Software Development Blogs

Defining Software Project Success

Success is a relative term and it’s often defined differently based on an individual frame of reference. When it comes to a software project (or product), success will be based on predefined criteria (which will be relative to the business and the project).

A successful software project also means different things to different stakeholders. Defining measurable success criteria is crucial. For example, to a commercial software business manager, “success” might be meeting the deadline and budget. For a programmer, it could simply mean rolling out error free software within a stipulated period of time. But for a product owner, success can be dependent on the following:

- Quality
- Scheduled (predictability)
- Spec
- Budget

The traditional measurements of success for software development companies include all of the above, but they don’t take the satisfaction of the development team into consideration. But it doesn’t stop there as there are several more shortcomings to the criteria above. For one, it fails to provide a meaningful definition of a successful software project. For example, delivering on schedule doesn’t take into account that a better idea may have come up along the way.

  1. Success Defined by Assessing Value

    For enterprise apps, user adoption is the sign of success. This is because the app is to solve a problem for the end user. So even if the app provides a great opportunity to realize this, it will be futile if the target market isn’t using it.

    But the problem here is that high adoption rates don’t take into account issues like going over budget or technical debt. While the product can be financially successful, the end user would be desperate for updates (or patches) to fix the bugs within the system. The business might also incur significant costs to rapidly resolve all the problems after product release.

    In our experience, a successful project is driven by both measurable metrics and project goals. To start, the goal of any software development initiative is to enhance function and deliver tangible business value that has a measurable ROI.

    Measuring Success
    But to do this, we have to first know exactly what value we’re trying to deliver. So all the specific high-level and low-level goals you want to achieve must be clearly mapped out from the beginning.
    Before coding anything, you have to first write out the specific high-level goals you want to achieve. These goals may include any or all of the following:

    - Revenue increases
    - More leads
    - Greater customer satisfaction
    - Enhanced productivity

    Next, you have to define how the specific deliverables of the project will help you achieve these goals.

    - Do you need to increase your website UX?
    - Develop a mobile app?
    - Streamline current processes in your ERP?
    - Add new functions to your core business-critical systems?

    Once the goals of the business and project are clear, you can start using the four metrics below to measure the progress you have made.

  2. Capacity for Innovation

    You have to assess if the software project can provide solutions to core problems. Furthermore, you also have to ascertain if the innovation displayed can hold its own when compared to competitors.

  3. Capacity for Adoption

    It’s necessary to evaluate if the end users were able to find what they wanted and take desired actions intuitively and easily. You also need to find out if your customers were able to efficiently and effectively implement your software into their daily routine

  4. Facilitate Delivery

    When the build cycle is complete, you have to evaluate if you delivered the needed value as promised. If you haven’t, the next step is to assess what resources are available to achieve it.

  5. Business Efficiency

    You also need to figure out if the functions and processes of the company or end user have been enhanced by your product. In an enterprise setting, you can assess if you were able to improve customer service, enhance productivity, or generate more leads (that have a significant impact on the bottom line).

    By analyzing these metrics, you can have a better understanding of the quality of the work put into the project and figure out if you accomplished your predefined value-oriented targets. But in an enterprise setting, clearly identifying the overall value of the software project is a little more complicated. This is largely due to the fact that value scrum methodologies focus heavily on gathering requirements, stakeholder buy-in, and project sprints.

    But just delivering a project on time and under budget doesn’t mean that the software project was successful. As scrums are focused on software development alone, we won’t have the information needed to evaluate its value.

    For that, the project must be measured based on the following:
    - Business domain
    - Context
    - Technology parameters
    - Timeframe

    If you’re building enterprise software to solve a problem for a business, then the value will depend on how well the software performs within the context of the business operations.
    You can figure this out by identifying your product’s direct impact on the business, UX, financial impact, and the rate of adoption. However, these metrics can also dramatically change as all variables will heavily depend on the project goals and the end user.

As you can clearly see, it can be a difficult task to clearly define a successful software project. But one thing is for sure, a software project will only be successful if both your business and the client’s company forward in the right direction.

How would you define a successful software project? Share your thoughts and experience in the Comments section below.

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IT Storyteller and Copywriter
Andrew's current undertaking is big data analytics and AI as well as digital design and branding. He is a contributor to various publications with the focus on emerging technology and digital marketing.