How to Take Over a Failing Software Project Step-by-Step

Topics: Guides, Best Practices

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According to the Standish Group, 30-40% of software projects fail and 75% go over budget. So, if you're an app owner or product manager facing a failing project, you're not alone. Fortunately, there are strategies for reviving a stalled software project.

This article offers a comprehensive guide to successfully transitioning a failing software project to a new development team.

How to Recognize the Need for an IT Project Takeover

The first step is acknowledging that your current approach isn't working.

Signs indicating intervention needed for a failing software project

Honestly evaluate the current project status against pre-defined success metrics. An impartial assessment is crucial for determining if outside intervention is warranted.

How to Prepare for a Successful IT Project Takeover

Before initiating a taking over a troubled software project, it's critical to lay the proper groundwork.

Setting Clear Goals and Expectations

Detail the exact goals and outcomes required for the new development team. Determine the anticipated timelines, budgets, and milestones to keep track of progress. Have a discussion about all these points with all stakeholders involved.

Legal and IP Considerations

Examine any contracts, intellectual property arrangements, and data privacy rules that could influence the transferring of a failing software project. Determine who has access to the source code repository. Speak with legal counsel to make sure of compliance and to mitigate risks.

Understanding the Product’s Current State

An independent project audit is essential to evaluate the quality of the codebase, pinpoint existing defects, and gauge scalability challenges. The team taking over must have the specific skills needed. The incoming team must possess the specialized skills required.

How to Choose the Right Partner for Your Project

The success of transitioning a failing software project hinges on choosing a partner for software project takeover - a qualified and experienced development team.

Key criteria include:

  • Proven expertise with the specific technologies used
  • Successful track record reviving failing software projects
  • Availability of a dedicated, cross-functional team
  • Robust project management and communication processes
  • Alignment with your budget and timeline requirements

Conduct rigorous due diligence for software project takeover by reviewing past work, checking references, and vetting potential partners' technical and business capabilities.

 Trustworthy partner for software project takeover

Transition Plan

  • Identify stakeholders and define their roles.
  • Plan how to communicate the handover to all parties involved. Schedule necessary meetings and discussions. Clarify information sharing tools.
  • Plan for the transfer of contracts, licenses, and credentials.
  • Identify potential risks associated with the handover and develop mitigation strategies.
  • Establish monitoring mechanisms for the handover process.

How to Manage the Takeover Process

Follow this step-by-step approach when executing the software project takeover.

StepOwner ActionGoal / Outcome
KickoffAttend formal transition kickoff with teams. Align on goals, timeline, roles.Shared understanding of objectives and plan. Point people assigned.
Current State ReviewReview audit findings and baseline metrics from the new team's assessment.Grasp starting conditions and major issues requiring resolution.
PrioritizationDiscuss high-priority features, UX fixes, infrastructure needs. Agree on milestones.Consensus roadmap for incremental progress and releases.
Platform SetupEnsure access provisioned for new team accounts/tools as required.New team is enabled to immediately begin work.
StabilizationReview bug reports, test results periodically. Evaluate defect resolutions.Progress towards stable core functionality without major defects.
Feature Release ReadinessAttend demos. Verify production-ready quality. Approve launch plans.Requirements complete and validated for release.
Feature RolloutMonitor usage metrics, defects, and provide feedback post-launch. Guide prioritization.Success metrics, gaps, or issues identified for attention.
RetrospectiveHost lessons learned session once core features are delivered.Key takeaways captured from transition to apply going forward.

Common Pitfalls to Avoid When Taking Over a Failing Software Project

Overcoming challenges in software project takeovers highlights the importance of addressing and navigating the complexities involved in reviving struggling software initiatives.

A project handover carries multiple potential risks:

  • Inadequate knowledge transfer: Essential project details, codebase insights, and operational nuances might not be fully communicated to the new team.
  • Misaligned expectations: The new team's understanding of project goals, timelines, and quality standards may not match the owner's vision.
  • Technical debt and undocumented code: The new team may struggle with existing technical debt and undocumented features or bugs.
  • Security vulnerabilities: Transition periods can expose the project to increased security risks if not carefully managed.
  • Resistance to change: Existing stakeholders may resist new approaches or technologies introduced by the new team.

For risk mitigation, the product owner should proactively focus on two main areas:

Communication: Establish open channels for regular dialogue with the development team, stakeholders, and users. Ensure comprehensive documentation of the project's objectives and progress updates. Facilitate knowledge transfer to bridge any gaps in understanding between parties involved.

Planning: Develop realistic timelines and milestones, taking into account resource availability and potential challenges, including the magnitude of technical debt. Strengthen security protocols.

Post-Takeover Strategies

Avoid the temptation to "set it and forget it" once the initial handover completes. Frequent inspections and adapting the plan as required is essential for long-term success.

Regular reviews and feedback loops are critical post-takeover. Schedule weekly team meetings where developers demo completed app features.

Survey end users frequently to validate priorities and results align with their needs. Course-correct based on empirical evidence, not assumptions. The key is establishing a sustainable pace of iterative delivery.

Quote emphasizing need for measurable results in post-takeover strategies for software projects

Tips for a Successful Software Project Handover

If you're an app owner facing a failing software project:

  1. Be realistic about the situation. Don't expect to turn things around overnight. It takes time and effort to recover from a failing project.
  2. Get help from experts. If you don't have the experience or expertise to handover a project, consider hiring a consultant to help you.
  3. Be patient and persistent. There will be setbacks along the way. Don't give up if things don't go according to plan.
  4. Communicate regularly with stakeholders. Keep everyone informed of the project's progress and any changes to the plan.

Real-World Example of Successful Project Takeover

Here's a practical project handover sample that showcases a successful transition, demonstrating the potential for turning around software projects facing significant challenges.

Challenge: Serious quality issues in the Dutch Kidiyo kids app posed threats to user data security and prevented its evolution.

Solution: The customer came to Cyfrania for advice, and our experts found that the mobile game's main issue was it was built as a web app, using unsuitable technology. We suggested moving the app to the Unity platform.


  • In 1.5 months, the game was available to Android and iOS users again.
  • Complete modernization was achieved in 5 months.
  • With our project takeover service, the customer received an app that's not only high-performing and compliant but also improved in functionality and gameplay, thus rekindling their product vision after a long halt.
Real-World Example of Successful Project Takeover


This ultimate guide to rescuing a failing software project emphasizes the importance of a strategic approach to recovery and transformation.

To effectively take over a failing software project:

  • Get an expert to check if help is needed.
  • Find a skilled partner with careful checks.
  • Agree on goals, priorities, and a future vision.
  • Plan well to tackle risks and knowledge gaps.
  • Aim for quick, iterative improvements with constant feedback.

A proper project turnaround strategy can effectively revive even the most challenged projects. Don't be afraid to start fresh when needed. The path forward is a partnership built on realistic expectations, open collaboration, and a shared commitment to quality software delivery.

To dive deeper into this topic, explore the recommended readings and case studies of successful software project takeovers showcasing Cyfrania's proven experience transitioning mission-critical software.

Additionally, Cyfrania offers a free consultation to discuss your project's specific challenges and potential solutions.

Recommended Resources and Further Reading

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