Why do development projects stall?

In a perfect world, development project challenges would not exist, and projects would never stall – but we don’t live in a perfect world, do we? Far from it, so we have to find ways to successfully overcome these types of challenges. The best way to start is by finding out what causes them. 

We conducted an Intuit® Developer Twitter poll, asking developers to tell us the number one reason they believe projects don’t get off the ground. More than 2,900 developers responded, and two reasons topped the list:

  1. Limited resources 36.9%
  2. Unrealistic expectations 34.2%

Sound familiar? If so, then here are a few suggestions that may help overcome these particular development project challenges.

Overcoming development project challenges (hint: communication is key)

Experiencing workplace challenges is not unique. Intuit is no stranger to them, as Senior Developer Relations Engineer Nimisha Shrivastava reveals in Why I love being an Intuit Developer: “… I enjoy a creative work environment filled with developers working as a team to meet their needs of our customers as quickly and efficiently as possible. This does not mean, however, that there aren’t any challenges. Every workplace has them.”

She’s quick to point out that Intuit hears and responds to her concerns. “They’ve worked with me and my team to resolve them.”

Let’s assume that not all companies are as responsive. Here are a few suggestions that may help overcome development project challenges, such as limited resources and unrealistic expectations.

Communicate concerns about resources and expectations clearly and effectively. Communicating clearly and effectively is common sense advice, but communicating clearly and effectively is not as easy as it sounds. HelpGuide, a small, independent nonprofit that runs a mental health website, says effective communication is more than passing on information. Instead, “it’s about understanding the emotion and intentions behind the information.”

This idea of using empathy to understand a problem falls right in line with Intuit’s Design for Delight (D4D) philosophy. Essentially, D4D is exceeding customer expectations and delivering value to their business by first employing deep customer empathy, getting to the root of their problem, which includes the emotion connected with it, before trying to solve their problem.

Understanding how everyone feels about the situation (in this case, about lack of resources and unrealistic expectations) and why they feel that way will lead to effective problem solving.

Per HelpGuide, the best way to communicate is by:

  • Becoming an engaged listener: focus on the speaker, favor your right ear, avoid interrupting, show interest, set aside judgement, and provide feedback.
  • Paying attention to nonverbal signals – yours and theirs.
  • Remaining calm under pressure.
  • Asserting yourself: be honest and open, but respectful.

Though not unique, these tips for communicating effectively can help teams keep their project moving forward.

Be specific when communicating. In addition to knowing how to communicate, it’s essential that the information being conveyed is specific.

For example, if more resources are needed – more personnel, time, or capital, for example – then it needs to be stated clearly how much is needed and explained why there needs to be more, or why there wasn’t enough resources in the first place. Being prepared with the right information will go a long way toward a favorable outcome for everybody.

If the project is stalling because the powers that be have unrealistic, or even perhaps changing, expectations, then there needs to be a meeting to discuss expectations. The meeting should include a thorough look at what goals were set at the beginning of the project, why they were unrealistic (ideally, this would have been caught and communicated before the project started, but that is not always the case), and how they have changed.

The intended result is mutual understanding of how the project has evolved and the creation of a revised and realistic timeline. 

Communicate via the right project management tools. Communicating clearly and specifically about project resource concerns and changing expectations is aided and abetted by the right project management tools. Intuit’s Amy Ball asked developers to share their preferred project management tool, and almost half said they prefer Teamwork.

Why Teamwork? Some of the reasons include the following:

  • Get status updates on tasks and milestones.
  • Keep tabs on who is doing what.
  • Maintain accountability.
  • Allow client access.
  • Automate project planning with custom templates.
  • Integrate with Microsoft apps and other third-party applications (HubSpot, Slack, and Float, for example).
  • Work remotely with remote work software.

The bottom line with project management tools – whether Teamwork, Jira Software (Intuit’s choice), or something else – is that everyone is on the same page at the same time. They know what resources they have, what goals they’re trying to meet, and if either of these things change.

This is communication via technology, and every project management team should look into finding the right tool for their needs.

Keep development projects moving forward

Here at Intuit, we know that challenges are inevitable and have used the three suggestions presented today.

In Why I love being an Intuit Developer, Senior Developer Relations Engineer Ramya Kasaraneni writes about how she and her team communicate: “As a team, we have a lot of discussions about outcomes and the pros/cons of projects. Then we work on them. This is a great example of our Win Together mentality.”

Ultimately, enhanced communication skills and empathy along with being specific and using the right tools can help developers keep their project from stalling. They can also overcome other challenges that are sure to arise when working with diverse groups of people.

If you’re a developer looking to join a team that embraces communication and teamwork, then check out Intuit’s Careers page for employment opportunities. As Senior Developer Relations Engineer Brinda Sivalingam writes in her Why I love being an Intuit Developer, “In this time of unrest, finding a company that puts its customers and employees first is a relief. I’m so glad I chose to work at Intuit, and I hope as you contemplate the new developer jobs out there that you’ll put Intuit at the top of your list.”