How to Define a Successful Software Project

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 can also mean different things to different stakeholders. For example, to a commercial software business manager, “success” might be determined by revenue allocated and the budget that was agreed.

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:

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 because, for example, delivering on schedule doesn’t take into account that a better idea may have come up along the way.

Success Defined by Assessing Value

For enterprise apps, success is often measured by user adoption. This is because the app was created 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 the product is released.

In our experience, a successful project is defined by both measurement and project goals. To start, the goal of any software development initiative is to enhance function and deliver tangible business value that can be measured by ROI.

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:

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 have been clearly defined, you can start using the four metrics listed below to measure the progress you have made.

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.

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.

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 can be integrated to achieve it.

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:

If you’re building enterprise software to solve a problem for a business, then the value can only be assessed on how well the software performs within the context of the business culture.

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 can’t be deemed successful unless it moved 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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Andrew is our IT storyteller and copywriter. His current undertaking is big data analytics and CSS as well as digital design and branding. He is a contributor to various publications with a focus on new technology and marketing.

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