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Common reasons for late projects

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When you’re partnering with a development company to work on your next project, one of the first things you want to know is whether they’ll finish on time. An on-time delivery is a measure of trust, and a sign that they take your project seriously.

Any reputable development company will do everything they can to get your project completed on time, including late-night code sprints and brainstorming sessions to troubleshoot any lingering issues. However, the truth that you may not want to acknowledge is that some of the most common issues that delay projects are caused by both the development team and the client. These issues can be resolved, but it takes a good deal of honest feedback and communication to get a project back on track when it’s really behind. Today, we’re going to cover some of the most common reasons why your development project is delayed, and give you some suggestions for correcting these issues so you can speed up your existing project, and learn from your mistakes for next time.


Unclear requirements are probably the most common reason why a project finishes after the deadline. The lack of planning combined with a lack of shared vocabulary often spells disaster. When you’re first starting out as a client, it’s understandable to have a more general understanding of your project. If you’re not a technical person, you may not have the vocabulary to ask for what you need. Unfortunately, going into a meeting with your development team and asking them to give you an estimate based on a vague idea usually doesn’t usually turn out well. If they’re working with unclear requirements, it’s almost impossible for them to give you an accurate estimate for both cost and timeline. Unclear requirements can also cause major technical issues down the road. The reason why developers like to have everything laid out upfront is so they can see how the various elements of the project will interact. If they aren’t given this information from the beginning, they’ll run into issues later on as they try and integrate all the requested elements of the project. Some Tips to Prevent This Issue

• Establish a shared vocabulary early on.

• Give your development team as much information as possible, and work with them to come up with an accurate estimate.


Another common reason for delayed projects is because of an overly optimistic estimate. This is a common pitfall that plagues newer development companies. If a company is too eager to secure a contract or working with an unreasonable partner, they might low-ball their estimate to lock down the deal. From there, it won’t be long before they realize that the amount they’re getting paid just doesn’t cover all the staff and expenses necessary to get the project across the finish line on time. Production may slow down as they realize that they need to prioritize other, more lucrative projects to protect their bottom line.

A Tip to Prevent This Issue

• Development teams should do their best not to give optimistic estimates. If clients aren’t prepared to accept a realistic cost estimate, the partnership may not work long-term.


Another way that both client and development team can delay a project is through their project leadership. Ideally, project leadership on both sides should be proactive, and in constant communication to make sure that deliverables are being met, and everyone has the necessary information to complete their tasks in a timely manner. Without diligent and proactive leadership, misunderstandings and miscommunications are inevitable. Things will fall through the cracks, and if staff are unclear about the chain of command, getting a clear answer to even the most basic questions is extremely difficult.

Some Tips to Prevent This Issue

• From the beginning, clients and developers should work together to establish a chain of communication, headed up by a project manager.

• If questions are unable to be resolved quickly and efficiently, it’s a sign that your chain of command is flawed and should be re-evaluated ASAP.


Scope creep is what happens when clients make new and unplanned requests during development. They may not seem big or particularly consequential to the client, which is why this is such a common occurrence in development. Even though they seem small to a non-technical person, it’s hard to know how these changes will affect the software system. Sometimes, they integrate without issue. Other times, implementing these new changes can have a cascading effect that derails progress and sets the project back weeks.

Some Tips to Prevent This Issue

• To avoid scope creep, developers should work hard to communicate the effect that a request will have on the project. This can be done kindly and respectfully, but should be clear so that clients understand what changes will occur as a result of their ‘small’ request.

• Having a clear and thorough project outline from the beginning is also a great shield against scope creep.


Like scope creep, technical debt is a major pain point in production systems. It’s a result of shortcuts being taken throughout the process. Even though they may save you time in the shortterm, if too many people are taking shortcuts it becomes a burden on the project and quickly reduces work velocity. Soon, every development task is slowed down by the debt. Tasks that should have taken 100 hours will start taking 150, 200, or even 300 hours because developers are having to contend with all these shortcuts. The worse the debt, the harder it is to estimate and make the development timeline fit with the business timeline.

Some Tips to Prevent This Issue

• Technical debt can be avoided when developers are given the necessary amount of time to complete tasks. This issue tends to crop up when the timeline is compressed, or developers feel rushed.

• Don’t procrastinate on fixing bugs. Schedule time to eliminate technical debt at the end of every stage of development.


Even if you have a rockstar development team, you should always budget for the unexpected. You never know when you’ll need to replace a staff member, deal with a technical issue, or make up for a snow day. Every budget should have a buffer for contingencies. It’s the only responsible way to ensure that you’re able to deal with situations that can – and will – arise.

A Tip to Prevent This Issue

• Every budget, even for the most straightforward project, should include room for contingencies. Don’t get tempted to take short cuts. There’s no replacement for proper planning in advance.

Working with Delayed Projects There are tons of reasons why development projects experience delays. Typically, it’s not a result of one factor or other, but rather a combination of several that causes setbacks. If you’re working with a good development partner, rely on their expertise, and make sure they’re able to approach you with any issues that may arise. A great partnership will supersede any setbacks that may arise in this long and complex (yet rewarding) process.