How to Prevent Software Project Delays

Published in
8 min readMar 22


Photo by Erik Mclean

Time management is critical in software development since it helps to deliver projects on time, build customer relationships, maintain team health and maximize profits. Basically, project management in any industry makes no sense without an account for time: people, budgets, deadlines — all will crumble like a house of cards. 🃏

Let’s see what are key challenges in software development projects, how to prevent project delays and handle them effectively.

Common Causes of Software Project Delays

⏳ Insufficient time and efforts in planning

Poor project planning is one of the primary causes of project delays. It often stems from the belief that project execution is where the value is created. Therefore, there’s no point in detailed project planning. In reality, scope development, risk analysis, software development time and cost estimation and other components of accurate software project planning are the pillars on which your project stands and your recipe of project success.

“If I had 8 hours to chop down a tree, I would spend 6 hours sharpening my axe.” — Abraham Lincoln

How do you expect your team to deliver on time when you haven’t developed a well-rounded project schedule, discussed and documented time estimates, calculated project cost and its variation? What do you do if one of the team members leaves and you neither have other available resources, nor a contingency plan?

🤨 The planning fallacy

Overly optimistic time estimates result in various negative implications, from increased work pressure and poor efficiency to a complete project failure. At the project planning phase, managers tend to stick with optimistic scenarios or not take into account risks and implications, thus sticking with overly optimistic estimates and making project execution a much harder task than it really is.

“What can go wrong, will go wrong.” — Murphy’s Law

Any specialists, especially developers, are guilty of being bad at estimating time for their activities. There are dozens of reasons why it happens: developers don’t account for unforeseen events, don’t want to disappoint their managers, or they are generally overconfident about the future. Don’t be quick to blame them — the real question is: do you take part in estimating project activities?

🔎 Ineffective project progress tracking

Ineffective project progress tracking is another common cause of software project delays. Software project managers are responsible for reviewing performance status reports, milestone completion, and regularly checking with the project plan but without the right tools, they risk missing out on bottlenecks and scope creep, burned out developers and drown in a slew of spreadsheets.

“When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported back, the rate of improvement accelerates.” — Pearson’s Law

Do you use tracking time to measure developer performance and ensure compliance with the project schedule? Do you build performance reports regularly to track team health? Do you track estimated time vs. actual time to identify bottlenecks and gather historical data for more accurate project estimation? Do you have a time tracking system in place that does all this job for you and relieves you from managing dozens of spreadsheets?

✅ Customer approval issues

Software project delays may also happen due to approval issues. Without timely communication and project progress report provision, receiving customer feedback may take longer than expected, especially if project performance is below expectations. Every change in the course of the project and every missed chance of communication brings you project closer to delay and even closure.

“The need to communicate effectively with your customers will come up again and again” — Bill Gates

The most effective means of communication with customers is figures. Is your project running according to the schedule? If not, why? Which activities required more time to complete? Which activities were completed earlier than estimated? How these changes in schedules affected the project cost, and if negatively, what can you offer to do about it?

🧑‍💻 Losing key development team members

The software development industry is dynamic, so are the moods and professional interests of developers. Switching a company after only a year of employment or even less is very common among the developers. Projects may run even longer so you need to account for a risk of losing your talents somewhere in between.

“Train people well enough so they can leave, treat them well enough, so they don’t want to.” — Richard Branson

In this regard, you need to account for developer interests and regularly check out on their professional development, job satisfaction and productivity and use this knowledge to the benefit of your project and team. The last thing you want is to learn that any of your developers is overloaded, burned out or is leaving next week. Do you work closely with the HR team to check out team health and prepare contingency plans to handle this risk effectively?

➕ The gold plating phenomenon

Gold Plating refers to adding extra functionality to the project, which hasn’t been defined in the original scope (and thus hasn’t been approved by the client). In other words, Gold Plating is giving the customer more than it was originally agreed on. The consequences of such decisions are severe: bloated project scope, profit losses, missed deadlines, excessive pressure and dissatisfaction in the team and finally, project delay or failure.

“Perhaps too much of everything is as bad as too little.” — Edna Ferber

Why did you make a decision to overdeliver in the first place? Are you trying to go above and beyond to please your client? Or show off your team abilities so that they stick to working with you? Are you doing business with your clients, or are you seeking approval from them at the cost of project profit?

The Magic Pill to Your Software Project Management

Most of the causes of software project delays boil down to ineffective time and cost management. The good news is that time and cost are interconnected: if you get your team to track their time, you can get an accurate representation of expenses, billing amounts, profits and losses. With time tracking alone, you and your development teams achieve the following benefits:

Now, let’s see how proper time management can help you deliver projects on time, mitigate risks, maintain team health and build solid relationships with customers.

How to Prevent Software Project Delays

1. Implement project management software

After all project activities, estimates and milestones have been calculated and approved by the customer, we recommend you to transfer this data to project management software for effective project progress tracking and reporting. Luckily, modern solutions like actiTIME allow you to import tasks from a file or set the system up in a few clicks.

Quickstart in actiTIME: set up customers, projects, tasks, estimates, deadlines and work rates — all in a single interface

2. Assign work across the team

After you’ve transferred all project activities to the system, it’s time to assign work according to the project schedule. Assigning project tasks across the team members is not enough: you need to make sure that no team member is under- or overbooked. Project management systems for software projects allow you to review the workload of every user and ensure fair workload for each team member.

Use Work Assignments interface in actiTIME to distribute a fair amount of work

3. Get developers track their time

Without managing time, you lose the grasp of the project progress and costs, so it’s important that your team members record time against activities assigned to them and update their current status. Most developers feel resistant towards filling out timesheets and recording their activities down to the minute. Make sure that implemented time tracking solution supports various ways of recording time: timesheets, calendars, browser extensions and software integrations.

Track time in actiTIME by entering task duration or logging start and end times of tasks using online timesheet or weekly timeline view

4. Track project progress

When the work is in progress, you need to look out for bottlenecks and address them in a timely manner. Review your Kanban board regularly to check out task status and make sure that no project activities are blocked. With time tracking software, you can easily see activity status, time expenses against the estimated hours, deadline dates and more.

5. Check project and team health

Another way to track project progress and team performance is to review productivity analytics. For example, in actiTIME, you can set up widgets with productivity metrics of your choice. See how working and leave time stacks, identify team performance trends and refer to detailed productivity reports to see time-based performance analytics of individual users.

Customizable widgets and reports in actiTIME displaying real-time statistics across selected users, projects and periods

6. Review project status in detail

Is your project moving forward according to the schedule? How is your team performing against estimates? Which project activities required more or less time than estimated? Look into this data to identify ineffective management solutions, help underperforming developers and recognize top performers.

Track project progress compliance with the project schedule in actiTIME

7. Share billing reports with customers

Solid customer relationships are built on trust, and trust in business is achieved through transparent communication. With accurate time tracking data and billing rates for different types of project activities, you can get the most precise cost breakdown to justify the project cost to the client.

Get project time and cost breakdown in actiTIME

8. Monitor project profitability

Profitability analysis is an important part of project management. Without regular profitability monitoring, you can’t be sure that a project is worth time, effort and resources. Scope creep, and other factors can impact project profitability or reduce the profitability of individual project activities. Luckily, with modern project management software, you can access the real-time analytics anytime.

Identify unprofitable project and activities in actiTIME

Ready to Manage Software Projects & Teams Effectively?

In the IT industry, everything comes down to software: project management, software development, communication — you name it. Since transparent and accurate data constitute customer trust, automated project management systems minimize time on manual maintenance and saves time for leading project teams to success. The question is, what software can meet the needs of software projects?

One of the project management software for software projects to consider is actiTIME. It boasts support for Agile, Waterfall and other methodologies and an extensive set of developer software extensions.

actiTIME allows tracking using timesheet, calendar, browser extension and a mobile app. It provides helpful user interfaces displaying estimates and deadlines, custom task parameters and more. At the same time, managers get access to granular work scope, project, cost management, leave tracking and user permission settings — this is not the exhaustive list of things to fine-tune in actiTIME for simple and handless project tracking. Give it a try — start with a free 30-day trial (no credit card required) and continue with a free plan anytime.




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