Software Project Rescue: Methods That Work

Maria Boyarko

Maria Boyarko

Head of Business Analysis Department

Business Analysis
Jul 14, 2022
Lesedauer: 5 Min.
  1. Why software projects fail
  2. What is software project rescue?
  3. How to spot a failed software project
  4. The reasons why software projects fail
  5. Ways to rescue a failed software project
  6. Stop the development process
  7. Find a software partner
  8. Jointly find the root of the problem
  9. Communication
  10. New guidelines
  11. Back to work
  12. To sum up

Software project rescue is a thing no team wants to deal with. However, software project failures are a fact of life for everyone, be it a small startup or a huge software outsourcing company. No IT initiative is absolutely bulletproof. That is why teams should be prepared to handle this challenge and learn more about the phenomenon of a software project and application rescue. This is what today’s piece is all about.

Why software projects fail

First of all, most software projects fail. According to a recent 2020 estimate by The Standish Group, 66% failed. Whether the actual level is higher or lower, the failure rate is still significant. There are plenty of potential reasons for such failures, ranging from poorly documented requirements (48%) to inadequately chosen development tools and applications platforms (17%).

Why software projects fail

Whatever the source of the problems might be, your project might still be salvageable. Below, we will discuss how to save it.

What is software project rescue?

Software project rescue can be defined as a set of processes and policies applied to bring your failing software initiative back on track with the minimum possible negative consequences. Whatever the nature of your software project is, when it fails, you have only three options:

  • Abandoning the project as a whole,
  • Postponing it,
  • Extending it and asking for additional resources.

In any case, your organization is in trouble. The key to minimizing the consequences of these problems is to understand whether a software development project is failing. What are the applicable indicators?

How to spot a failed software project

While all software development projects differ, their failures also differ. However, on the basis of our experience with the customers Andersen has already helped, here are some indicators you can take into consideration:

  • Suddenly, you realize that your software development project is living on its own. That is to say, no one is able to comprehend how this software project helps your business objectives. The only situation that can be worse is when no one is able to explicitly say what your business goals are.
  • It becomes clear that your software project lacks clearly specified and acknowledged tech objectives and KPIs. That is to say, you have no idea how it’s progressing and how close you are to the finish line.
  • No one holds review meetings and there have been no demo versions for a long time. It means that no one is exercising control over the project and monitoring the situation in general.
  • You notice that your team members have been working long hours or even overnight. More than that, their motivation to do so is (understandably) extremely low.
  • Finally, your staff turnover rates are skyrocketing. People are literally abandoning the ship.

In emotional terms, an interesting sequence was recently proposed by InfoWorld. This website offers the following perspective:

  • Enormous optimism, as any failing project starts with hope,
  • Blame, i.e. when things start to go wrong, people look for a scapegoat,
  • ‘Mad coding sessions’ making fruitless apps,
  • Despair and apathy,
  • Ultimate delivery, when a deficient product is released anyway,
  • Relief, when you do not have to deal with the product anymore,
  • Recognition from management.

For sure, the process might end sooner, as many projects are canceled or postponed at the ‘despair and apathy stage.’ Now is the time to talk about why projects fail.

The reasons why software projects fail

From a practical point of view, projects start to fail, per the Project Management Institute, when:

  • The priorities of your organization change — 39%,
  • The ultimate goals of your organization are altered — 37%,
  • Your product requirements have been collected inaccurately — 35%,
  • The vision of your software project turns out to be inadequate — 29%,
  • Poor communication between the parties involved — 29%,
  • Ill-defined opportunities and risks — 29%,
  • Incorrect cost estimates — 28%,
  • Inefficient change management — 28%,
  • Insufficient sponsor support — 26%,
  • Resource dependency — 26%,
  • Inaccurate task schedule — 25%,
  • Lack of PM skills — 22%,
  • Lack of resources — 21%.

As you can see, there are plenty of reasons. Analyzing them properly is important as the reason for the failure often defines your project rescue method.

Ways to rescue a failed software project

Stop the development process

The most logical step, when you want to rescue a failing software project is to temporarily stop it. You simply can not improve a negative scenario when it keeps on changing. So, no matter how hard it is, halt the development process.

Find a software partner

Hiring a team of professionals, as a source of external expertise, will help you understand the reason for the failure and resolve it. Make sure that the company you are going to cooperate with employs business analysts and offers project discovery services. These competencies are extremely relevant when it comes to software project rescue operations.

Jointly find the root of the problem

In cooperation with your custom software development service vendor of choice, identify the reason behind the problem by launching a thorough review of the software project, in its entirety. In fact, this is the key stage, as it shows you what has to be fixed.


Clearly communicate the findings generated by the previous stage and make sure to properly re-engage and re-involve all the participants and stakeholders. Every team member must know their role and be fully informed.

New guidelines

Set new clear goals, assignments, and boundaries before getting back to work. Every responsibility must be confirmed, in a clear and transparent fashion. In addition, your team must fully grasp not only what is to be done, but also why it is to be done.

Back to work

Return to work and document every step you are making. With this documentation, you will be able to avoid similar mistakes in the future. Lessons learned from your own errors are the most valuable ones.

As for the particular types of software rescue operations, Andersen is in the right position to offer the following ones:

  • Initial health checks: we will examine the current state of your software project, identify shortcomings, and lay a proper foundation for improvement.
  • Code advice: entrust a high-quality code review to Andersen so that we can assess your technical debt and ways to handle it.
  • Server and cloud assistance: with us, your software will be tailor-made, thoroughly tested, and outstanding.
  • Version upgrades and feature extensions: we will rewrite your code to launch a more modern version and write new blocks to add missing functionalities.

To sum up

Sooner or later, your team might face software project failures. To overcome these challenges, you must not panic and you must stop using old ineffective ways. With professional assistance, almost any project can be rescued. Andersen, as a trusted and high-ranking custom software development company, is fully prepared to undertake software rescue operations of all types. Contact us so that we can assess your problems and offer solutions.

Andersen ist ständig bereit, Sie bei den Projekten aller Komplexität zu unterstützen.

Maria Boyarko, Head of Business Analysis Department
Maria Boyarko

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