Table of Contents
- What Software Development Planning Is
- Guide to Software Development Planning
- Planning Principles That Make Life Easier
Software development is a highly complex process. Work should often be distributed as soon as possible in modern technological environments. This is necessary regardless of whether you create software for clients around the world or develop your own products.
When your client is not a technical specialist, it may be difficult to explain why things are not going as expected, or why you need additional resources. And the client may wonder why the project cannot be completed on time and within the budget, despite all the efforts made by your developers.
When working on your own products, you may need to reduce cycle time, improve predictability and your developers’ satisfaction level to speed up project development. That’s why planning is so important.
Regardless of the project complexity, you need a working and effective project plan. It is a decision with a clear structure, documentation, and procedures made to improve the delivery of tasks, identify critical software, and set realistic timelines.
What Software Development Planning Is
Software development planning is a process aimed at enhancing the predictability of software deployment, which includes the collection of requirements, the design and development of software, and research and development to identify the unknown or risky aspects of the project.
The three main areas of development planning are Requirements Gathering, Planning and Design, and Research and Development.
Requirements Gathering is the first step. It requires the team to identify problems, apply considerations, and fulfill the requirements of stakeholders. The main stakeholders are usually clients, so target tests can be a good way to clarify key issues when working with a small sample of the target market.
In the Planning and Design phase, teams identify key factors, take into account functions, and suggest which ones to prioritize, with a particular focus on the main project requirements. Functions are broken down into smaller tasks so that they can be estimated more accurately.
The Research and Development phase is a bit similar to the planning phase. When some major features are new, critical, and risky, you have to conduct research about their implementation to reduce these risks in the production phase. It’s good practice to consider some different approaches and find the one that is perfect for your product architecture and goals.
Guide to Software Development Planning
To create an effective software development plan, it is very important to understand how crucial its quality is to the success of the product. Below are the most common stages of a software development project. You can use them as a guide when detailing the stages and elements of any project.
Analysis and Planning
After the client submits a software development application request, the management team goes into planning. Here are some important things to note:
- Alignment. How does this project fit into the mission and goals of the company?
- Resources. Does the company have enough resources to make the project a success?
- Planning. How does this project fit in with the schedule of other projects and goals?
- Price. How much will it cost?
Define The Goals
When defining project goals, specify intentions, vision, and a preferred endpoint. This clarity makes it easier to predict the outcome of the project, both for the client and for the company.
Defining goals is also important for writing a realistic and concise project plan. The software should automate certain tasks, increase productivity, or optimize processes. The exact goal should be clear. With this in mind, determine how to quantify the success of the project. Many managers use a Gantt chart to visualize it.
Create a Team
Software development is a team effort. The teams consist of different people and each of them brings their specific skills to the table. This is important because the project also consists of a variety of aspects. Choosing the right people for your development team contributes to the success of the project.
Some software development project teams are divided into several smaller teams. Each subgroup is focused on its own special task. This can help identify individual skills and strengths and harness them to the benefit of the project. In some cases, it is necessary to outsource certain tasks. This happens when a company lacks staff with a particular set of skills or other resources.
Some companies use external services to hire and assemble a team. With so many people and departments involved, it is necessary to have one person determining the project’s direction. There should be one senior project manager who makes the final decision on all major questions regarding the workflow. It should be a person with sufficient skills and experience in planning and project implementation.
Requirements and Resources
By defining goals, teams can see what resources they need to achieve the desired result. When writing down the necessary resources, think about the following elements:
Each element is vital to perform the work needed to achieve the set goals. The resources will be different for each software development project plan. It depends on the idea and the size of the project. The availability of resources determines the timing of tasks and results of their completion. But there is more to this section than a mere list of resources. This analysis helps developers understand the needs and goals of the software development process.
The length of the list will depend on the software project. There are many factors to consider. They include the scope of the project and how detailed the initial requirements and goals are. Large projects often involve multiple stakeholders or broad goals. In these cases, the specific goals may change at any time. Therefore, your plans must have a certain level of flexibility. This can help you to work around any sudden changes and still hit the target. A qualified project manager can determine the exact needs of a software development process.
Risks and Constraints
Now clients, developers, and other parties can identify potential problems, especially problems that can slow down or stop the process. They can be classified by production stages, such as product development or launch. It is also good to take unforeseen circumstances into account.
Many software development teams use a risk matrix to prioritize potential problems. It shows the probability of different problems and predicts their consequences.
Other commonly used terms are “probability” and “the degree or severity of the risk”. The manager should consider both sides: technical risks and business risks.
Some potential problem areas include:
- Management support;
- Suitable schedule;
- Appropriate budget;
- Availability of qualified software developers.
Map the Business Processes
Analyze employee activities. Think about how they work and what they use to complete their tasks. Turn these actions into a flowchart. There is no single approach to displaying business processes. In fact, there are various excellent methodologies. One of them is the Agile methodology. It is based on short sprints to achieve results and maximize progress.
Consulting people from top management is one of the ways to eliminate bottlenecks. However, consultations with people in the workplace can give a completely different view of the problem. The size of the organization will determine which and how many people to involve in the process.
This section is certainly very important. Every action associated with a software development project is associated with costs. That’s why it’s so crucial to define plans, requirements, and goals first. This will help to make an estimate of the total cost of the project.
There must be a balance between budget and quality. For this reason, many companies now prefer to outsource development: they found it more cost-effective than doing it internally.
The software development plan must contain an approximate definition of all the project stages, a timeline of the necessary steps and their deadlines. To have a clear idea of how the development should progress, divide the project goals into achievable tasks.
Before starting a task, it is not always 100% clear how to finish it completely. So take the time to make a list of what needs to be done and use as much detail as possible to make the big picture clearer. Having a list of tasks and an overview of the budget and human resources, you can estimate the time needed. Milestones are an important part of the timeline. It takes into account work schedules and justifies the resources that the project will use.
The problem with software development projects is that they involve risk and uncertainty. Thus, the reasonable thing to do is to calculate some buffer time for every task. In addition, the project manager must ensure that the project follows the created plan.
Sprints and sprint meetings are part of modern management methods. These methods are aimed at shortening project deadlines. During sprint meetings, managers, developers and other project participants get together to discuss what tasks are scheduled for this week. Some managers prefer to hold sprint meetings every two weeks or even once a month. Any method works, but it must meet the requirements and expectations of the project.
The task defines the sprint, and each developer or team member has a specific task. The skills and experience of a team member determine the nature of the task. The project leader or manager must determine which task to assign to which developer.
Continuous Revision and Modification
Testing, tracking, and bug fixing are performed in parallel with the software development process. This is a continuous task aimed at eliminating as many problems as possible and moving the project forward. After the software is completed, another round of comprehensive testing follows. This is usually done by a group of beta testers. User interaction and experience tools can show how users interact with the software.
Even after the software is released, it is useful for developers to have a regular look back at their work. Software development is a very dynamic and rapidly evolving field. Thus, keeping the old versions of a released solution is very important. If disputes arise during development, going back to those older versions can be very useful. Color coding is a good way to keep track of different software iterations.
Planning Principles That Make Life Easier
- Dates should be planned by programmers, not managers.
A common mistake is when a project manager, who does not properly understand the scope and specifics of the tasks, sets the project deadlines not in accordance with the experience, capabilities, and competencies of the team, but based on the client’s own ideas, desires, or requests. It’s hard to envy programmers in such teams. When managers don’t take the programmers’ capabilities into account, the discrepancy between the planned and actual dates tends to be 40-80%. The atmosphere in the team becomes oppressive and demotivating. Problems follow one after another, and developers are the ones who get all the blame.
- It is necessary to determine the approximate deadlines for the completion of the entire project and the real time for solving the problem in advance.
Under no circumstances should processes be left to chance. Ignoring the planning procedure leads to laxity and low motivation of developers in the periods preceding the deadline, to a lack of team’s understanding of what to do, where to move, and what needs to be achieved in the end. If the company doesn’t determine the approximate deadlines for the delivery of the project, its team should really ponder the fact that such chaos will not lead to any good.
- Break the project into smaller stages with clear goals and a mandatory discussion of the results.
The application of the principle is necessary to counteract Parkinson’s law, which states that the total amount of work will always increase in order to fill all the time allocated for work. Following the advice, you can avoid the pattern of only getting the urge to work hard just before the deadline for the project. Breaking down the process of achieving the global goal into control periods with specific tasks that must be completed within a week or two will allow you to use the working potential of the team to the maximum. With this approach, a high level of motivation and efficiency of developers is maintained throughout the entire period of software creation, and the probability of achieving the desired goals increases.
- Team members should interact as closely as possible with each other.
First of all, this helps increase the cohesion of the team and stimulate mutual assistance. When the communication between members of the team is insufficient, there is no “team spirit” that ensures coordinated work. Joint productive activity satisfies the social needs of a person in a sense of the significance of the work performed. Following this principle also allows you to painlessly replace any member of the team because the participants are all aware of who is doing what and how they’re doing it.
- Include a reserve of time to cover force majeure, new customer requirements, vacations, holidays, integration, and testing.
It is impossible to foresee all situations that might arise over the course of the development process during the initial stage of planning. Therefore, you need to reserve some time so that the team does not have to rush its work and make mistakes as a result. Do not ignore the time needed to debug the software in order to bring it to the necessary level of stable operation with an acceptable number of bugs. The release of raw products due to times of austerity is not reasonable. The Agile methodology takes the variability of external conditions into account and allows for quick and painless adaptation to them.
- You can’t rush, break the plan, and reduce software development time.
A common mistake of managers is thinking that programmers will be able to pull any deadlines. First, this approach makes the team demotivated, sabotages the work process, and can even make developers want to retire from the workplace on their own free will. Secondly, a sharp acceleration of work operations depletes the resources of the human body and psyche, leading to professional burnout. Thirdly, overestimations lead to an increase in the number of errors in the code. It will take significantly more time to debug and fix them in the future, so it’s better to plan carefully and save the time needed for that right away.
- Document planning with the right task manager.
The choice of a particular program is a matter of taste. Plans should be fixed. Visibility is required for both developers and customers, while maintaining the ability to make changes. This makes the development process easier to understand for the development team, management, and the client. Furthermore, the number of disputes regarding the interpretation of work actions can be reduced if you put emphasis on making the wording of the plan as clear as possible, avoiding possible double meanings.
- Prioritize tasks and focus on what matters most.
Try to implement the most important functionality first. Keep in mind that some features and the implementation of some ideas will have to be sacrificed in the development process. And prioritization is possible only through communication and an exchange of views.
Planning a software development project right is just as important as executing it. It lays the foundation for the end product’s success. Planning reemphasizes the methodology, standards, and methods of developing a software project. It serves as a guide to keeping the project in line with the budget, resources, and deadlines. This, in turn, helps to achieve the set goals and maintain clear and effective communication.
Yes, writing a software development project plan takes time, but the investment is worth it. On the other hand, if you are choosing outsourced development in collaboration with a reliable partner, then you will be spared of all the planning-related headaches. Bamboo Agile can become that partner for you. Contact us to get a free consultation and ensure that your project will be in the right hands.
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