Skip to main content

8 Red Flags That Mean Your Software Project Is Headed Down the Wrong Path

When you're not a developer, it can be difficult to see some of the issues that may present themselves in the midst of a budding project. As a social business or entrepreneur, or a non-profit organisation, there are certain signs you should watch for when you're working with your developer to keep your project on-track.

We've compiled a list of 8 red flags that can help you spot when something in your project is amiss.

1. Completion dates you’ve agreed on with your developer are passing without items being finished.

It's typical with most projects that a little "wiggle room" is expected before the end result is completed. But if your project has been pushed out multiple times, or for increasingly longer periods of time, it could be a sign that something bigger is wrong. This is a compounding problem that must be addressed immediately. Communicate with your developer to ensure that things are progressing as expected and you haven't hit any roadblocks that could hinder your project's completion. It's okay for some planned items to be left out but something must be completed and ready for the original agreed date.

2. Too much time is spent on one feature.

With any new program development, new and exciting features may become available or seem like great additions to the original project. Make sure that the development effort going in to the project represents the benefit that will come out. If it seems like there will be little reward or return for the effort, it may be better to ask your developer to scratch the feature.

3. Regular feedback is not part of your consistent communication process; or periods of silence between you and your developer are common.

It's important to keep an open line of communication with your developer. As a paying customer, you are entitled to contact your developer with questions, concerns, and thoughts about your project as it's in the early stages. This is a vital part of the organisation-developer relationship. It's good to test things and to make mistakes, but having the fastest possible feedback will make the project continuation and completion that much stronger.

Likewise, if your developer is not making much of an effort to communicate with you or you're not making an effort to check on their progress, it could lead to trouble in your project. Always know who you should contact and check in periodically to ensure that the project is on-target.

4. Communication with developers or partners is uncomfortable.

There are time when the communication between you and your developer may be difficult because you feel like you're speaking two different languages. Or, maybe you're asking specific questions, but you're not getting specific answers. Nothing is perfect, but if you have an ongoing feeling of something not being said or regular misunderstandings, then you must address the core of the issue head-on. Being specific is naturally required when developing and creating a new system. If you're directing specific questions or requests to your developer but not receiving reciprocal feedback or answers, it may be time to have a heart-to-heart to ensure that things are on-track.

5. There's inflexibility in the plan.

You can certainly expect to have a few speed bumps while your project is forming, but a good developer will tackle them and won't allow the same issues to arise in the future. Within reason, your developer should be able to make changes based on your feedback and feedback from Beta's users to keep issues from recurring so they're completely resolved. If you're seeing many of the same problems or things aren't changing based on your responses about the program's development, talk with your developer about why they haven't already been resolved and what is causing them.

6. The cost for your project keeps creeping higher.

Developing a new website or software program can be expensive and is usually time-sensitive. As a non-profit organisation or socially-minded business, it's likely that your budget is somewhat limited and there may not be much room for additional expenditures. If the price you originally agreed on with your developer isn't holding steady, it could mean that things aren't going as expected. Talk with your developer about why more labor is required to complete your project and why it wasn't included in your original estimate.

7. Lots of people are involved in the project, but they're not all from your team.

If you've noticed that you're hearing from several people on your project, it could mean that there are too many cooks in the kitchen. If your developer hasn't assigned a single point-person to work directly with you on your project, it can be frustrating, and even confusing, to continually communicate with multiple workers. Everyone may have a different viewpoint, and all these opinions can slow down the completion of your project. As a non-profit organisation or socially-minded business, it's not your responsibility to organise the lines of communication. Talk with your developer about setting one point of contact for your project until it's finished.

8. Your original goal keeps getting pushed further and further out of focus.

Beautifully designed software with lots of great features is not the goal. As mentioned above, "cool" features are not why you decided to do a system overhaul. Software is a tool and the “how” that keeps your socially-minded business or non-profit organisation running; it's not the “why” or even the “what" of your business model.

This is an important (and surprisingly hard) thing to remember when you find yourself deep in the details of technical discussions. Don’t get sucked into the trap of trying to do too much; instead focus on “doing less, but doing it brilliantly.” Then get your creation in front of real people and learn from their reactions.


Every project is bound to have some hiccups, but there are certain things you should be mindful of to ensure that yours stays on-point. As always, it's important to keep an open line of communication with your developer and ask plenty of questions.

Still not sure where to start or have some other concerns for your project? Contact us today and let us partner with you to find the best solution for your project.

Picture of Barry O'Kane

About the author

Barry O'Kane

Barry is the founder of HappyPorch. With 20 years in the web development industry as a programmer and agency owner, he has a preternatural ability to decipher the systems and processes code that holds many teams back from achieving their goals. Partners say Barry gets to the root of issues quickly and makes it downright easy to deliver good work.    

While he's unbelievably grounded, it's not uncommon to find him sailing through the trees as he paraglides his way round the world.