Software Success & Failure Defined

More than 90% of enterprise software purchases are failures to some degree. While the worst failures get published especially when they end up in court or involve public money, partial failures are far more common but far less visible. People hate discussing their failures,  so it is difficult to appreciate how widespread the problem is.

Software success defined

Successful enterprise software purchases have the foundation of an adequate evaluation and selection.


The software is implemented on schedule, costs are within budget, and the software fully meets the expectations of users and management.

Software failures defined

When a software implementation runs into trouble, purchasing organizations blame anybody but themselves. However, the root cause of their buyer's remorse is invariably the purchasing shortcuts taken. See the Failures page for examples.

Partial Software Failures

Benign failures

The software takes longer to implement than planned but performs as expected in production.

  • Implementation and other costs exceed the budget.
  • The ROI on the new software is delayed.
  • External deadlines may be missed triggering financial penalties.
  • Market opportunities may be missed, e.g. not being ready for holidays.

Moderate to severe failures

In addition to all of the above:

  • Business is significantly disrupted when going live and there is a financial impact on the bottom line.
  • Anticipated functionality is missing meaning more work than expected.
  • Cost savings do not materialize.
  • The ROI is well below that used to justify the purchase.
  • User and management expectations are not met.
  • Some senior employees may lose their jobs.

Complete Software Failures

Functional failures

The software goes into production but is never a success. After struggling to use it for a few years, the decision is made to replace it.

Partial production

Some modules make it into production, but not all. A decision is made to abandon the software before it is fully deployed.

Never implemented

So many problems are encountered during implementation that the new software never makes it into production.


The failure of the new software causes the company to go bankrupt.

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