Causes for Common Software Failures

Timothy Joseph
Timothy Joseph | January 6, 2021

Causes for Common Software Failures

To the untrained ear, a software bug sounds like a real-life creature crawling into your software product to wreak havoc before your exterminator arrives. This sadly isn’t too far from the truth, for software bugs can cause great damage as if they walked on six legs to poison or chew through your software system.

A software bug is actually a problem within the code that causes a software program to crash or produce invalid results. This failure of software is often caused by insufficient or erroneous logic within the product, be it an error, mistake or defect

While many software application failures can be quickly resolved, companies still pay the price in time, revenue and reputation for launching an error-filled product. And no business wants to land on the list of software development failure examples.

Software failure can be avoided - that is, by implementing a strong project strategy designed to ward off impending product failure.

Examples of Software Failures

  • Yahoo Data Breach: Imagine dealing with a data breach that exposed 500 million credentials. Fortunately bank account numbers and credit card data weren’t stolen, however the attack still exposed millions of names, email addresses, dates of birth, passwords and answers to security questions. Online rumors of a large-scale data breach caused Yahoo to investigate the claim, only to discover within two months that the failure was worse than assumed.
  • HSBC Payment Issues: A major IT outage at HSBC prevented millions of bank customers from accessing their online accounts. It took the bank two days to diagnose the issue, recover from the software failure and return back to a normal state.
  • Reebok’s Free Shoes: Online ads promoted free shipping for Reebok trainers worth £100. A technical glitch charged the customer only for delivery, giving thousands of shoes away for free. The glitch went viral on social media and deal forums, alerting Reebok of the software bug. Reebok issued apologies and corrected the orders, refunding delivery costs and offering 20% off on their next order.

Common Reasons Why Software Fails

Even with large software testing budgets and solid development cycle procedures, failure of software can still occur (as evidenced by the software development failure examples above). Uncover the mystery of software application failures as early as you can to save your team time and money, not to mention from a mess of frustration.

So, what are common reasons for software failure? Software bugs occur when something’s missing from either the management or technical side of the project.

  • Management Reasons

    The failure of software projects can be the result of something that occurs before your developers write the code. Processes are in place for a reason, so when proper procedures aren’t carried out correctly - or simply non-existent within phases of the project - you can expect unsuitable results similar to those of our earlier software development failure examples.

    • Resource Constraints: These days, more organizations are cutting budgets across the board to save money. While there are ways to scale QA testing when resources are constrained, many IT teams instead choose to overload their current resources in order to meet deadlines. It’s unrealistic to rely on inferior (or no) tools and count on a handful of QA testers to complete a big project - in fact, it’s setting your team up for software failure.
    • Poor Project Management: Do those leading the project, from your project manager to your team leads, take responsibility for their decisions? Does your team communicate often through established communication channels and recurring status meetings? Does everyone follow documentation procedures accurately and update documents when details change? Does your team consistently meet project milestones? Answering no to any of these questions means that your project management could be the reason for your software application failures.
    • Not Enough User Involvement: If your end-user’s point of view is not considered during development or testing, your project is destined for software failure. Before the project officially kick starts, your team should have a clear understanding of how your users interact with your software product, including defined personas and a step-by-step user journey map. Before testing begins, your QA team should enlist the right users to participate in user acceptance testing. If software bugs exist, your users are likely to discover them quickly, be it before deployment or after market launch.
    • Inaccurate Reporting: Take a deeper dive into your performance metrics. Do the shiny stats on your status report really reflect the efficiencies of your team’s performance - especially if software application failures keep occurring? Are there trivial numbers tracked just to keep your team in a positive light? Is it easy to trace the accuracy of data reported? On the flip side, are there performance metrics your team should be tracking to know that your strategy is sound?
  • Technical Reasons

    If your project management practices are flawless, the issue then stems from something technical. Failure of software oftentimes is the result of how the code is built or how the product is tested. See if any corners are being cut during the development phase or testing process of your project.

    • Changing of or Absence Technical Requirements: The purpose of technical requirements is to ensure that the software product works as intended before deployment. Changing technical requirements, particularly those not communicated across the team, can lead to the team approving a product not ready for market. A lack of technical requirements can lead to delays, as both development and QA teams disagree on what criteria is acceptable for production.
    • Regression: Software bugs can slip silently within a large, complex codebase and manifest into a big mess months later. You can expect software application failures when your developers don’t review their code before giving the green light QA engineers. And without a thorough regression testing plan featuring test automation, your QA team is likely to miss these small errors during testing. 
    • Messy Code: You get what you put into your product. Sloppy code is destined to result in software failure simply because it’s too hard to pinpoint where the issue resides in the codebase. The simplest code mistakes - from typos and missing commands to calculation errors and control flow errors - can quickly transform into nightmares, as seen with our software development failure examples.
    • Lack of QA Testing: Does your project feature a comprehensive testing plan throughout all development phases? Do your QA testers have an opportunity to find defects early within the project? Do you have enough QA engineers to cover all essential test cases within a reasonable timeline? If you answer no to any of these questions, your team likely needs to spend more time building out your project’s QA practices.

Tips on How to Avoid Software Failure

No team wants to land in the news for data breaches and costly software bugs, as previously illustrated within our software development failure examples. Fortunately, disastrous failure of software can be easily avoided with the right software development project strategy in place. Here’s how to prevent software failure from happening at your company to your product.

  • Implement a Continuous Integration and Testing Strategy: Continuous integration allows your developers to work individually on their tasks and together on the project. By integrating work from each developer into a main repository multiple times a day, defects can be caught and fixed early within the project.
  • Define Clear Roles, Deadlines and Success Metrics: Everyone on the team should know their responsibilities and who to address any concerns during the project. Team leads and project managers should regularly monitor performance metrics and strategize solutions for any concerns upon detection.
  • Engage users early and often: Users provide excellent insight into the expected product experience, especially on how and why your product is used. Make sure you have a pool of users willing to have a seat at the table during the project, from establishing project business requirements to user acceptance testing.
  • Creating a Comprehensive QA and Testing Strategy: Your QA team should be as involved as your development team within the project. Define all essential test cases for every phase of the project so that defects can be detected and corrected sooner. Ensure your QA team has all needed resources to test your product thoroughly.

Not sure if your project is destined for software failure? Enjoy a stress-free process of ensuring your product is error-free by teaming up with a QA services provider like QASource. Our team of testing experts showcase expertise across domains and are skilled in all software testing approaches. Work with our QA engineers to discover roadblocks within your development cycles and strategize ways to prevent potential bugs and software crashes.
Get in touch with a QASource expert today.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are software failures?

A software bug is a problem within the code that causes a software program to crash or produce invalid results. This software failure occurs due to insufficient or erroneous logic within the product, be it an error, mistake, or defect.

What are the causes of software failures?

Software bugs occur when something is missing, either from the management or from the technical side of the project. Therefore, the main causes of software failures are:

  • Resource Constraints
  • Poor Project Management
  • Not Enough User Involvement
  • Inaccurate Reporting
  • Changing or Absence of Technical Requirements
  • Regression
  • Messy Code
  • Lack of QA Testing
What are software failure examples?

Some common software failure examples are-

  • Yahoo Data Breach
  • HSBC Payment Issues
  • Reebok’s Free Shoes
How can we prevent software failure disasters?

Fortunately, disastrous failure of software can be easily avoided with the right software development project strategy in place. Here’s how to prevent software failure from happening at your company to your product:

  • Implement a Continuous Integration and Testing Strategy
  • Define Clear Roles, Deadlines, and Success Metrics
  • Engage users early and often
  • Creating a Comprehensive QA and Testing Strategy


This publication is for informational purposes only, and nothing contained in it should be considered legal advice. We expressly disclaim any warranty or responsibility for damages arising out of this information and encourage you to consult with legal counsel regarding your specific needs. We do not undertake any duty to update previously posted materials.