Embarking on a software project can be daunting - but preparing yourself for the journey can make all the difference. Below we’ve put together our 6 do’s and don’ts for a successful software project to help ensure your investment is maximised.
Being prepared and aware of the process goes a long way to ensuring that your communications channels are open and properly managed, that your expectations are aligned with what the development team is doing, and that the net result of your financial investment is a great piece of software that fulfills your business needs.
Let’s get to it.
1. DO educate yourself about the Software Development Lifecycle
The Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC for short) is an umbrella term for a range of systematic processes followed by development teams to ensure that only high quality software that meets your needs and expectations is produced.
When it comes to how your software project is planned, executed and evaluated, most software teams today follow the SDLC’s Agile philosophy, and more specifically the Scrum Framework. And for good reason: the Agile/Scrum framework was specifically developed to meet and conquer the challenges that arise during software development projects. But this framework, while simple to understand, contains certain principles and practices that, in order to achieve success, need understanding, involvement and buy-in.
Having an understanding of the framework your development team will be using during the course of your software project will:
- Enable you to be a fully engaged customer who is able to provide invaluable feedback during the appropriate moments of the project
- Create clear and well-constructed communication channels to ensure that all involved parties are always on the same page
- Result in a high-quality, collaboratively produced software solution
2. DON’T ignore the importance of a Product Owner
A Product Owner is someone within your company who is nominated as the owner, and single point of contact, for the software project. This person holds the practical, day-to-day relationship with the development team. They are also responsible for communicating the defined needs of your business in a way that the development team can translate into functional software.
Not appointing a Product Owner results in having multiple stakeholders acting as direct advisors. This has many disadvantages:
- An unclear vision with split perspectives of what is needed
- No clear communication channel, resulting in confused needs and objectives
- A tendency for scope creep (which is both time consuming and expensive if it doesn’t fit within the overall objectives of the project)
Appointing an involved, technically skilled and knowledgeable Product Owner is the most efficient and reliable way to ensure that your business needs are clearly communicated and understood.
3. DO remain engaged with your development team
Your business needs are constantly evolving as the market you serve evolves. For your software to remain an asset to the efficiency and success of your business, it needs to be flexible enough to evolve with you.
To maintain your competitive advantage, you need to maintain a well-communicated relationship with your development team. Great software (and a great ROI) requires continuous collaboration, and it’s very important that you, as the customer, are involved in your software projects. Software is not something that you can ‘set and forget’. Your Product Owner needs to attend regular meetings, evaluate the software as it progresses and communicate your maturing needs.
The benefits of remaining engaged include:
- Greater clarity of customer requirements and timeous prioritisation
- Less financial and resource wastage
- More careful refinement of software through demos and testing
4. DON’T be closed off to other ideas and ways of achieving your goals
To embark on a successful software project you need to have a very clear view of what your business expects to achieve. You have a problem and you’re looking for a solution. Documenting existing processes and challenges is an essential step in the SDLC, but remember, you are hiring an experienced team of highly skilled problem-solvers to help you out. Let them do their thing.
If you have a rigid, preconceived idea of how this problem will be solved you will not benefit from the creative problem-solving process that is enabled through the Agile development framework. Incremental development with iterative demo’s can offer solutions that you may not have thought of.
5. DO support testing. Always.
Perfect software is like a perfect person - it doesn’t exist. Look hard and close enough, and there’ll be a flaw somewhere. When it comes to turning code into usable software, the best way to ensure that you end up with a good quality piece of software that works as expected, and that the end result is usable is to allow for, and support, testing.
There are 2 key types of testing that provide progressive and context-specific testing, and both should be included as a standard within every software development project.
- QAT (Quality Assurance Testing): Examines whether the software performs as specified. This is usually done in-house by your software development partner, and by a team of specifically qualified and trained testers. The idea is to identify any bugs or deviations from the expected design.
- UAT (User Acceptance Testing): This is usually done by an individual/small group within your own company. The idea is to have your staff actually use what has been built, to examine if it works as needed and if any changes need to be made to layout, design, processes, functionality etc. This is essentially beta testing.
6. DON’T assume that great software can be delivered overnight
As The Economist says: “Speed. Price. Quality. Pick 2”.
Good quality software takes time and is an investment in your business. Developers need time to understand your needs and translate it into robust, bug-free code. Software testers need time to test, scrutinise, and refine your software. Expecting quality software to be delivered on impossibly short timelines will result in exactly the opposite.
Properly appreciating the value of software can be difficult. But what returns should you expect from your custom software? In short:
- Reduced costs
- Improved efficiency
- Quicker time-to-market
- Improved customer experience
We assure you - the wait is worth it. And remember, the ‘wait’ is always proportional to the complexity of the project. For everything you need to know about Software Project Management - make sure to download this eBook.
When embarking on a software project it’s important to keep all of the above mentioned do’s and don’ts in mind. They go a long way to ensuring that your communications channels are open and properly managed, that your expectations are aligned with what the development team is doing, and that the net result of your financial investment is a great piece of software that fulfills your business needs.