Projects that have failed




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 Unfortunately, I’ve never been part of a failed project.  However, after doing some research on the SDLC I will see if I can suggest the way in which projects may fail.

It’s been said before that if you fail to plan then you plan to fail.  This is never more apparent than in today’s projects.  In fact, planning is the pivotal point to a project beginning development versus a project that will inevitably fail.  

To look at how project fail we must first look at a project life cycle.  Doing a quick search you’ll see that SDLC consists of 6-7 steps.  This all depends if the author is looking at a linear model or a life cycle model; with maintenance of the system being the 7th step.  I disagree with the linear model of SDLC because the title itself says that this project or system will have a life-cycle which means that any step may need to be reworked or revisited. Morris (n.d.) describes the SDLC with the following 6 steps: Planning, Analysis, Design, Construction, Test, Rollout.  Other authors like Meghere (2014) add Maintenance as a seventh step. 

Seeing these steps laid out leaves 4 steps in particular that I see failure happening.   

  1. Planning – as mentioned earlier if you aren’t effectively planning you are destined to fail.  This step is where you do a “tabletop” project. Timelines, resources, costs are all constructed and estimated here prior to any work being accomplished  Effective and judicious planning will result in a better overall project with lower costs and less time wasted.

  2. Analysis – This is where knowing your customer comes into play.  Any questions on expectations should be answered here.  Clarifications on requirements and analyzing the client your building for will lead to a successful step.  An example, you wouldn’t plan to build a national defense level weapons system for a small business requesting a security system.

  3. Design – This is the final step before actual “work” on the project begins.  This is where the devil is in the details.  Failing to design the project in detail will cause failure.  Missing components or specifications will result in the project falling behind.

  1. Maintenance – Projects don’t stop with the rollout.  Once a project is live you will still need to enable new features requested or work out additional glitches within the project.  Not having a maintenance piece in a project would end badly once errors are discovered or boosts or features are needed.

Steps 1-3 are essential to getting the job done right.  Without these steps any project will fail.  And without a plan to maintain (step 7) a project that deploys will eventually be a failure.  This is why the SDLC is a full-circle model.  It’s not linear as the maintenance drives a restart in the project.  As new features or errors are discovered the team must restart with a plan to add or fix and the project starts over on a much smaller scale.  


Meghera, H. (2014, May 31). 7 Stages Of Systems Development Life Cycle. Retrieved July 04, 2017, from

Morris, K. (n.d.). Steps in the System Development Life Cycle. Retrieved July 04, 2017, from