Top 3 Reasons for International It Project Failure and How to Avoid Them

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In the age of agile software development, DevOps, continuous delivery, and related management techniques, IT project failure is still sadly a thing. It may not be as spectacular as it used to in the past – think of IBM’s never-completed $110 million upgrade to the State of Pennsylvania’s system – yet IT projects fail in new, insidious ways.

Even though only 14 percent of IT projects fail outright, according to a 2017 report from the Project Management Institute, a further 31 percent never meet their goals, 43 percent exceed their initial budgets, and 49 percent are delivered late.

Projects can go awry in subtle ways, which may at first be difficult to spot, especially when the client and developers are in separate locations, have limited contact opportunities, and speak different languages.

According to various estimates, as many as 50 percent of international projects fail.

Despite numerous benefits, such as increased flexibility and cost optimisation, outsourcing IT projects to teams outside of your country can indeed pose some challenges. So what can you do to ensure punctual delivery of satisfactory projects for your business? How can you reduce potential risks associated with IT outsourcing?

Top 3 Reasons for It Project Failure and How to Avoid Them

PMI’s survey gathers information on the most common reasons for IT project failure. Here are the top three ones, followed by ideas on how to reduce related risks.

#1: Inaccurate Requirements Gathering.

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Responsible for 39 percent of failures, an inexact listing of work requirements sooner or later translates into project delays and exceeded budgets.

This situation can happen when project sponsors at your company prepare a specification in a vacuum, leaving the internal or external developers out of the process. As a result, many potential issues, such as flawed architectural assumptions, can’t be ruled out in time to avoid costly consequences. Another risk lies in diverging interpretations of the original document – and these are particularly likely to occur in international projects.

By including both business and IT perspectives during the requirements phase, your company can significantly mitigate the risk of project failure resulting from inadequate or incorrect requirements. Rely on an experienced software developer who can help you with this step using their proven business acumen.

Remember that when working with teams from diverse cultural backgrounds, a rule of thumb is not to take anything for granted. Always ask, double-check, and iron out any doubts that may arise – it will certainly help to get and keep everyone on the same page.

#2: Change in Project Objectives.

Changing project goals are to blame for 36 percent of failures, but they don’t have to lead to failure. While it may be hardly feasible to control the altering objectives, it is possible to minimize the impact of such shifts by working in an agile model that supports the necessary change.

By reducing the timeframe to two-week iterations, you can ensure that your development team focuses on the most critical set of work, consistently delivering value. So when planning the next IT project at your company, make sure that your external team is well-versed in Agile methodologies and can react flexibly to your changing business requirements without hindering the overall delivery.

Bear in mind, though, how important it is to pay attention to cultural differences around self-organising teams and the other tenets of Agile. Your interpretation of Scrum concepts can be incomprehensible to devs from a different part of the world, so again, never underestimate the value of proper communication and knowledge transfer in your project.

#3: Inadequate Project Communication.

Ineffective communication is the primary contributor to project failure one-third of the time. Without a well-thought-out communication strategy and tools for storing project information, your company risks throwing money out the window.

This problem can be even more acute in the case of international IT projects, where both language and cultural differences can lead to diverging interpretations and expectations, hindering development success.

We experienced it when our team at Scalo was approached by an Italian client who required an immediate start. Upon selection of the candidates and completing technical discussions, they suddenly slowed down all communications, leaving our devs in limbo and endangering their further involvement. By introducing a daily telco with the client, we managed to overcome misunderstandings stemming from cultural differences, and the project is now being scaled up.

Refine Your It Outsourcing Model

As already signalled, these widespread project management risks can get even higher in case of IT outsourcing. Fears and insecurities surrounding work with international dev teams can, and indeed, deter many companies. Even when pushing projects forward locally, they still struggle – usually with skills shortage and soaring costs.

Is there a way to enjoy the best of both worlds? Yes, and it’s called hybrid IT outsourcing. By choosing this particular model of cooperation, you can ensure a constant presence of at least one engineer from the external team at your office, bridging your company with the rest of the remote development team.

This type of solution ensures a far better understanding of your particular organisational setup by the external devs, leading to improved knowledge transfer and communication, without the usual costs associated with full-time hires.

Daniel Terek Scalo

Daniel Terek
Business Development Manager
 Daniel Terek is an Account & New Business Manager at Scalo. He supports companies’ grow their business by understanding their problems, and connecting them to the right engineers for their project. He is here to support your development.

Get in touch and discover how hybrid IT outsourcing can help to ensure your project success.

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