Software development is a complex process. You can only avoid it if you develop software for your clients or products.
You may need help explaining to a non-technical client why something didn’t work out as planned or why you needed more resources.
The client might need clarification about why the project cannot be completed on time or within budget despite the best efforts of your developers.
You may need to work faster on your products by reducing cycle time, increasing predictability, and minimizing frustration among your developers.
No matter how small or large the project, it is important to have a project plan. This is the best way to ensure that tasks are completed efficiently, software quality is delivered, and realistic deadlines are met.
How can you plan software projects today?
What is A Software Development Project Plan?
The software development plan is exactly what it says: an overview of the development project. It would include documents that outline the timeline and tasks of the project as well as:
- Team Members
- Start Date and End Dates
- Working Procedures
- Training Standards
Your plan should not be treated as an absolute guideline, but it can and should follow a flexible progression. Managers can easily adjust the plan to meet their goals, while developers can move back and forth from one stage to another to fix and re-create software. Software development involves a lot of troubleshooting to ensure that everything is bug-free. The ability to redo sections of the software without affecting the project’s overall progress is very valuable.
Software development plans should also include a detailed risk assessment and any backup plans in case things go wrong during development.
Why Businesses Needs a Software Development Plan?
You might wonder if you still need a project plan, given that agile development emphasizes experimentation, iteration, and discovery more than deadlines.
In some cases, dates and plans can be put on the back burner in favor of ongoing product development. In some cases, adhering to a specific project plan is important. This can be seen in the following:
- Client/agency engagement: As part of the bid process, the agency is expected to give the client a delivery date. It is particularly important when the agency charges based on materials and time.
- A startup with funding will need to ensure that the funding runway is sufficient to reach the MVP or the next stage of delivery.
- When a project is complex and has external deadlines. This would include a project subject to governmental regulations with a set date. If these deadlines do not complete the project, it could lead to excessive fines.
Importance of An Effective Software Project Plan
Proper planning can make for greater efficiency and fewer mistakes on software projects, with key aspects such as these being considered essential.
Establish Roles and Responsibilities: When planning your software project, outline which team members can address each development aspect. Defining roles early will ensure each task is completed without fail.
Meeting Deadlines for Projects: Planning software projects will enable you to meet project deadlines by setting clear time frames for each phase of the work. Your plan should also include time-based goals so every team member understands milestones.
Ensuring You Stick to Budget for Your Project: Project plans contain detailed budget information that allows teams to stay within their allocated funds for various aspects of a project. A software project plan will assist your group in staying within their allocated funds.
Deliver High-Quality Work: Software project plans are key to implementing quality control measures and identifying viruses or defects before handing off code to clients. By outlining quality requirements in advance and assigning quality assurance responsibilities, software project plans allow you to provide high-quality projects to your clients.
What Are the Goals of Planning a Software Project?
Project management software’s main purpose is to organize the process in such a way as to meet client, and user needs while also avoiding miscommunication or issues that might impede its completion. How this is carried out will dramatically impact its ultimate success.
To effectively plan a software development project, we must grasp its purpose:
- Achieve functional goals by meeting each functional requirement’s tasks and subtasks.
- Determine priorities for feature development.
- Consider pre-requisites before you hire software developers
- Attracting, engaging, and managing stakeholders.
- Establishing roles and responsibilities.
- Estimates and resources required. Performance measures to gauge efficiency and quality.
- Planning can be a complex process requiring many goals and requirements before undertaking.
At its core, project success requires the following:
- Concisely understanding objectives and specifications within a project.
- Conceiving efficient strategies for completion within time and cost constraints
- Conceiving a complete roadmap or value stream mapping when required and
- Implementation of quality development standards.
- Delivering high-quality, reliable products to customers while assuring flexibility in accommodating changes or iterations without impacting the process.
Your project or business goals should include both business and project goals.
A carefully considered development plan will also assist when encountering problems – making identifying and solving them much simpler!
What is in a Software Development Plan?
Software development is a complicated technical process with many steps. Project planning software can help visualize each step and track them according to the team’s timeline.
Various tools are available, including project management software, development analytics and project analytics. The choice depends on factors such as the size of your engineering team and how complex the project is.
The following are generally included in any software development plan:
- Planning: When you define the project’s objectives and goals;
- Scoping: When you analyze and set:
- Specification as much as you can the tasks and subtasks
- Estimate real-time costs with developers, but be prepared for any unexpected delays, such as holidays, sick leave, or meetings.
- Milestones with their indicative dates to know the progress of the project
- Implementing: When you develop and deploy software.
Best Practices for Creating a Software Development Plan
You can succeed with software development services planning by following standard best practices. These details are easy to implement and will take a little time.
Work is Divided into Modules
It is impossible to create the entire plan at one time. It is important to break down the process into manageable pieces. Use a module-based system. Each section is a separate module, and team members are assigned to each module. Set a date for each module, and ensure that teams are clear about the scope of their work.
Real-Time Sharing of Research
During software development planning, research is a vital process. All team members should have access to research results, such as market studies, user reviews, focus group interviews, and analyses of similar projects in real time. All team members should receive updates simultaneously.
Plan is Continually Revisited and Revised
Planning software development is a continuous process. Priorities in software development are constantly changing. The team must regularly revisit the software development process to ensure it remains relevant. Keep the older versions in case of a disagreement during the project. Use color codes to track different versions. Take a look at examples of software development plans.
Ask Users for Opinions
A team must test the feature on real users after it has been declared complete. These findings should be reflected within a software development strategy. User interactions may inspire the team to change their focus or acquire new resources. All of these changes must be documented.
Risks Associated with Software Development Planning
It takes work to write a good plan for a software development project. Planning becomes more difficult as a software project grows in complexity.
Poor project planning is often the cause of software failure. This section explains why certain software development projects fail.
Only when goals are clearly defined can success be measured. It is impossible to achieve success when success is just a vague concept.
Poorly defined goals can ruin a project.
The focus of a project can change dramatically from the beginning to the end. The product is there but needs to match the goal of the project.
These projects are difficult to manage because they need a clear goal.
Take time during the planning stage to fully understand the problem. Think about how you will measure your success.
Plans that Address the Wrong Needs
Software development projects are dynamic and subject to constant changes.
At first, this is because the project details still need to be fully developed. But changes can also occur during the process.
Over time, teams and stakeholders may change their minds. Software development plans must be flexible, and they should reflect the current needs.
Documentation is important, but so is agility. Write down all aspects, milestones, and timelines in the planning phase.
Include acceptance criteria and user stories. These are useful for developers to understand the problem and the work involved.
This will lead to a product tailored to the customer’s needs.
Communication is vital in every project. This process can be helped by using direct communication and user research.
They are used to determine the target audience and to tailor the product to meet their needs. They, along with user validation, can result in an irrelevant product.
Remember external teams that are involved in the project. Close communication will also benefit them.
No Accountability or Leadership
In some companies, the IT department is responsible for the entire software development process. In some cases, managers and other executives delegate all responsibility.
It puts the software development plan in the hands of people with different strengths. This results in a loss of direction.
This will likely lead to failure in any software development process. No one will take responsibility for these issues.
It can positively impact goals if they are defined and documented.
It may take work to meet sprint goals. Feedback and deadlines are delayed.
Agile software development plans make it easier to manage the project. Agile helps deal with the inevitable changes that will occur in a project.
It is easy to add flexibility to any software development plan. Divide a large complex project into smaller, achievable milestones.
Absence of a Data Protection Plan
Software development requires complex IT infrastructures that generate, process and store a large amount of data. The loss of data, or the inability to access it for a long time due to a ransomware attack or other reasons, would cause development to be disrupted or even impossible.
Data protection workflows are essential for organizations to ensure the resilience of their critical data and environments. VMware Backup, for example, allows you to manage automated backup, recovery, and retention workflows from one dashboard, saving time and resources.
User Testing and Feedback
The majority of software is designed for human use. This is an important fact to remember.
Likely, no one will ever use a product if it is difficult to use or unpleasant. This would be a waste of both time and money.
How to Create a Software Project Plan?
You must identify your inputs and outputs to develop a software development strategy. The inputs are the materials and data you need to complete the project. Outputs are the results you intend to achieve.
It is best to meet with or have several meetings with all the project stakeholders to determine these parameters. This will enable the following to be discovered:
- What material has been prepared for this project?
- What further discovery or documentation is required?
- Which details are needed in a software development project based on the nature of the product and the organization’s culture?
Define the Scope
Your project’s scope is what you want it to achieve. It will be the pillar around which everything else must be built. The scope of a software project is the most important thing to define when planning a software development project.
Work closely with your client or development team if you’re the project manager to define your scope at the start of the development cycle. To determine the final scope, it is important to discuss all the major aspects of the development project. These include budget, timeframes, the expected outcome, the tasks and the final products. This scope will become the foundation of your entire project.
It is recommended to only plan for the initial six months if the development cycle takes longer than expected (6 months is normal). You should then hold a meeting to reset the plan. If you need to adjust your goals, assess them and ensure they align with the new direction. Your software development team will be informed of the latest changes, and you won’t be worried about their progress.
Divide The Project and Its Outputs
Creating a software project is too big to tackle all at once. Divide it into smaller projects!
You can manage your project more effectively by dividing the project into smaller tasks. After splitting the project, you can decide how much budget to allocate to each task. It is also easier to let team members take care of their part of the development process rather than having you do it all.
Clarify what you want each developer team to do after the split and the expected outcome. A meeting between the client and team would be very beneficial for this step, as the client can only define a successful outcome. A clear picture of the work needed helps the development team avoid redesigns or future change requests.
Estimate your Workload
It is time to estimate how much work will be required to ensure development success. Resist the urge to give the team any opinions or suggestions on the length of a specific task. This can lead to an inaccurate estimate. You want all team members to contribute their estimates to get the best work estimate.
We recommend using “blind estimation” techniques such as Delphi Estimation and Planning Poker. These tools encourage all team members to share their opinions; one powerful voice does not influence the entire team.
Questioning the Estimate
Asking questions is important throughout the estimation process. A good estimate can help set up the project for success, while a poor one can ruin it even before it begins.
Uncover estimation constraints by asking open-ended questions. You might ask, “How will you achieve this?” and “Why did your team suggest this estimate?”
No matter what method you choose to estimate your workload, it is important to leave some room for errors. You can protect your project from being late by allowing for contingencies due to unexpected complexity or scope. The more complicated and longer the project is, the greater the need for contingency. Humans are naturally optimistic, so projects rarely go over or under budget. All projects should include 10-25% of contingency (or more).
Design & Prototyping
Conceptual designing is the next step in effective project management software. It has nothing to do with aesthetics but is about the project’s architecture and functionality.
Software architects and engineers do this to ensure that the software’s flow, structure, and functionality meet the project’s requirements. This can include:
- The entire structure and its abilities
- The functionality of software solutions
- Hardware and software components, if required
- Software tools for future development
- Processes that are tailored to the needs of the business and its goals.
This stage is where you will create simple, easily understood wireframes to show the features and functions of your product. You may also need to prototype if users’ feedback on proposed features is needed.
Tracking and Measuring Progress
This step is important to the planning process.
Set software metrics for tracking and measuring performance and code quality. These metrics should be set at the start of the project to ensure a smooth and consistent workflow.
You can only effectively manage a project by collecting these measurements and gathering valuable data.
Development or project analytics can help you identify and eliminate potential or existing problems during the software lifecycle.
When you track and measure software metrics, you can see work trends, code quality, and readiness for deployment, just to name a couple.
Once you know your project’s workload and milestones, it is possible to estimate the resources needed at each stage. As you build your team, identify where each team member needs to be brought on board. It’s unlikely that you will need all resources for the entire duration of the project.
During the early phases of software development, for example, stakeholders and the design team will need to exert more effort than they would during the later phases. The top software development companies will be less needed in the early phases, but they will be during the development phase.
Development & Coding
After completing the design phase, it’s time to implement them using coding. This next step in project planning software is the most difficult, complex, and time-consuming: software development.
Now, the software development team begins to build the solution based on the agreed-upon scope of the project and requirements. It can be either a quick and simple process or one that is more complex and requires multiple integrations and functionality.
Perform Risk Assessment
A proper risk assessment allows project managers to identify early potential issues within a software development process, preventing them from spreading, affecting other processes and hampering the entire project. Planned solutions are developed to resolve the issues identified long before they occur.
Even though they may be considered potential problems, including the inevitable delays caused by external factors is important. Even if you list all possible obstacles in detail, you cannot know the future. Planning for delays in software development projects is recommended.
Last, you should maintain a list of your risks, problems, and solutions. You should also log any new problems to make your project management easier.
The support of your team for the software project should continue after delivery. Plan the entire delivery, including the transfer of your software to a team who will perform maintenance. Prepare to provide post-release assistance to your client to help strengthen the relationship.
Planning a post-project evaluation before the project begins is a good idea, as development teams are created and disbanded based on the project. This helps you inform your team of the current stage and allocate resources to the project, even if they are scarce. You will only gain time and efficiency if you pay attention to a post-project evaluation in software development.
Ask your team to reflect on open-ended questions in a post-project evaluation. You can ask:
- What have we learned from this project?
- What worked well, and how can it be applied to future projects?
- What happened? What went wrong?
- Are the goals of the project met?
Project Management Benefits Teams
An effective management plan can be essential in any software project, from its complexity and cost to uncertainty and risks associated with development. With so many moving parts and potential issues, having a project management strategy in place can prove extremely helpful for software development efforts.
- Front-End Development: Work that the user sees directly. This may involve creating user interfaces or managing client-side behavior, among other elements. Back-End Development: Back-end components such as servers and databases operate behind the scenes of software products.
- Full-Stack Development: Full-stack development involves both front-end and back-end features implemented by one software development team collaborating on both sides.
- App Development: Any computer program created to carry out specific tasks to achieve a specific objective, from designing prototypes and testing through the launch of mobile or web versions of apps.
- Data Science: This field encompasses software that directly benefits end users and any programming or software used to make these apps more useful for end users.
- Mobile Development: Any task related to creating mobile software applications for smartphones and other mobile platforms, such as Android and iOS, may involve native app programming or Swift programming, depending on whether the app targets these operating systems.
- Cloud Computing Development: Providing software resources you can access remotely without relying on complex physical systems and infrastructure (Google Drive is an example of such a cloud platform).
- Security Software Development: Testing for vulnerabilities and patching are two integral parts of creating security software.
- Design of Embedded Systems: Most devices today feature embedded systems to expand their functionality beyond what was provided by the original hardware. Developing these systems involves developing and testing middleware.
You can see that the scope of a software development project can be very broad, from front-end development to security software and everything in between. Software project management is essential with so many variables and potential stakes. Software project management is a way to keep development on track, team members informed, and projects within budget.
The Key Takeaway
Several factors can complicate software development projects. You can avoid future headaches by planning. Outsource your software project to a software development company with experience. Be sure that the developers are well organized and plan your project.
Today, you can use development analytics to improve your planning and management, boost your team’s performance, and increase client satisfaction.
No matter how large or complex the software project is, our guide will help you plan it successfully.