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Analysis of software projects success and failure factors in Afghanistan

By Dr. Jawid Ahmad Baktash, and Mohammad Asif Kamran

Faculty of Computer Science, Kabul University

Introduction:

Afghanistan is a developing country and software development industry is relatively new in Afghanistan as compared to other developed countries. Most of the software projects are medium size projects developed in Afghanistan. Project success and failure has always been a discussing topic nearly in the world of software projects. This research presents a survey of the software projects success and failure factors from the developers’ perspective in Afghanistan. We have collected failure and success factors from the literature review and examined them in the software projects in Afghanistan. In this survey, we examined the views of software developers/programmers about the success and failure of the software projects. Our survey provides empirical evidence that a software project is normally succeeded or failed not because of one factor, but because of multiple factors, and indicated that some factors have greater influence over the success or failure of the project as compared to others. Our study recommends that software project developers should have consideration to these factors that should decrease the likelihood of project failure and increase the likelihood of project success.

As Afghanistan is a developing country and software development industry is relatively new in Afghanistan. Currently this industry is in the boom like other industries in Afghanistan. In 2001, most of the software projects managed and developed by foreign managers and developers, especially most of them were from neighbor countries like Pakistan and India. As Afghanistan is a developing country, so the government and the business people want to perform their tasks in an efficient way. For this purpose they needed to incorporate software into their business processes. By the passage of time, most of the Afghans went on scholarships to foreign countries, after their coming back to the home country, and most graduated from the home universities, started managing and developing software projects themselves, so the number of foreign managers and developers reduced. But only developing or managing the software project is not the subject matter, the key part is their success or failure. Most of the software projects currently being developed in Afghanistan are medium size projects.

As Software projects have specific characteristics that make them different from other engineering projects like invisibility, flexibility and complexity, so the chances of their failure are also increasing. Market demands the development of the software project in a short time interval even if the product developed in a lower quality [1].

Different people define success and failure in different ways. IT projects are defined failed if they do not provide the required output within the originally allocated budget, time schedule, fail to provide required functionality, comfortably satisfy stakeholders and fail to be used by the end users after deployment [1]. Software projects are considered successful if they have been completed in initially allocated budget, delivered on time and meet business objectives [2]. Other authors have defined projects as successful if they meet or exceed expectations [2]. In a study of multiple projects the success criteria on which all parties agreed that meet user requirements, meet time and budget scale, meet quality, happy users and meet purpose [3].

In order to investigate the failure and success factors of software projects in Afghanistan, we have developed a questionnaire to collect data from Afghan software developers about the software projects on which they have freshly worked. They will fill the questionnaire for one project they considered successful and for one project they considered failed.

We have prepared and distributed two separate questionnaires among software developers, one for the project success and one for the project failure. Each developer will fill both the questionnaires, one for a recent project that they considered failed and one for a recent project that they considered successful. The questionnaires are filled by developers who have good experience in software project development, so we believe that these questionnaires will support to reach our goal, and their experience can definitely change our research in positive way.

The survey, which contained 35 questions for project success and 39 questions for project failure, covering requirements, project management, budget and schedule estimation, scope and objectives, project complexity, customer/user, software development process and the development team. For the ease of the respondents, we have collected success and failure factors from the literature review and require developers to answer the questions with just Yes, No or I don’t know.

I.      Finding And Results

We can determine, with the help of our data analysis, the success and failure factors in the software projects. We computed the total number of success and failure factors existing in the project.     Our analysis provided percentage of the occurrence of each success and failure factor and identified most critical success and failure factors based on the high percentage of occurrence in the software projects. Both the success and failure factors have been sorted ascending based on the percentage of (Yes) response of the respondents. Our analysis indicates that a project could be delivered quite successfully, if we avoid failure factors with percentage greater than thirty percent and we adopt the success factors with percentage greater than fifty percent.

Most critical failure factors, which caused projects to be failed with percentage greater than thirty percent and which if avoided, leads the project towards success are: 1). No clear requirements. 2). Changing requirements during development. 3). Changing scope and objectives. 4). Poor or unrealistic schedule. 5). No commitment of users to the success of the project. 6). Lack of top management support. 7). No effective monitoring or control of the project progress. 8). No risk management. 9). Not rewarding staff for working long hours. 10). Conflict between users departments. 11). No proper planning. 12). Project complexity not handled properly. 13). Lack of users involvement. 14). Lack of effective project management skills of the project. 15). No clear definition of roles and responsibilities. 16). Poor quality management and quality control. 17). No proper training for end users.

The following table lists all the failure factors observed in the software projects with their respective occurrence percentage.

Table 2:   Failure Factors And Their Percentage Of Occurrence In The Projects

No. Failure Factor Yes response
1 Changing requirements during the project development 77 %
2 Changing scope and objectives of the project during the project development. 77 %
3 No clear requirements and specifications at the start of the project. 69 %
4 Poor or unrealistic schedule estimation. 69 %
5 Lack of users committed to the success of the project. 69 %
6 Lack of support from top management. 62 %
7 No effective monitoring or control of the project progress. 62 %
8 No Risks management throughout the project. 62 %
9 Not appreciating or rewarding staff for working long hours. 62 %
10 Conflict between user departments. 62 %
11 No proper planning. 54 %
12 Lack of users’ involvement. 46 %
13 Lack effective project management skills of the project manager. 46 %
14 No clear definition of roles and responsibilities. 46 %
15 Poor quality management or quality control. 46 %
16 No Proper training for end users. 46 %
17 No clear scope and objectives. 38 %
18 Not managing change properly. 38 %
19 Inability to handle the project complexity. 38 %
20 Lack of enough staff. 38 %
21 Insufficient skills of the assigned staff. 38 %
22 Loss of the key staff member such as project manager or analyst. 38 %
23 Unavailability of project manager. 30 %
24 Lack of software development background of the project manager. 30 %
25 Ineffective or wrong development methodology. 30 %
26 Poor team relationship. 30 %
27 Political involvement. 30 %
28 Bad budget estimation. 23 %
29 Changing project manager during the project development. 15 %
30 Trying a new software development methodology. 7 %
31 Excessive use of outside consultants. 7 %
32 Adding staff late to the project to meet the deadline. 7 %
33 Competitive market or commercial pressure. 7 %

Most critical success factor with percentage greater than fifty percent and which if adopted leads the project towards success are: 1). properly handling project complexity. 2). Good support form top management 3). Proper planning. 4). Good team relationship. 5). Clear scope and objectives. 6). Users’ commitment to the success of the project. 7). Proper change management. 8). Effective project management skills of the project manager. 9). Staff with efficient skills 10). Clear requirements and specifications at the start of the project. 11). Well defined and realistic schedule. 12). Proper training to end users. 13). Clear definition of roles and responsibilities. 14). Effective monitoring and control of the project progress. 15). Good quality management and quality control. 16). Risks management throughout the project. 17). Effective software development methodology. 18). Project manager’s software development background. 19). Well budget estimation. 20). No conflict between user departments. 21). Availability of the project manager. 22). Availability of enough staff. 23). No change of project manager. 24). No change of scope and objectives during development. 25). Users’ involvement. 26). Appreciating or rewarding staff for working long hours.

The following table lists all the success factors observed in the software projects with their respective occurrence percentage.

Table 3: Success Factors And Their Percentage Of Occurrence In The Projects

No. Success Factor Yes response
     
1 Project Complexity handled properly. 92 %
2 Good support from top management. 85 %
3 Proper planning. 85 %
4 Good team relationship. 85 %
5 Clear scope and objectives. 77 %
6 Users’ commitment to the success of the project. 77 %
7 Proper change management. 77 %
8 Effective project management skills of the project manager. 77 %
9 Staff with sufficient skills. 77 %
10 Clear requirements and specifications at the start of the project. 69 %
11 Well and realistic schedule estimation. 69 %
12 Proper training to end users. 69 %
13 Clear definition of roles and responsibilities of the project members. 69 %
14 Effective monitoring and control of the project progress. 69 %
15 Good quality management and quality control. 69 %
16 Risks management throughout the project. 69 %
17 Effective software development methodology. 69 %
18 Project manager’s software development background. 69 %
19 Well budget estimation. 62 %
20 No conflict between user departments. 62 %
21 Availability of the project manager. 62 %
22 Enough staff. 62 %
23 No change of project manager. 62 %
24 No change of scope and objective during development. 54 %
25 Users’ involvement. 54 %
26 Appreciating or rewarding staff for working long hours. 54 %
27 Requirements not changing during development. 46 %
28 No political involvement. 46 %
29 Competitive market or commercial pressure. 31 %

II.   Conclusion And Limitations

The main objective of this paper is to identify and investigate the factors of success and failure in software projects in Afghanistan. Our study has provided empirical evidence that a software project does not fail or succeed just because of one factor, but because of multiple factors. It is also indicated that some factors have greater influence over the success or failure of the project as compared to others.

Additionally, this study has indicated that the software project developers to become conscious of their insights of software project success and software project failure. Furthermore, the study recommends that software project developers should have consideration to these factors that should decrease the likelihood of project failure and increase the likelihood of project success.

We identify some limitations to our research. In Afghanistan, people do not give you enough time to respond to your questionnaire. Another limitation is that the results of our questionnaire have been derived using limited samples. Our survey is based on the perceptions of the developers, so our results are limited to their knowledge, and opinions concerning the projects and project managers they have worked with. The questions in our survey prepared, were based on the factors that were identified in the literature review.

Reference

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[4] M. H. N. Nasir and S. Sahibuddin, “Critical success factors for software projects: A comparative study,” Scientific Research and Essays, vol. 6, no. 10, pp. 2174-2186, May 2011.
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[7] V. June, J. Sampson and N. Cerpa, “What factors lead to software project failure?,” in the 2nd International Conference on Research Challenges in Information Science, RCIS 2008, 2008.
[8] L. Wallacea, M. Keilb and A. Rai, “Understanding software project risk: a cluster analysis,” Information & Management, vol. 42, p. 115–125, 2004.
[9] J. Jeffrey K. Pinto and Samuel J. Mantel, “The Causes of Project Failure,” IEEE transactions on engineering management, vol. 37, no. 4, November 1990.
[10] N. Agarwal and U. Rathod, “Defining success for software projects: An exploratory revelation,” International Journal of Project Management , vol. 24, p. 358–370, 2006.
[11] G. Thomas and W. Ferna´ndez, “Success in IT projects: A matter of definition?,” International Journal of Project Management, vol. 26, p. 733–742, 2008.

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