Want to know the three pillars of successful software projects?

Want to know the three pillars of successful software projects?

Want to know the three pillars of successful software projects?


Tracking your development team’s progress is critical when launching a new software product.

Project tracking helps you monitor your costs, timelines, and quality. Keeping tabs on all three can be challenging, but it’s essential to the long-term success of any project.

If you’re reading this article, there’s a good chance you’re in charge of keeping tabs on one or more software development projects at your company. But with so many acronyms floating around (and sometimes overlapping) in industry circles, it’s easy to get confused about what they all mean.

Want to avoid leaving your success to chance? It’s important to remember that success seldom happens without a plan.

Fortunately, although many ways exist to measure success as you launch a new project, there are three main things to track: time, cost, and quality.

In this article, we’ll dive into how you can keep tabs on your next software project from start to finish.

The ‘Iron Triangle’ of success

Today, the three primary pillars of project success are time, cost, and quality.

Measuring success after delivery allows team members to analyze project effectiveness, get feedback, and perform ongoing improvements to boost success rates for future projects.

While you estimate time and cost during the project planning phase, your quality metrics come from users’ beliefs and perceptions after you ship. Therefore, while project success depends primarily on pre-development activities, how you manage execution and delivery is also critical.

Today, only about one out of six IT projects is successful. Most do not finish on time, within budget, and with all the promised functionality (according to decades of Standish Group studies). About one in three projects go so badly that they are a complete loss— they are abandoned or canceled.

The harsh reality is most projects run over budget, take longer than expected, or miss critical functionality.

Unfortunately, the risk of doing nothing is also high. Technology changes fast. Skilled labor shortages, rising costs, and supply chain problems drive new financial, production, and competitive market challenges. You must modernize to stay competitive.

The good news? Tracking common characteristics of successful projects can steer you away from risk and toward success.

Top Five Factors in Successful IT Projects

Project complexity and size increase risk. But even simple projects fail frequently.

The top five factors leading to project success are:

  1. User involvement
  2. Executive management support
  3. Clear Statement of Requirements
  4. Proper planning
  5. Realistic expectations

How to protect yourself

Just like coal miners had canaries in cages to test the air, you need to know what to look out for that could indicate your team is operating in a toxic project environment.

Keep an eye out for changing requirements and specifications, and carefully monitor technical competence.

Do you see a growing number of change orders? If so, it’s a HUGE red flag. Your chances of failure are also going through the roof.

Monitoring technical competence requires you to assess if your team has the skills to succeed. Don’t just assign parts of your projects to people without vetting their ability to deliver.

Top Factors leading to project failure

Project surprises are rarely in your favor. So it only makes sense to minimize them.

Success can’t happen without a plan. Don’t be in such a rush to start coding that you don’t take the time to lay a foundation for success. Communicate, confirm details, and plan for success upfront.

Want to avoid nasty surprises? Occasionally, you need to step back, evaluate your project’s health, and reset.

Reassess if you notice any of these warning signs creeping into your project.

  1. Requirements are complete. (Meaning they do not change as you go)
  2. Proper planning, IT management, and oversight exist at the beginning and with every project change.
  3. Your team has the necessary skills to complete the project on time, within budget, and quality.
  4. Know where your project stands with every sprint. Set (and reset) realistic expectations with all stakeholders and maintain executive support.
  5. Ensure users are involved. User interaction is essential from the beginning and throughout your project.
  6. Maintain tight collaboration with stakeholders. Regularly verify that your project is still required, know your stakeholder expectations, and ensure you can meet them.

What’s the #1 project killer? Scope creep.

Your scope will change during a project. You can bank on it.

Sometimes changes happen due to poor planning or anemic discovery. These surprises are completely avoidable. Mitigate these risks with proper planning early in your project lifecycle.

However, sometimes scope and requirements can also change because circumstances change. Or, maybe you discover new insights that can drastically change the nature of your project.

You just need to keep change under control and manage adjustments when it arrives.

Want another reason to keep your projects small? You may find it valuable to know that numerous studies have found smaller projects are drastically more successful than large ones. So nail down your target scope. Keep it as small as possible while still being large enough to provide value to customers.

The larger and longer your project runs, the higher your chance of surprises.

Regardless of why things change, keep in mind that if your scope changes, you likely have a completely different project on your hands.

Projects are living things. You need to adapt accordingly, recast the project, and manage expectations. And here’s the thing: projects constantly change, especially with today’s Agile development processes.

You must ensure everyone understands that estimates gathered at the beginning of your project without complete information are just that… estimates.

And you need to establish up-front that you have to adjust your project when things shift. Continuing forward and ignoring changes is a recipe for disaster.

As additional requirements or scope appear during the interview or implementation phase, park and revisit them in future steps. Or, you can also adjust your project. Figure out the impact and get sign-off on the new delivery dates, scope, and costs.

If you need help, a dependable IT and business technology partner can assist you in readjusting timelines, resources, or approaches to constantly course-correct.


Tracking and measuring project time, cost, and quality is key to delivering successful products and services. You need to know where you stand. If you don’t know if you’re on track or where the track is, you can’t make changes that will improve your success.

It’s worth maintaining a high-level project perspective in addition to managing sprints.

Want to course-correct before problems become an issue? You can spot trends, challenges, and shifts early. But this requires you to start planning, tracking, and measuring your project. In addition, you’ll also get a better idea of how much remaining time and money you’ll need.

In addition to monitoring how well your team is working, you can use this information to set goals, find trends, and plan for success in the future.