Companies that successfully embrace an agile approach to software development see major changes in their business. Agile software development improves the software development process and makes a positive effect on all other factors. Paying decent attention to the factors as the size of the project, qualified team, proficient product owner and sponsor, and emotional maturity of the company improves the quality of the software development process. The business is better able to read changing conditions and priorities, develop adaptive solutions, and avoid the constant crises.

As a business owner or CTO, you are responsible for the successful execution of the software development project. Even if the development process goes quite smoothly there is always room for improvement. Business owners and managers are looking for solutions to improve the process and, as follows, shorten the time to market delivery, increase the quality of the end product, and prevent costs from increasing. All these improvements make you stand out as a business owner or manager and bring success to your business.

What is the software development process?

Whether you plan it or not, every piece of software goes through a similar path from idea to launch day. Collectively, the steps of this path are called the software development life cycle (or SDLC for short). The SDLC is the sequence of steps that take place during the development of a piece of software. The Software Development Life Cycle as a collection of rules and practices helps to connect tech, non-tech team members, and project stakeholders to transform your exceptional idea into a unique software product or solution. It structures the work of the development teams enabling them to meet the project requirements, meet deadlines, and stay within the budget. Each of the stages of the software development life cycle depends on the model of the software development process a company chooses whether it’s agile, waterfall, V-model, RAD (rapid app development), or incremental.

The six steps of the software development life cycle include planning, analysis, design, development & implementation, testing & deployment, and maintenance.

Key factors affecting the success of software development projects

Through browsing a great amount of information, reading different researches and articles on this topic, we have selected a few factors, which, based on facts, and on our professional opinion, influence the success of the IT projects the most. Paying attention to these factors and investing your resources in it will make the headway of your project.

An agile approach to the software development process

First, we have found the article “Agile Project Success Rates are 2X Higher than Traditional Projects (2019)” which analyzes the CHAOS report 2018. The CHAOS Report is a study based on The Standish Group’s CHAOS Research Project on IT project success rates and project management best practices.

This report covered projects they studied between 2013 to 2017. For this time period, the overall breakout of success, challenged and failure is shown below for agile and waterfall, with Agile projects being roughly 2X more likely to succeed, and 1/3 less likely to fail. Before we continue further with the importance of the Agile Software, let’s figure out what is considered as success or failure in software development projects according to the Standish Group’s CHAOS report.

key factors influencing the success Software Development Process

The definition of project success or failure

Originally, the Standish Group definition of project success was limited to the triple constraint, which has been the standard for the Project Management Institute for a number of years.

Using the triple constraint, the Standish Group evaluated projects as successful, challenged, or failed. This means the project was resolved within a reasonable estimated time, stayed within budget, and contained a good number of the estimated features and functions.

Successful — A successful project was one that met all three of the triple constraints: schedule, cost, and scope.

Challenged — A challenged project would have met two out of three constraints, for example, delivered on time and on a budget but not with the desired scope.

Failed — A failed project is one that is canceled before it is completed, or completed but not used.

In their CHAOS report of 2015, they made a change is how they define success. They coded the new CHAOS database with six individual attributes of success: OnTime, OnBudget, OnTarget, OnGoal, Value, and Satisfaction. Their new Modern definition became OnTime, OnBudget, with a satisfactory result. This means the project was resolved within a reasonable estimated time, stayed within budget, and delivered customer and user satisfaction regardless of the original scope.

Agile projects are more successful than waterfall

There are also other sources that confirm the effectiveness of the Agile approach to project management and its influence on the success of the project.

Forbes interviewed more than 500 senior executives from around the world in July 2017. 92% said they believe organizational agility is critical to business success.

In the research “Agile is the new normal” conducted by Hewlett Packard Enterprise, 16% of 601 development and IT professionals describe their company as pure Agile. 51% are leaning toward Agile.

In the same survey, the researchers asked agile adopters to describe their beliefs about its adoption and consequences, as shown in this figure below.

 the statement about agile development

This Figure shows Percent of respondents agreeing with the statement about agile development (number = 403 organizations that have primarily adopted agile).

The primary motivators for agile adoption were improving team collaboration and increasing software quality and customer satisfaction. These factors, not efficiency gains, were seen as the strongest benefits associated with the methodology.

According to the 13th State of Agile Report, released 7th May 2019, the Cost Reduction has gained importance.

It states: “This year saw a 71% increase in those selecting “Reduce Project Cost” as a reason for adopting agile. There was also a 27% increase in “Project Cost Reduction” as a reported benefit of implementing agile.”

Project Cost Reduction

The same report states that investment is vital for success in scaling agile. When asked what has been the most valuable in helping to scale agile practices, the top three responses were “Internal agile coaches”, “Executive sponsorship”, and “Company-provided training”. All three of these point to a commitment to invest in success.

Further in this document, we will see that Executive sponsorship affects not just success in scaling agile practices, but also affects the success of the IT project as a whole radically.

Size of a software development project

Another key finding of the Standish Group is that larger projects have higher failure rates. This should not come as a surprise to anyone. What is even more interesting here, is the extent to which the smaller projects reduced the risk (see project failure rates chart below). The key takeaway here is that smaller projects will maximize agile project success.

Project success rates by Project size

Looking at the chart, you can see that Agile projects have a significant edge over Waterfall Projects for every project size. Of the two project factors, size and approach, the Standish Group says that size has more of an impact on project failure rates than agility. Both together have the greatest impact.

Agility and Project Size factors in Dutch IT environment

In 2016–2018 was conducted a study “Increase the success of Governmental IT-projects”, using a comparative analysis with two samples, namely 20 large and grand projects in Dutch government and 90 small (<1 Mio. USD) non-governmental projects. Researchers assessed the factors of success of 110 projects in the Netherlands by the project benchmark resolution method of the Standish Group and compared large governmental and small projects to an international sample of the Standish database.

Findings of their study of Dutch IT-projects shows that the sample of small projects shows a success rate of 75%, while the large and grand projects only complete successfully 10% of the time. The average of the two researched samples creates a success rate of 43%. In the CHAOS Report which is based on thousand projects of various sizes, an average success rate overall the project sizes is calculated at 45%.

Success rate of Dutch IT Projects

According to the “review CHAOS report 2018” The top three Factors of success for 2018 are decision latency, minimum scope, and project sponsors.

The similar results received in the 10th Global Project Management Survey “Success in Disruptive Times” issued by Project Management Institute. Their three factors are executive sponsors, project scope, and Mature Value Delivery Capabilities.

Decision Latency for project development

Decision latency is a leading cause of project failure.

Richard Hackathorn’s view of decision latency is through the concept of the value-time curve. This curve is designed to show that the longer you take to respond to new data, business events, the less value there is in your response (assuming you make an equally good decision).

Dr. Hackathorn describes response latency as consisting of the sum of :

Decision latency

  • Capture latency
    How long, essentially, does it take to “notice” the new data or event
  • Analysis latency
    How long does it take to create information and insight from this data
  • Decision latency
    How long to act on this insight — really two parts, deciding and then acting on the decision.

As he says “As quicker actions are taken, we move up the value-time curve, increasing the value gained.” By compressing the time to make the data available (capture), analyze it, and decide what to do to increase the value of our decisions. While one can focus on the time to capture data and make it available for analysis we generally focus clients on reducing the time to analyze the data and act on that analysis. By developing data mining and predictive analytic models we can essentially automate the analysis as new data can be scored in real-time as soon as it is available using in-database analytic deployment or scoring embedded in decision engines. By using business rules and Decision Management Systems to automate decisions, we can reduce the decision latency essentially to zero.

reduce the decision latency

Sponsors Support 

Support for a software development project is priceless. Actively engaged executive sponsors help organizations bridge the communications gap between influencers and implementers to significantly increase collaboration and support, boost project success rates, and reduce risk. “Success in Disruptive Times” report shows that the dominant driver of projects meeting their original goals is an actively engaged sponsor. They see that organizations with a higher percentage of projects with actively engaged executive sponsors (more than 80% of their projects) report 40% more successful projects than those with a lower percentage of projects with sponsors (less than 50% of their projects).

Inadequate Sponsor Support is a Primary Cause of Project Failure

  • 41% of Underperformers say inadequate sponsor support is a primary cause of their failed projects
  • 17% of Champions say inadequate sponsor support is a primary cause of their failed projects.

Control of a software development project scope

Scope creep — The uncontrolled expansion of digital product or software development project scope without adjustments to time, cost, and resources — can happen on any project. It causes money to be wasted, decreases satisfaction, and delays project benefits. Essentially, more work is added than originally planned. This work cannot be absorbed without the project missing one or more objectives — or passing up opportunities.

Research shows that 52% of the projects completed in the past 12 months (regarding the research execution date) experienced scope creep or uncontrolled changes to the project’s scope, which is a significant increase from 43% reported five years ago. Champions report doing better with managing uncontrolled changes; however, an average of one-third of their projects experience scope creep (33% champions and 69% underperformance).

With many approaches, every attempt is made to ensure that scope within each sprint is strictly controlled. In the agile world, the team is making requirements tradeoffs and work is re-scoped at the start of each iteration.

Success is greater when teams listen, learn, and are adaptable.

Mature Value Delivery Capabilities

Value delivery capabilities are the full spectrum of competencies that enable organizations to deliver their projects and programs. Maturing these allows for quick adaptation to changing market conditions by balancing efficiency and creativity and promoting continuous improvement. Organizations then have the ability to minimize risks, control costs, and increase value. They make use of all approaches to project delivery — predictive, iterative, incremental, and agile — using the one that fits the needs of the project and the organization.

However, research shows that not many organizations are good at this. Fewer than one in 10 organizations report having very high maturity with their value delivery capabilities. About two in five organizations report that creating a culture receptive to change, that values project management, and that invests in technology are high priorities. A quarter (15%) consider developing skills for project sponsors a priority, and only 31% are prioritizing the development of a comprehensive value delivery capability. Again, we can see that champion organizations are making the investment and have high delivery capabilities maturity — 87% versus 5% of underperformers.

Mature Delivery Capabilities Can Minimize Risks, Controls Costs, and Increase Value

  • 5% of Underperformers have high-value delivery maturity
  • 87% of Champions have high-value delivery maturity

Five factors that determine the success of your software development project:

Applying the ‘winning hand’ of successful projects According to the Standish Group there are five things you need to do to create a “winning hand” for project success.

  • A project needs to be small. This means six team members (maximum) with a time box of six months or less.
  • The process must be agile, such as the Scrum methodology.
  • The agile team must be qualified in both the agile process and technology.
  • The product owner or sponsor must be proficient.
  • The organization must have accomplished emotional maturity.

If you do these five things and do them well you have an 81% chance that a project will come in on time and on budget, with satisfied customers. You have only a 1% chance the project will fail and only an 18% chance it will be challenged in some way or other. More importantly, the project will have a 64% chance of returning very high to high value and only a 15% chance of returning no to low value.

Hire software development company to Improve Software Development Process

Looking for the company to develop your digital product, scale-up your development team or increase the efficiency of the project flow? Contact the Amsterdam Standard team right now!

We have it all: Agile approach, highly skilled and experienced developers and Scrum Masters, and a high level of emotional maturity.

We are looking forward to hearing from you.


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