How to start up more successful custom software projects

Have you heard the majority of software projects end in failure? It’s an oft quoted fact. One of several ways to prevent that is to start off on the right foot.

A key to starting off well is with a project launch mtg. Get the right people in the virtual or physical room at the same time, talk about why the project is being done and why it’s important, ask questions, and keep the length of the meeting appropriately short.

Right People

Once you have the SOW and the general roadmap of what you are going to build, have a project kickoff with the developers, testers, analysts and UI/UX folks. You may not have people filling all these roles, of course, but you probably have some of these on every project, even if it is one person wearing multiple hats. Sometimes not having the customer in the kickoff meeting is best. During the internal meeting you can discuss all ideas and ask questions openly. After the internal kickoff meeting a couple key staffers from the team can then conduct a launch or kickoff meeting with the client, giving them a conduit for getting on the same page, asking questions and getting answers, etc.

For smaller projects often a single project launch meeting with everyone on the internal and customer team is appropriate…since the whole inclusive team is so small.

Start with Why
Everyone should get a good understanding of why the project is being done, and also what is the end goal. Teams are much more productive when they know what they are doing and the end result they are trying to achieve. It is also REALLY helpful for everyone to have at least a general understanding of the ‘why’; understanding why the customer needs the project often helps guide decisions on how to implement it in the best way to achieve the customers goals.
Ask Questions
Everyone should be encouraged to ask as many questions as they have. You may not have all the answers but getting those things on the table will help the project be successful. If you are lucky, you do have answers for almost everything at the kickoff. Though, more often, you will be following up with the client to fill in some of the blanks that maybe no one thought of before the kickoff meeting.
Not Long
Project kickoff or launch meetings don’t have to be long – usually half an hour (for smaller projects) or an hour for bigger ones is all it takes to get everyone moving in the same direction and having a sense of ownership in what they are producing.
Keeping these points in mind helps start a project on the right foot, and provides a greater chance for project success. Keep in mind though, custom software projects are really complicated…this isn’t the only task to perform to make the project a success.