What Makes a Custom Software Development Project Successful?

Cort Buchholz

Written by Cort Buchholz

Confetti signifying software product success

Software has grown into a quarter-trillion dollar industry in the U.S. Yet even with all the money we pour into software, there’s a lot to be desired.

Custom software development can fill that gap – but it’s not for the faint of heart.

Back in 1995 (ancient, I know, but still relevant), the Standish Group found some discouraging statistics. 31% of software projects get canceled before completion. More than half end up costing 89% more than their original estimates.

I have to assume that those figures have gotten better over time. Development tools and processes have advanced while technical expertise has grown and become widespread.

Still, cost overruns, time overruns, and failure to meet client specifications are common. That’s not to say that you should dismiss custom software development as inherently doomed.

But it is to say that you should take every reasonable precaution you can before spending thousands or tens-of-thousands of dollars on development.

3 Criteria for Custom Software Development Success

Standish’s report gets at the heart of what makes custom software development projects successful. After surveying 365 IT executive managers, they came up with three major criteria: user involvement, executive support, and clear requirements.

  1. User Involvement Feedback from those who will actually be using the product should obviously inform its design. Software development is more than just coding – it’s about creating a product that’s usable and useful. No one is a better evaluator of those metrics than the end-user.
  2. Executive Support Getting buy-in from management is equally critical. If leadership doesn’t make your project a priority, it simply won’t get the resources it needs to succeed.
  3. Clear Statement of Requirements Without definite goals, it’s impossible to measure (and therefore to achieve) success. Outlining explicit functional requirements and project objectives at the start lays the foundation for a positive outcome.

Standish’s report gets at the heart of what makes custom software development projects successful. After surveying 365 IT executive managers, they came up with three major criteria: user involvement, executive support, and clear requirements.

Cort Buchholz

Written by Cort Buchholz

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