Ideas are easy. Turning your idea into a productive application is much more difficult, even if you hire a software development team to do it for you. Project management can make or break your software development project. Whether it’s a new site idea or mobile app, here are some tips for a successful project management solution.
1. Write Functionality and Business Requirement Documentation
This step is one of the most commonly skipped components of a software development project, and it’s one of the most important. Functionality requirements tell the developers what you want in the application and how it should function. Business requirements give the business rules to developers, so they can understand how the application should work.
Most app creators don’t know how to write functionality and business requirements, so they should seek out a professional. The writer takes your business ideas and translates them into functional documentation that can be used by the developers. These documents remove any ambiguities that can affect a project’s success. Remember to have the writer sign an NDA, so your ideas aren’t used in a public portfolio before the application is released.
2. Hire a Project Manager or Lead Developer
If you aren’t an experienced project manager, you should hire a professional who can manage the project and development teams. A project manager and lead developer have distinct functions, but you can hire the one who manages your team the best.
A project manager is someone who handles all issues regarding project communication. They speak to the client (you) and then communicate your ideas, suggestions, changes, and concerns to the developers. They coordinate any deadlines and changes during the project workflow. Some project managers work with lead developers, and then the lead communicates with the team.
If you have a firm grasp on project management, you can choose to hire a lead developer instead. A lead developer has a higher level of technical skills, but the role also requires management of the team. Lead developers sometimes jump in where help is needed, but they don’t normally code the project. They help decide on design and technology, and put together the development team.
3. Hire Small Specialist Teams Instead of All-In-One Generalists
There are two basic types of coding: front end and back end. You can find someone who knows both, but these skills are distinct. Someone who is good in both front- and back-end coding doesn’t normally have the specialized skills needed for more advanced projects. There are always exceptions to the rule, but take a look at the big technology companies. They hire people specifically for design, user experience, database applications, and back-end processing.
Hiring someone who is an expert in one area of development is far more valuable than hiring a generalist who is mediocre in both. You pay less money for an all-in-one generalist, but you don’t get the quality that you can get from a specialist.
4. Determine Project Development Processes
How often do you want updates? How do you want to handle changes? Is your project workflow set up in phases? The development world offers several types of development processes. For instance, Agile is a common development process that incorporates changes into the software development life cycle. You can also choose the Waterfall method, which pushes full development initially, and then allows the application owner to make changes at the end of the process.
Both development processes have their advantages and disadvantages. Agile incorporates changes initially, so the owner is updated with changes frequently. It also makes it easier for developers to incorporate changes, since the entire application isn’t coded before updates are made. The downside to this workflow is that deadlines are often missed as changes can lead to scope creep.
Waterfall is easier on project flow, since changes aren’t made until the end of development. However, it can be catastrophic when the project is presented to the owner and developers miss the mark. Refactoring and changing code are tedious processes that can turn a Waterfall project into a much more expensive project than initially budgeted.
Your project manager or lead developer can help you determine which solution is best for your project.
5. Nail Down the Project Scope and Sign Off on it
Project scope can be determined when functional and business requirement documents are created. When a project is poorly managed, scope creep pushes deadlines, and destroys project goals.
Both the development team and the application owner should commit to a project scope. The scope defines what the application owner can expect, when he can expect it, and each component of the project. For instance, suppose you want an app and a website to work with the app. Both of these goals should be defined in the scope. The developers give you a spreadsheet or a short document that explains the work that will be completed. Any changes to the scope come at an additional cost.
A project scope also avoids any miscommunications or project failure due to disagreements on what work should be done for the specific cost.
6. Set Up Periodic Reviews
You can’t expect to have a full product after a few weeks, but you can ask the development team to keep you updated and present part of the product as the project continues. For instance, the developers could complete the order process and present it to you during a periodic review.
During reviews, you should expect a few bugs, but you can review the user experience and flow to identify if any sections of the application aren’t to specifications. This type of project workflow helps eliminate problems before they become too costly and time consuming to fix. You also get status on your application, and seeing your software in action is an exciting part of the development process.
During reviews, take notes and send them to the project manager or lead developer. They can communicate the changes to the developers.
7. Choose a Project Management Platform for Communications
Most developers have their own software for project management, but you can also be a part of the process. A few common project management applications are Basecamp, Trello, and Jira. Each tool comes with its pros and cons, but the overall goal should be to facilitate communication between project managers and leads, the application owner, and the developers.
The platform you use doesn’t matter as long as it facilitates communication and status reports. Communication is key in software development to ensure a project’s success.
8. Don’t Skimp on Testing
Application owners often don’t know the importance of testing, and that it’s paramount for project success. Testing the application avoids poor ratings and reviews from users in the app stores. Once the application gets several poor ratings from angry customers, you’ll have a difficult time trying to recover. Always hire a testing team and test the application on several devices before you deploy it.
The developers will test the application, but you should always have a separate testing and quality assurance team. This team ensures that bugs are found before you deploy the application.
Software development projects can be complex or simple, but the right management team and documentation helps avoid any issues that waste the application owner’s money and time. Follow these guidelines and take care when hiring your team. With the right initial goals, a software development project can run smoothly.