Time Overrun Causes and Prevention Strategies in Software and App Development Projects

You sit down at your computer and your heart starts to race. You hold your breath as you hit the refresh button to check your email. You’re positive that you’re going to get another nasty email from a very challenging client, it’s not a matter of if, but when. This client hired your firm to create a website and mobile app. But this project has encountered delay after delay. You’re late, and they’re not happy.

The good news is you’re in good company. Oxford University estimates that half of all large IT projects defined as projects with a total price tag of over $15 million saw cost overruns, while about one in ten see time overruns.

Project delays arise from a wide range of different issues, with many of them totally random and unexpected. In other instances, time overruns are unavoidable because the original deadline was unrealistic. An important piece of the equation is the creation of realistic, viable project timeframes, so you don’t guarantee failure before you even begin. However, this is just one factor that you must consider during the on-boarding process. There are a number of additional steps you can take to minimize or totally avoid time overruns in software and app development projects.

Tip 1: Begin the Project With Clear, Detailed Specs

The decisions that are made at the very beginning of a project can have a tremendous impact on the ultimate outcome. For this reason, it’s vital that you begin by creating a clear and detailed spec document, outlining a number of key points, including:

  • the phases or stages;
  • precise specifications;
  • deadlines for each phase; and
  • precisely what work will be performed during each phase.

Without proper project specs, there’s a good chance you’ll suffer from problems such as scope creep and budget overruns.

Tip 2: Using a Phased, Team Approach and Setting Goals to Avoid Development Timeline Overruns

Top software and app developers use agile methodologies. Agile development usually includes the practice of dividing a single large project into multiple phases or stages, each with its own budget and timeline. It’s typical for developers to work in small teams and, when combined with a phased approach, the endeavor becomes far easier to manage and ultimately, execute.

A phased approach is also more client-friendly and lends itself to a good invoicing strategy. The client can pay in installments as each stage is completed. Plus, this approach allows for short-term deliverables at the end of every phase. This keeps clients happy as they’ll have an opportunity to see tangible, measurable progress. That’s far more satisfying than a response like, we’re working on it.

Tip 3: Beware of Scope Creep and Its Impact on Project Timelines

Scope creep is commonly observed in connection with time and budget overruns, particularly when it comes to software, website, and app development projects. Scope creep occurs when you have a nebulous, poorly-defined project scope, which often lacks an effective change control protocol. Over time, the scope expands and shifts to the extent that the project no longer aligns with the previously-established budget and timeline expectations.

If a project’s scope is altered, the timeframe and budget must be adjusted accordingly. Otherwise, a developer may find that it’s impossible to meet deadlines because they were established with something very different in mind.

Tip 4: Expect and Schedule for the Unexpected

Take your anticipated development timeframe and increase that figure by up to 20 percent (depending upon complexity) to allow for thorough testing and troubleshooting. You never know what challenges you may encounter during the course of a project. Whether it’s a highly complex enterprise software build, or a straightforward but innovative B2C mobile app, you must expect and plan for the unexpected. These obstacles may entail troubleshooting tasks, problem-solving for a bug, or addressing other unanticipated events, such as an iOS update (this may necessitate fairly significant revisions to a mobile app or software program).

At the end of the day, it’s better to exceed the client’s expectations by finishing early versus leaving the client disappointed as a result of delays.

Tip 5: Use Continuous Integration Strategy to Streamline Workflow

Continuous integration strategy can go a long way toward pacing your project and ensuring consistent productivity levels at all stages in a development project. Platforms such as BitBucket and GitHub are key elements of this approach, as they allow developers to check out code segments (just as you’d check out a book in the library). The coding progresses through the various stages until the project reaches a state of completion.

Continuous integration strategy combined with the use of project management platforms like GitHub and BitBucket allows for more effective tracking and management as the project progresses through development, QA testing/acceptance, and production.

Tip 6: Time Tracking and Analysis to Maximize Productivity

Time tracking is critical, as this practice provides you with the data you need to identify both strengths and areas of inefficiency. In cases where you identify an area associated with poor productivity, you’ll have the opportunity to mitigate and resolve the situation. This approach offers the insight required to set more realistic project deadlines and timeframes.

You can choose from a vast range of time tracking apps, desktop software and even smartwatch apps, including Toggl, FreshBooks, Harvest, TimeDoctor, and EverHour. These apps also provide key HR data, giving companies the power to evaluate workflow and employee performance in a more comprehensive manner.

Using a Multi-Pronged Strategy for Time Overrun Mitigation

When you take a multi-pronged approach to project management for app and software development, you’ll have a far greater chance of remaining on time and on budget. In cases where the aforementioned tips just aren’t viable or practical, you might consider a rather unique IT staffing solution known as insourcing. Insourcing allows companies to sidestep a diverse array of challenges. It’s an effective strategy for minimizing your chances of joining the nearly one in ten projects that fall behind schedule.

iTech specializes in insourcing, as we dispatch an experienced, fully-vetted team of developers and other tech professionals to assist with a specific project. Insourcing works on a per-project basis, allowing firms to call in extra help only if and when it’s required. You avoid the hassle of recruiting, staffing, and training, while also saving time and money as you call in the support you need to meet your objectives. Learn more about iTech today and contact us to discuss your tech and IT staffing needs.

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