How to prevent and fix software delivery failure
Despite improved processes and increased IT budgets, it’s surprising that most software initiatives still fail. According to the 2019 “State of Agile Report,” only 48 percent of respondents reported that most or all of their agile projects were successful.
“Failure” can mean many things. Obvious examples are buggy products, stalled delivery, missed budgets, or blown timelines. But failure can also occur, even when a product is successfully delivered.
After all, if a software delivery team successfully builds a product that doesn’t provide any value to users—something people don’t actually use or gain benefit from—it can hardly be declared a success.
So with all the resources we have—iterative, adaptive development environments in which plans, architecture, and design evolve with a product—why do most products still fail? If you’re tired of failure, slow or low-quality software development cycles, it may be your delivery model—how you’re building software—that’s holding you back.
In this article, we’ll explain the top reasons for delivery failure, how to fix those failures, and how staff augmentation and managed services models compare. The choice between staffing and services is an important one. While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to build or expand your product team, what follows will help you pick the staffing or solutions options that best sets you up for success.
What Are the Primary Reasons for Delivery Failure?
Although the different reasons for delivery failure vary depending on the IT company, culture, and specific project, in our experience, here are some of the most common:
- Too much focus on gathering and defining technical requirements rather than planning the delivery of value to customers
- Too much focus on compliance rather than delivery
- Lack of process and the right people (a self-organizing team)
- Constant change and lack of delivery
- Poorly-defined business objectives or vision
- Lack of IT maturity
If any of the above sound familiar (or you feel like you spend more time managing contracts than on delivering value), staff augmentation may not be the best fit for your organization.
A staff augmentation model places resources on your team to fill a skills gap. With added resources, staff augmentation allows companies to move tasks from the backlog through development faster, accelerating product delivery. However, this “do-more-faster” attitude and approach can result in teams eating up time and money developing and delivering products that customers don’t even use.
Below: A breakdown of how staff augmentation can be comprised. In this example, an in-house team works alongside specialists sourced through staff augmentation services.
Think of it this way: If you’re an assembly line manager at an organization with a flawless production line, you need capable people to staff the assembly line and scale production. In this scenario, staff augmentation solves your problem—you can scale an operable system. However, if your production line has inefficiencies, adding staff to that defective line only amplifies those problems. In this second scenario, it’s best to fix the production line first, then scale.
Although we could go into depth on each of these points of delivery failure, for the sake of this article, we will highlight a few below.
Constant Change and Lack of Delivery
Yes, a culture that embraces change and accepts a level of adaptability can be positive, however, change still requires some control. For example, if an organization is constantly changing processes, restructuring teams, and shifting goals, this “chaordic” environment ends up costing the team and organization value-based delivery.
Delivered Features That Are Never Used
It’s incredibly frustrating for any IT organization to spend months working on and developing a product feature—either to be used internally or for an external client or stakeholder—that never gets used. Simply put, if no one uses it, the feature lacks value.
Unused features can also be symptomatic of a misalignment between the goals of an organization’s business and IT departments. If executives don’t properly communicate the vision or goals to the team, or the goals and processes constantly change, then delivery failure is an immediate risk.
How Can Managed Services Help Prevent Delivery Failure?
- Value-Based Outcomes: Rather than paying for a set number of hours, pricing is based on iterations (or sprints) and product delivery through a service-level agreement (SLA).
- Accelerated Evolution: Managed services teams can help define reliable processes that lead to delivery systems that accelerate over time, ultimately evolving the organization and its IT practices.
- Sustainable and Reliable Processes: Managed services teams are focused on defining and improving sustainable and reliable processes, which drives value with each delivery cycle. Sustainable and reliable processes help organizations evolve and at a lower cost than working through staff augmentation.
- Lower Costs: IT organizations that adopt staff augmentation models pay for hours that don’t necessarily equate to value. This results in elevated development and production costs that often sacrifice quality and overall value. With managed services, it’s easier to scale with demand with a lower cost over time.
- Improved Risk Management: Managed services can help reduce overall risks and uncertainties related to deliveries by applying advanced methodologies within guaranteed pricing structures.
When evaluating how to staff your product teams, it’s critical to consider the opportunity cost of building an in-house team or using staff augmentation. Hiring and onboarding a new employee takes time and resources and it’s important to consider the cost of that lost work time when evaluating your approach. With a managed services approach, the onboarding time takes days or weeks instead of months.
When employing a managed services partner, technology leaders are freed up to focus on defining and driving business value, rather than building and maintaining the day-to-day activities of an IT department.
Below: A breakdown of how a managed services teams work alongside in-house teams, overlapping so that the managed services (right) become an extension of the hiring organization (left).
The Right Managed Services Partner Helps IT Businesses Focus on the Big Picture
Most IT leaders look for two simple things from a delivery partner: consistent delivery and effective communication. With slow (or lack of) delivery and poor communication, IT leaders are left to think, “What are these teams actually doing? Why is this so difficult?”
When evaluating a vendor, transparency, clear communication, and actionable success metrics are just as important as technical competence. Even if an organization staffs the best engineers in the world, their work is worthless if they can’t deliver the necessary value to the organization or customers. As the liaison between the business and technical aspects of an organization, the IT leader’s greatest ally is a managed services partner that can help with both.
If you’re interested in learning more about how a managed services model can help evolve your organization, download our white paper, Overcoming Software Delivery Stagnation, today.
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