How to Measure the Success of a Software Project

Are you getting ready to launch a software development project? Tap the brakes for a moment. What if I told you that more than half of IT business projects fail? That’s right. According to a recent study from Innotas, 55% of IT professionals reported a project failure in the previous year.

The problem isn’t necessarily bloated budgets and scopes. It’s failing to align IT projects with business goals and values. Tushar Patel of Innotas uses the analogy of a road trip:

Imagine you're taking a road trip. You have 10 hours, and you can only make three stops along the way. When you arrive, you see that you've made the trip in eight hours, and you've only stopped twice. That's fantastic! Except you're in Los Angeles, and you needed to get to Seattle.

If you don’t achieve the right goals, the project can’t be counted as a success, even if you came in under budget.

So then, how do you measure the success of your IT project?

Six Measurements of Project Success

Too often, project stakeholders have different definitions of success. It pays to define success at the outset of the project to keep everyone on the same page. Let’s start with six traditional measures of project success:


Your schedule may include a hard deadline (like a launch date), or a soft deadline (which can be revised during the course of the project). Either way, make sure everyone on the team understands the projected timeframe, the final deadline, and any checkpoints that must be met along the way to meet that deadline.


What will you accomplish during the project? What specific deliverables must be present? Scope creep is notorious for derailing and delaying projects, so it pays to clearly define scope before you dive in.


Scope creep and budget excesses go hand in hand. When you keep the project within its projected scope, you will be far more likely to stay under budget as well. Make sure the team knows where you stand in terms of budget and keep them informed throughout the project.

Team Satisfaction

Have you set reasonable expectations for your team? Do they have the tools they need to get the work done? Satisfied teams produce better, more efficient results and can sustain their pace over the long term. Without positive team dynamics, you could face burnout or high turnover. This creates costs when it comes to training users in a software system, or finding new people to maintain it.

Customer Satisfaction

Solicit feedback from your customers at key points in the project to ensure that you meet their needs, even while your website or other online tools are under development. If you build a killer app that works great but that clients or customers don’t use, you sacrifice true business value.

Quality of Work

You can’t call a project truly successful if the coding is poor or the software doesn’t function as intended. That’s why at Worthwhile, we focus not only on building clean, efficient code with Django and Python, and just as much on creating an end product that integrates seamlessly into the daily function of your business.

These six success measures will keep your project on track from start to finish. They’re the parameters you’ve set for your road trip (ten hours, three stops, etc.). But as we mentioned above, they do no good if you arrive at the wrong destination.

Defining Project Goals and Measurements

The goal of any software, data, or IT project is to enhance the function and profitability of the business. In other words, it must deliver tangible business value and measurable ROI. But in order to measure success in those terms, we must know what value we’re trying to deliver. We must choose a destination for our road trip.

At the outset of the project, write out the specific high-level goals you want to achieve. These goals may include revenue increases, more leads, greater customer satisfaction, and higher productivity.

Next, define how the specific deliverables of the project will help you achieve those goals. Do you need to increase website usability? Add new functions to your business-critical systems? Create a mobile app? Streamline current processes in your ERP?

Once you have defined your business goals, use these four metrics to assess the progress of the development project:

Delivery Capability

Does the project deliver the needed value as promised? If not, what resources can you integrate to help you reach your delivery goals?

Organizational Capability

Have the processes and functions of the organization improved as a result of the project? Are you able to serve customers better, generate more leads, increase productivity, or boost revenue?

Adoption Capability

Have you successfully promoted software buy-in among users? Can your team members effectively and efficiently implement the new software in their daily work? Can customers find what they need and take desired actions easily and intuitively?

Innovation Capability

Does the project create solutions to pressing problems? Does it showcase the innovation of your organization as compared to competitors?

Each of these metrics delves deeper into the quality of work assessment. They also measure whether the project has, in fact, helped you reach your final destination—the accomplishment of specific, value-oriented goals.

Assessing Value: It’s More than Just Budget, Scope, and Function

One question still remains: If you have reached your objectives in all of the above measures, can the project be considered successful?

Yes and no.

Ultimately, a successful project is one that delivers value to the business. But value remains a nebulous concept that isn’t easy to measure. Scrum methodologies focus heavily on requirements gathering, project sprints, and stakeholder buy-in. If the project delivers the specified requirements on time and under budget, it has met its goals and can be considered a success.

But what if there’s more to it than that? The underlying logic of scrum is that software development can’t be 100% predictive. We can’t know all of the information before we start. Therefore, the value of the project must be assessed based on context, timeframe, business domain, and technology parameters.

The ultimate measure of value is how the end product operates within the context of your business culture. Here are five metrics to help you assess that value:

Direct Impact

How has business performance improved as a result of the new software? Have you seen an increase in profit, revenue, efficiency, sales pipeline, or closed business?

Financial Impact

Is the financial benefit greater than the cost of the project? What value has been generated in terms of cost savings, income, or ROI?

Employee Perception

Do employees believe the software has made their jobs easier, more productive, or more efficient? Employee satisfaction is a metric proven to connect to ROI, and so it can be a leading KPI for this kind of project.

Customer Perception

Do customers enjoy a more positive experience on your website or an enhanced perception of your brand as a result of the project? Like employee satisfaction, customer loyalty is an effective KPI.

User Adoption

How have end-user adoption rates changed as a result of the project? Do your employees or customers benefit from all of the new features and functionalities?

Of course, these aren't the only metrics that show business value. The metrics you choose will depend on what your goals were at the outset of the project as well as the project scope and deliverables.

The ultimate question that you must answer is this: Did the roadmap I laid out for this project bring me to my intended destination? Or, to put it more simply, am I in a better and more strategic situation than I was when I started?

At the end of the day, a software project can only be considered a success if it moved your business forward in the right direction.

So start with the destination in mind.

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