Discover How to Plan a Software Development Project According to the Best Practices
The process of software development is no easy feat, and the larger the project, the higher its complexity. And it is quite often to see a project running a little late than expected, or barely keeping up with the timeline.
This scenario is equally true for both in-house and outsourced development. So whether it’s building a software product for your own company, or developing one for a client, this is a phenomenon that you will see quite frequently.
Now, if the project sponsor, whether it’s a client or an in-house sponsor, is a non-technical entity, then it is going to be a difficult task to explain why the project isn’t progressing according to the plan. It may not be just the timeline. Maybe you need more resources, or a resource with a high-level skill for a specific domain. Or maybe, you need more time or budget to finish the project.
Whatever the reason may be, it is going to be a difficult task to justify this change in the original plan. That is where software development planning comes into play. It allows a software development company to create a proper framework to plan and track the project. Furthermore, it helps to identify potential issues by creating a framework that can properly address them should the need arise.
Let’s take an in-depth look at the concept, and discover how to create a software development process that can offer quality results.
Software Development Planning – What is it?
Software development planning, as the name suggests, means to develop a project management framework for your software project. Basically, it describes what and who will be needed to do the project, how long will it take to do the project, who will do what, how will the project be tracked, and what to do if the software development process faces something unexpected.
Now, there may be several more elements of a software development plan, but the ones above are common to all. In its simplest form, it allows you to finish a project easily and smoothly, by documenting and addressing a variety of scenarios based on their probability of occurring.
Today, with project management such a popular domain, knowing how to plan a software project for better management gives you an immediate leg up over competitors that don’t. For example, you and a competitor start to develop a product each designed to address a problem in the market. Unlike you, the competitor is not developing or using a software development plan.
So what do you think? What would the likely results be? Considering that you are using a proper project management plan, you will be able to track your progress better, ensuring that your team releases the product to the market before your competitors.
That is how project planning can help you deliver various types of software development projects efficiently.
What Goals Do You Try To Achieve With a Software Development Process?
When we talk about organizing something, or creating a framework for something, it means we are creating a roadmap to success. But success for what? Every project has some goals and objectives that they are trying to achieve. And the same is true for software development planning.
The purpose or goals of creating a software development process, is to ensure:
- The project requirements are being met.
- The project is progressing timely.
- Potential risk analysis and discussion how to mitigate them.
- There is clear communication between all stakeholders.
- Everyone knows what is their responsibility.
These are just some of the major ones that many iterative development project plans incorporate. Some may even add more to their plans, depending on their project requirements or project domain.
If we take an in-depth look at the need for a software development project, we will find that creating one is all about having a comprehensive look over the following elements:
- The list of features listed according to their priority.
- The resources involved and their duties.
- Project estimation related to non-technical resources.
- Progress or performance metrics to assess the work.
A well-planned software project plan helps to ensure that both the project’s functional requirements and company needs are met successfully. Moreover, it helps you prepare for any roadblocks or hurdles you may face along the way, giving you a framework on how to deal with them.
Best Practices for Software Development Project Planning
Now, in order for a project to be considered successful, you need to address three base facets of software project management within your plan. These factors allow you to map a proper path to developing a robust and feature-rich product that solves the business needs of a company, and delivering it on time.
Generally, it’s very rare nowadays for people to manually track a project. There are many popular project management tools available nowadays that can help newbies and amateurs track project successfully and efficiently.
But tool or no tool, you need proper guidelines for software development project planning. And it should address these three elements within.
Planning & Requirement Gathering Stage
This is the stage where you define the project, its requirements, objectives, and much more. it also defines the team and other stakeholders involved, the overall timeline, risk management frameworks, and more. This is a very important stage as a project that is planned well can be executed well. Moreover, this is where you address the project tracking framework, the hierarchy, modes of communication, and more, for a smooth and successful software project development.
Scope Definition Stage
Scope definition is a process where you identify and analyze the tasks and duties involved in your domain, and how to break them down into smaller, simpler chunks for better deliverability and success.
Here you will set:
- Project scheduling and milestones.
- Cost and time estimations, as well as potential delays.
- Major elements and their subtasks that will define the scope of the software product being developed.
The implementation stage is where you develop, test, and deploy the project according to the given software development process. This is the stage where you will see how effective or realistic your software project planning is. And if you analyze the quality assurance results, you will gain valuable insights into the weaknesses of your software project.
Benefits of Software Development Project Planning
Being a professional software developer, you should know about the benefits of software development project planning. It helps teams to stay on the same page while working on any project. This whole process gives them a clear view about the project goals, so that quality results can be achieved at the end.
For starters, here are some of the core benefits of software development project planning they should know about.
- Software project planning helps to schedule tasks earlier, allowing teams to prepare for separate jobs effectively.
- By planning in advance, you can know the areas where additional resources will be required. This way, you can manage everything timely using the right tools and resources.
- Software project planning also helps to build better cost estimations. It describes the overall budget of the project in advance.
Steps to Planning a Software Development Project
While software development planning has been more common in enterprise level businesses for quite some time now, it is one of the most popular software development trends followed by small software development companies today.
That is because nowadays, with fierce market competition, timely delivery of quality software products is of the essence. And without using proper software development project planning strategies, that won’t be possible. So, if you are looking to find out how to incorporate best software development project planning techniques into your workflow, let’s take a look at how you can create a custom plan for that.
Analyze the Project
Whenever we start a project, the first step is to analyze it in detail, always. That is because project analysis allows you to assess the feasibility of the project, and confirms whether you and the project sponsor is on the same page regarding the beginning, needs, and requirements of the project.
The project analysis part dives into the following:
- An in-depth look at the project goals and the concept behind it
- The project requirements
- Any project specifications
Now generally, project analysis is often done at the same time as the primary project planning stage. That is because essentially project analysis, planning, and gathering the software project requirements are all part of the same major process, and it makes sense to do them all together. It is certainly one of the best tips for software development project planning that should be remembered by everyone who is actively involved in the project.
The next step, or the next phase of project analysis, is documenting the project requirements. Now, this is a very important step as well, as by properly assessing the project requirements, it will be easier to ensure that the end-result is a product that adheres exactly to the project sponsor’s idea.
In this stage, you perform the following activities:
- Decide who is responsible for what aspect of the project development
- Finalize the requirements
- Identify what milestones would be considered as checkpoints of project progress
When finalizing the requirements, you and your team will need to answer some questions to get all the information you need. Questions like the issues the project will solve, the target market, the data required, any third-party integrations required, and more.
Answering these questions will help you document the actual requirements of the project, and allow you to specify the priority and technical scope of the project, the software testing tools and techniques, development methodologies to use, tech stacks, and more.
The next step is one of the most important phases of this process, and that is the software development planning. This is where you define the scope of the project in detail, and assess how each of the project requirements is going to be fulfilled within a reasonable timeline.
Some of the most important duties you will write down in the software requirements specification document include:
- Defining a clear overview of the software project, and add detail to the timeline to ensure proper adherence and management of all stakeholders involved.
- Breaking down the project into smaller, more manageable and trackable tasks that allows you to measure the progress of the project more accurately.
- Creating a number of charts and tables such as a duty division chart, Gantt chart, and more. On the other hand, you may set up a project management tool of your choice to do the same, and enable you to finish the project efficiently and accurately.
It is also where you assess potential risks and the framework to deal with them, as well as a revenue management plan, and more.
Track Project Progress
Next up, you define a project tracking process. Once you are done planning the milestones and duty charts, the next step is to ideate and develop a framework to track the progress and software development KPIs of the project. You can track progress by milestone, or by time elapsed if you’re not very confident in the milestone time estimates.
However, no matter the type of progress management you choose, you need to ensure how to ensure that the teams and individuals adhere to the agreed timelines. Moreover, you also need to devise a set of SOPs or a framework to address what to do in case the project is exceeding the timeline.
Development of Project
As the name suggests, the software development phase of the project is an important part of the process. This is where you create, test, and finalize both the front-end and the back-end of the product. And that is why this is one of the most time-consuming tasks in your software project plan.
That is because as the project is worked on, the scope of the project will be expanded, and so will the requirements. You need to devise a framework to address this translation of the high level requirements and scope as the project progresses, and how you can add and integrate them into the project without affecting the timeline.
Now, for smaller projects, this may not take very long. However, for unique projects, or large, enterprise level projects, this is a critical and time consuming process.
Testing and QC of Project
Finally, you need to address the testing and quality control methodologies and techniques you will use to assure that the end product is of a high quality. The tools, testing methodologies, and the use of these testing techniques on the product features would be defined in your testing and software quality assurance framework. This allows for easy assessment of project success throughout the project lifecycle.
Best Software Development Project Planning Tools
If you want to manage your software projects professionally, it is best advised to use project management tools. These products are precisely made to help you organize each task properly, so that you can manage everything with a clear mindset.
Some of the best software development project planning tools you could use these days are:
- Zoho Projects
To sum it up, software development planning is an essential process that allows you to develop, deploy, and deliver a high-quality and robust software product that does all that you desired of it. However, unless you know how to create one, you will find it difficult to know what you need to add for your project.
If you follow the steps given above, and address the basic tenets of a software development plan, you will end up with a resourceful software project plan designed for success.
1. What are the key elements of successful software development planning?
They key elements for software development planning includes proper research and right process selection. Both of these things help you to develop quality software solutions as per the given demands.
2. What are the best practices for software development planning?
To design a quality software, you need to follow some core practices. It includes a thorough market research, right tools selection, proper QA analysis and few more others.
3. How can software development planning help ensure a successful product release?
By doing correct software development planning, you can ensure a successful product release. That is because when you follow the right process, then results are always obtained as per the required needs.
4. What challenges can arise during software development planning?
While doing software development planning, you can face different types of challenges. It includes lack of available market data, shortage of resources, unclear project goals and more others.
5. How do you manage stakeholders during software development planning?
As a developer, you should know how to manage project stakeholders during software development planning. The best way to do that is to let them know about the technical needs and how they ca be met using correct processes.
6. What are the most important factors to consider when creating a software development plan?
The most important factors while creating a software development plan includes correct understanding and technical resources available for the project. If you will keep these factors in mind, then software planning would become easy and straightforward.
7. How do you assess the risk associated with software development planning?
To assess the risk associated with software development planning, you always have to analyze the inverse take that could arise during the development. That is how risks can be better planned and mitigated timely.
8. What is the best way to measure the success of software development planning?
The best way to measure the success of software development planning is by looking at the results. This will let you know whether the process has worked or failed to build a required application.
9. What is the goal of a software development plan?
The goal of the software development plan is to create a framework that addresses all the facets of software development for a project, and ensure that it is developed successfully and on time.
10. What are the four steps of the development process for a software?
To create an effective and result-driven software development process, you need to know about some important steps which includes:
- Deploying & maintenance