In software development—just like any other area of business—communication is key. When teams fail to communicate properly, they jeopardize their ability to collaborate effectively, work efficiently, and meet expectations. Facilitating communication and transparency doesn’t just make people’s lives easier, it results in projects being completed faster and with fewer bugs and errors.
Unfortunately, in many companies, development teams tend to be siloed—separated from other parts of the organization. They are frequently given project statements of work (SOWs), goals, and deadlines from executives, and told to go forth and build according to these initial guidelines. While development teams may appreciate the lack of oversight while doing the heavy lifting of a project, this approach frequently means they deliver software that does not meet the expectations set by the higher-ups. This ultimately creates more work, sending the development team back to the drawing board.
Communication is a two-way street. It’s imperative that executives set clear expectations upfront, and then have visibility into the project as it evolves. Development teams need to feel comfortable asking questions of leadership teams and be willing to share work in progress to ensure both sides are aligned on the direction. Achieving this level of communication and understanding can be difficult, especially in older companies still clinging to legacy practices and procedures. Thankfully, there’s a handy framework development teams can use to create alignment across organizations. It’s called agile.
Agile is a framework of practices and methodologies built around the concept of iterative development. Cross-functional teams are encouraged to work collaboratively to deliver a steady stream of work, with frequent reviews to determine if requirements are being met.
Unlike traditional software engineering, agile has rapid feedback cycles. These cycles are referred to as sprints because they are short and expected to complete a small piece of work. At the end of the sprint, leadership teams can review the work to determine if the overall project is moving in the right direction, or if changes need to be made.
Instead of long periods of work without input or feedback from the leadership team, the process is collaborative and guided by sprints. At the end of each sprint, leadership reviews the work and can ask for any corrections or improvements to be made, understanding they will be able to see those changes addressed in the following sprint. Development teams stop sprinting when projects deliver the value leadership teams are expecting.
When it’s time to begin a software development project, you’ll need to set expectations, ensure scope is understood, and determine workflows and approaches. Whether you’re collaborating with your internal development team or enlisting an outside firm, here are five questions you should ask to make sure everyone is on the same page.
Recall the fundamental importance of communication to the success of software development projects that we discussed above. It’s important to make sure your development team is on the same page when it comes to staying in contact.
Schedule recurring meetings to stay in touch, and establish open lines of communication for connection outside of formal meetings. On the development side, determine who will be in charge of sharing deliverables and collecting feedback. On the leadership end, consider whose approval is necessary for each deliverable and the best channel to convey feedback. Creating a well-defined communications plan on the front end of the project will ensure complete visibility into the entire project for all involved, and avoid points of confusion or unrealized expectations.
This is key. A project is only as successful as the team members working on it. You’ll need to determine if the development team has enough resources to devote to your project. If team members will be working on multiple projects simultaneously, they need to have the ability to allocate their time responsibly.
When discussing the scope of the project with your development team, it may become evident that some work needs to be outsourced. It’s best to determine this upfront, that way the costs associated with outsourced work can be managed more effectively and the proper third party can be chosen early to avoid last minute scrambling to find a firm that can get the work done.
In agile development, the project manager is perhaps the most important person. The project manager is responsible for planning, organizing, and leading a software project. They coach members of the development team and ensure deadlines are met and sprints run smoothly. In short, they are the glue that holds the entire project together.
Because of this, many feel that a dedicated project manager (or project managers) is crucial to the success of your project. If you value this resource as well, ensure that your development team is equipped to provide you with one.
No software project is complete without going through the testing phase. This is an essential step of the process that validates how well the product performs by putting it through its paces. Testing seeks to confirm that the software product’s features all function properly and that it delivers on its original goals and expectations.
There are multiple different testing approaches, including unit tests, integration tests, end-to-end tests, and more. There’s no one size fits all approach. What will work best for your software product depends on its size, scope, and performance needs. Work with your development team to determine what testing will look like, and if it will be completed internally, or if outside resources need to be brought in.
Your software project doesn’t end after launch. Just like any piece of machinery, it needs to be serviced, cared for, and maintained. Maintenance is a key part of the software lifecycle, and you can’t afford to skimp out on it. Bugs will arise, improvements will need to be made, and vulnerabilities will need to be addressed.
At the onset of the project, find out if your development team can handle the product’s long-term maintenance needs. While the work is not as involved as actually building the product, maintenance still takes time and effort. Determine if your development team has the bandwidth to handle maintenance work. If not, you may have to look into using a third-party maintenance service.
Here at Codal, we’re in the business of solving real-world problems with digital solutions. We transform frustrations into features and deliver cutting-edge software to meet any business needs. And we do it all through our polished agile process.
Want to learn more about Codal’s design and development capabilities, as well as our commitment to agile practices? Let’s talk.