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23 Aug 2022 • 5 min read

Common Software Development Risks and How To Mitigate Them

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As with any project, software development comes with certain risks that, if not identified and appropriately addressed, can lead to delays or even failure. The potential for what can be accomplished with software is greater than ever, but with it, complexity has increased. These days software development encompasses much more than just writing lines of code, which means there are more areas where something could go wrong. Fortunately, it is already known what some of the most common software development risks are and what can be done to mitigate them. To avoid repeating the mistakes made by others and increase your project’s odds of success, it is vital to be aware of these factors.

1. Lack of Productivity

One of the most common risks in software development is overestimating the developers’ productivity. This is something that should be adequately addressed right from the start of the project, as it can impact everything from estimates to budgets and deadlines. Instead of overestimating the productivity of developers, analyze the insights gained from their previous projects for more realistic predictions. Tools such as burn-down charts or iteration reports can help to keep track of productivity, but it is just as important to set achievable timeframes and a sustainable pace for the project. Failure to do so can cause staff burn-out and decrease productivity even further along with morale.

2. Vague Specifications

For developers to do their job efficiently, they need a clear understanding of what is expected from them. It is vital that the project requirements are presented clearly and unambiguously to everyone involved to prevent confusion. Failure to do so can result in confusion, conflicting specifications, or even large portions of work that must be redone at later stages. Make sure that everyone is on the same page right from the start and continue to monitor progress to keep the project on track. Stay on top of things by regularly checking in with members of the development team about their thoughts on the project and how they feel it is going, in general. Their feedback will make it clear if some elements are not going the way it should and what can be done to address it before it’s too late.

3. Staff Turnover

Some software projects can take a long time to complete, which means that it is possible for certain members of the team to leave and then have to be replaced with new ones. Unless steps are taken, this can become a real issue if a key member of the team leaves or new members are not adequately prepared for what they will be doing. This risk can be mitigated by ensuring that other team members are familiar with different aspects of the project. Setting up a knowledge hub where developers can share information and resources will also help prevent issues if a key member suddenly has to leave the project. Finally, make sure to maintain up-to-date documentation and that resources are available to quickly on-board new members.

4. Lack of Ownership

While all members of the team need to be familiar with different aspects of the project, there must also be clarity about who is responsible for specific parts. Without this clarity, there can be confusion about responsibilities, which in turn may cause issues to go unnoticed. Clearly defining project roles from the start will strengthen the team and benefit productivity as everyone knows exactly what they need to prioritize. This can also help to improve quality as everyone is accountable for their tasks and can take pride in their contributions.

5. Poor Quality Code

Poor quality code is a big risk in software development and something that needs to be carefully monitored to prevent serious issues. There are many reasons a software development project could end up with poor quality code, including rushed deadlines or unclear standards. To maintain a high standard, it is important that the code is tested frequently and that any bugs or logical errors are addressed. Encouraging developers to use coding best practices and creating coding standards that everyone on the project adheres to will also help mitigate the risk.

6. Scope Creep

Once a software project is underway, it can be tempting for clients or stakeholders to request additional features. However, implementing these features will affect everything from the schedule to the budget, resource allocation, and more, which could ultimately compromise pre-set milestones and goals. Scope creep can also cause friction with developers as they are expected to complete more tasks using the same resources while still having to meet milestones. To mitigate the risk of scope creep, it is important that the entire project is separated into manageable segments or iterations. The scope of the project should also be frequently reviewed to ensure it remains under control. 

7. No Risk Management

Not managing risks properly can be a risk itself during software development. Without proper risk management protocols, it might not be possible for risks to be identified and addressed in a timely manner. Make sure that potential risks are identified beforehand as well as the likelihood of them cropping up during the project. This information can then be used to create risk mitigation plans in the event of “worst-case” scenarios. Any potential risks should also be carefully monitored during the project and dealt with immediately.

Conclusion

Even knowing what can go wrong and how to prevent it from happening is not a guarantee of success in software development. The process of identifying risks and coming up with solutions should be an ongoing process during development. Working with an experienced team that is aware of potential issues and knows how to deal with them is also a significant advantage in software development.

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