A comprehensive guide charting out the essentials for your software development initiative to succeed
If your enterprise has ever developed business software or added to your legacy software, you know how frustrating and cumbersome the process might be. Over 14% of software projects fail due to the developed software’s inability to meet organizational goals.
The secret sauce of achieving success with your software development initiative is two-fold; For all software development initiatives, you may want to go through with, firstly appointing the right project manager crucial and secondly having a set of effective and time-tested guidelines in place is imperative. But the very first step to take towards your software project management is to develop a practical approach.
Developing a Practical Approach: The Role of the Project Manager
The project manager you appoint plays a key role in making sure that all stages of the initiative are carried out as defined earlier. It is the project manager’s responsibility to consider potential risks and formulate a plan to either avoid or resolve them. With the managed team model we have at Radixweb, our project managers establish and maintain momentum through the entire course of the project while ensuring that all tasks are appropriately assigned and successfully completed.
Experience dictates that if a project manager is able to dedicate the necessary time, resources, and efforts to prepare a comprehensive and practical approach, then the team progresses with ease and confidence, delivering individual tasks based on a solid strategic framework for software project management from the very outset.
However, there are a sizeable number of failures in software development projects as a result of a poorly executed plan.
Designing a strategic plan: Considering all aspects that could contribute to success or failure
The right strategic plan for a successful software development initiative would not lack either in the fundamental elements of a well thought out approach, which is based on a foundation of detailed preparations.
Project planning largely determines the success or failure of the initiative. Radixweb prides itself with 20+ years of experience, and that experience states that the approach to software project management and planning should be tailored according to the chosen software development model.
Execution and delivery: Utilizing the Agile model
Although software teams have their own approach and techniques while building software, they use standardized methodologies to guide them during the project. The Agile development model stands in a class of its own, more than frequently visited by our development teams.
Mentioned below are seven methodologies of software development in the Agile Model.
In Scrum, the project manager organizes software projects in sprints that last about four weeks each, aimed at delivering a unique functionality that addresses the user story. User stories are usually the depiction of features or actions from a user’s perspective.
Before the sprint planning, the project manager or the project owner performs backlog refinement/ grooming, adding and removing user stories and prioritizing backlog items for execution.
When the sprint begins, participants set up a planning meeting to decide the goal of the sprint. A detailed scope of work is discussed, and the required efforts and timeframes are also determined. At Radixweb, we also involve business analysts to assist in the translation of high-level business requirements into goals for the development and testing teams.
Lean software development is an agile software development that owes it’s standards and processes to Lean enterprise development. The following are its principles-
- Elimination of waste
- Intensified learning
- Choosing as late as permissible
- Delivering ASAP
- Team building
- Integrity building
- Inclusive perspective
The lean methodology aims to boost speed and productivity and depends on iterative input from both software engineers and clients. The utilization of group assets and guaranteeing effectiveness is core to the lean methodology.
#3. Extreme programming (XP)
In Extreme programming, commonly known as XP, beneficial elements of traditional software development practices are implemented at an “extreme’ level. E.g., Code reviews are a mainstay. In X, code is reviewed constantly, akin to pair programming. XP projects comprise of releases with each release consisting of short, week-long iterations.
The planning process in XP has two phases, Release planning and iteration planning.
- Release Planning- During release planning, project participants determine the requirements of the upcoming release and determine timeframes and budgets.
- Iteration planning- Iteration planning aims at specifying tasks for developers and testers to perform during the upcoming iteration.
The Kanban approach is chosen when the software project does not have clear iterations. In Kanban, project activities are segmented into small tasks to be performed over a predefined period. Tasks are assigned to individual team members and are added to the Kanban board maintained by the project manager or deputed to a team member. The board 9is split into separate columns according to the completion status of the tasks ( to be done, in progress, completed). As the status of a task changes, the individual moves the task to the appropriate column.
Interestingly Kanban does not have a differentiated planning phase. Communication is an ongoing process in a Kanban project, and change requests, new tasks, etc. can be added to the board at any time.
Based on the project owner’s requirements, the project managers at Radixweb plans and assign tasks to the project team so as to achieve project goals that are close-at-hand.
At Radixweb, the project owner is consulted to gather high-level business needs and objectives to process them into requirements for the project manager and his team to fulfill.
The crystal methodology stands apart as being amongst the most lightweight and versatile methods of software development. Crustal focuses on the earliest possible product delivery, versatility amongst teams, and high client association. It comprises of a number of sub methodologies like crystal clear, crystal orange, etc. with qualities driven by group estimates, undertaking and fulfilling need gaps and framework criticality
The DSDM or Dynamic systems delivery method was created to meet the requirement of delivering an industry-standard project delivery framework. Today DSDM has advanced to the point of developing into a multi-faceted tool that is used as a foundation for managing, planning to execute, and scaling agile processes for iterative software development projects. The major focus of DSDM is to ensure that the product being developed matches the business’s needs.
The DSDM tool consists of 9 key rules which are-
- Business/esteem needs
- Dynamic client association
- Empowered groups
- Coordinated testing
- Partner cooperation
FDD or feature-driven development is one of the most client-centric and practical software processes. In this methodology, features are considered use cases becoming the primary source of requirements as well as the primary input to assist planning efforts. FDD is an iteration process that creates the model shape and follows it up with a series of ‘design by feature, builds by feature’ iterations. With a specific focus on minute tasks to be attained, FDD drives better output management by calculating product delivery on the basis of tasks completed. The following are the 8 practices of FDD follows to complete the development process:
- Object Modeling
- Development by Feature
- Component & Class Ownership
- Teams dedicated to features
- Regular Inspections
- Configuration Management
- Regular Builds
- Enhanced Visibility of progress and results
Planning pitfalls in Agile models:
Speaking from our experience, at Radixweb, we believe that effective planning of a software project involves not only following instructions but also keeping potential planning pitfalls into consideration. No matter how water-tight the project is, there is always the risk of potential planning pitfalls. Since the agile model focuses on short-term planning, there is a risk of slow progress. At Radixweb, we circumvent this issue with regular immediate benchmarks.
Another possible pitfall is that in agile models, proactive iterations are difficult to plan without a precise evaluation of the team’s capabilities and speed. To remove missed deadlines altogether, Radixweb monitors the team’s speed from the first sprint and plan upcoming actions armed with this info.
Having discussed the planning and methodology that goes into a software development initiative, let’s move on to the actual steps involved.
Read on for-
9 key steps to consider as you embark on your software development journey.
1. Feasibility Analysis
Interviewing stakeholders to understand whether a certain need exists, the identification of the exact need and assessment of the proposed project on the basis of whether it can feasibly deliver the business objective is a definitive requirement. An ROI study is also suggested to determine costs vs. benefits during the feasibility analysis.
2. Determine requirements
A thorough analysis of the end user’s requirements is the next step. An in-depth review and a clear understanding of business rules, user documents, and processes are key to determining the necessary functionalities and features of the software development initiative. This is the stage where deliverables such as the scope of the project, and details of the software product requirements are put forth.
The importance of having a minimum tech infrastructure in place prior to greenlighting a project is also imperative. Such infrastructure includes-
- Desktops for development, possessing an integrated development environment suite.
- Servers loaded with configuration management systems for version control and document tracking.
- A staging server is used for testing and a production server for deployment.
- A tracking tool for tasks, requirements, and defects.
- A build system, preferably automated.
- A tool for regression testing.
- A reporting system, preferably automated.
Robust investments in proper infrastructure are critical and pay back rapidly. The three key elements that are products of the proper infrastructure are-
- Product & project visibility
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3. Follow Industry best practices
Proven industry best practices are the best way to define a software development process. Radixweb recommends a customized agile process with pictorial documentation for requirements and technical documentation. All activities should be traceable through a tool detailing task/requirements/defects. A shared document repository is also a must-have.
Putting together a detailed design document that outlines exactly how the software will meet the enterprise’s requirements is imperative. The document should be open to iterations since customization might be required to meet unique project needs.
5. Progress tracking
Including project indicators in the development process can ensure the identification of existing or potential problems, thus allowing space for remedial measures without wasting time. When such indicators are observed over an extended period of time, they can also be used to determine the quality and deployment readiness of the product.
In the development phase, the design document is transformed into a real bit of software. After the planning stage has been diligently executed, the software will fulfill the requirements put forward by the product owner. Development cycles produce several versions of the software.
- Alpha: prelim features/functionality
- Beta: for internal or usability testing
- Release Candidates: a very stable build with a low chance of changes
- Production Build or Gold Master: release ready
Automation is an integral part of the entire software development process and is imperative to automate repetitive tasks that do not require human involvement. Some tasks that can be automated are:
- Code builds;
- Regression tests;
- Collection of project, and product, related measures
- Static code analysis scans;
Automating such tasks when the software is implemented reduces human influence, which is error-prone. Automation also facilitates the usage of industry best-practices and collection of all project-related data.
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Testing is an essential part of the software development process. Typically, features of the software are laid out in lists, and scripts are created for each task the user might perform. These features are tested to make sure that they function properly. Testing itself constitutes of many sub-stages like quality assurance and staging.
One the software comes into general use, bugs, if any, are based on a criticality scale where urgent fixes are a top priority while enhancements and feature changes may be put down for future upgrades of the product.
Radixweb follows the industry standard of incremental implementation of the above practices. This critical to the project’s success no matter who the developing partner is. Given the complex nature of software projects and the amount of tech involved, software development demands an approach which gradually introduces change group by group and practice by practice to achieve the desired organizational culture change.
The importance of having a clearly defined development process, along with a clear definition of the project leader’s role, is possibly the most significant competitive advantage for the company in question. In an increasingly competitive marketplace, it is the ultimate weapon for winning business opportunities and successfully delivering robust, value-driven, highly efficient, and easy-to-use software.
If you still feel unsure of what will serve your software development initiative in the best way possible, you can lean on Radixweb- with 20+years of experience in delivering game-changing custom software solutions for over 2900+ clients spread across 25 countries. From planning to taking over the entire project and covering every step of the development process of your software initiative, Radixweb’s expertise is at your service. Interested? Get in touch and we would be happy to help you through your software development initiative.