly cross-review your peers’ code; write in-depth developer documentation; automate most repetitive, time-consuming tasks; and plan ahead based on a well-thought-out strategy — these steps can help product development succeed.
Throughout dozens of completed projects, we’ve mastered building CI/CD pipelines and using various technologies to help customers deliver products on time and under budget.
We’re ready to help you get the same results for your next project. Contact us, and let’s discuss how we can help you turn your next idea into a successful product!
- Types of Software Delivery Challenges
- Organizational Software Delivery Challenges
- Coding-related Software Delivery Challenges
- Testing-related Software Delivery Challenges