How to run a project in a software development process

How to run a project in a software development process

software development

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As a software development company, you encounter so many diverse projects and each one is unique. But each approach to projects is somewhat different and has its own set of rules. As we said, it’s never going to be the same. In time, though, some development companies design certain processes and approaches in their projects. Some rules still apply, no matter the complexity, diversity, or scope of it. To make things a bit more clear, we summed up things and areas we focus on. It’s important to approach each project with a fresh point of view, but stay true to your culture and project management guidelines.

Don’t get in over your head – stay real about estimates, requirements, and goals

First thing first, stay real to your capabilities. If you know you can’t deliver the project or if it’s not your cup of tea, don’t dive in. You have to be realistic about estimates, requirements, and goals. Don’t set yourself up for failure right at the beginning. But it’s not only about being true to what you can do, it’s also about setting the right culture for developers. It’s about the end-to-end process and how things work in the company. Nurture a culture where everyone can get on board and be excited about the development process and the project itself. It’s about setting the right expectations from the start. 

When you establish that, you’ll know how much can each developer, or other involved parties, do. Straight away, you’ll know their strengths and weaknesses and can organize them accordingly. 

Pro tip – don’t just delegate tasks, ask everyone involved to give their input. Other views are welcome as they can provide more information on what can be achieved and what not. Those goals can in the end be met and conclude the project as successful. When you don’t overwhelm your employees with unreachable tasks, they feel more at ease and more productive.

Understand the end user – don’t guess

The user comes first. Who will use the software, is your targeted audience. You might get some insights into that from your client, but nonetheless, you’ll have to dive deep into how and why the users use the software. Their user journey is important since it dictates how the software will work and look. We hear a lot about domain knowledge and how many don’t really want to go into that. But, from our experience, it’s extremely important. From discovery to development and implementation, understanding how a user’s mind works will help guide you in detailing project scope and to-do’s. 

It’s also not bad to put your developers in the user’s shoes and ask them how they view the software if they were to use it daily. User journey should be part of your top priorities to avoid expensive mistakes at the start. User-centric is the name of the game. 

Don’t ever try to guess. Research exists for a reason, and it’s there to provide you with hard facts you can rely on. Because what’s the point of creating software people won’t know how to use or will show dissatisfaction while using it?

Empower communication across all teams and of those involved in the project

Anyone can’t stress enough how important communication is, from top to bottom or horizontally, depending on your hierarchical structure. Empower your employees to communicate freely and openly about the positive and the negative. That way issues can be brought up immediately and solved much more quickly. And by emphasizing wins, the whole team gets more motivated and thus more proactive and productive. Enabling them to open communication fosters a healthy culture and their goals will align. They will be more invested in the project. 

Talking about everyday processes and their tasks allows for other people’s input which harbors creativity and can add additional value to the project and the solution itself. Even clients’ expectations can be exceeded by delivering new unexpected results derived from open communication. So, both sides, the internal team, and the client can benefit from potentiating everyone to convey information regularly.

Set the right quality expectations with the development team

Everyone needs to know what their job is. And each software development company has work and quality standards. Deploying a product that isn’t great or even good is a recipe for failure in the long run. Before onboarding a developer or others to a project, make sure that everyone is familiar with the quality expectations and rules
Let’s face it, some rules are there for a reason. In software development, you can not cut corners and create something that isn’t functional. If you get your team on the same page, those quality expectations will become the norm and how they usually operate. It will also become your competitive advantage in delivering products of the highest quality.

Accept or embrace changes if they mean a better solution

We are all familiar with the agile approach in project management and software development processes. It means that the project is delivered and accomplished in iterations. Those iterations imply changes and developers shouldn’t necessarily be wary of them. Often, some changes are for the better and can improve quality. Of course, not all changes are good and can add stress or issues. Sometimes clients require something that is not quite optimal in terms of the product itself.

But, if the changes imply something good, they should be wholeheartedly embraced. Making alterations as the project progresses is a sign that you’re improving and on the right track. Building on your starting concept adds more value to the finished result.

Focus on creating optimal and quality code

We’ve covered the topic of DRY code and rushed or bad code in some of our blog posts, and we can not stress enough how proper coding is important. This is where nobody wants to cut corners or look for quick fixes. Writing bad code might work now, but it will come back to collect its debt later. Your code might become legacy code in the future.

But, if we look at the now, writing clean and quality code is important. You don’t want to unnecessarily overcomplicate it and create bugs that will take a lot of time to fix. You’ll have to retake your steps and try to find where you went wrong. This, in turn, will take a lot of time and set you back in your project. This should be established throughout the whole team and this approach needs to be a part of the general take on development. Write quality, sustainable code, not one just to take the tasks off your list.

Invest in your people and team to provide maximum results

Education and training are extremely important in creating the best team you can have. Each employee should be thirsty for knowledge, and new and exciting projects provide that. If you’re about to work on a new technology, take time to properly introduce everyone to it. Work together with the community to get a better grip on what to do and what not to do. 

Each project presents an opportunity to learn at each step. Investing in your employees is the best investment you can make because, in the long run, they become even stronger and more expert. They will also become more independent and self-reliant. The higher the expertise, the better the project execution.

Document and then document some more

We know that developers don’t like writing documentation, but, you have to. If not for yourself, do it to keep track of the project and code you’ve written. An individual is not working on the project by himself, but rather with multiple people. And clients also require documentation sometimes. So, for everyone to be up to date with everything, documentation is a must. 

If it’s a long-term project or you expect maintenance on the code, you need to document it well in case it becomes legacy code. It’s far easier to understand the software and code if there is accompanying documentation explaining it.

Never skip out on tests

Revise and test your code, always and multiple times. Test it yourself, before giving it to the QA. Never skip on revision or testing to make sure your code works like it was intended to. It’s going to save a ton of time later on when you won’t have to fix bugs that might pop out. 

Even though the code might seem perfect to you, there is a chance it won’t actually perform as you thought. Anything can go wrong, so don’t get too comfortable. Continuous testing will make you more comfortable in creating quality code. Also, it will then meet the expectations of the users.

Organization is half the success

Stay on plan and schedule. Organization is key. Don’t go willy-nilly on a project. It’s not the time to guess what comes after what. If you set the right organization framework at the beginning, you’ll have a sound structure the whole team can follow. You’ll spend less time managing everyone and actually accomplishing tasks. One advantage of a good organization and plan is fewer mistakes and backlogs of any kind. 

But, keep in mind that those plans should also be flexible enough to adapt as you go. That’s how agile works. The organizational part is there for your team so they understand the scope and magnitude of a project.

Procrastination is a project killer

To add on organization, making sure everyone knows what is expected of them will eliminate procrastination. Nothing kills a project more than waiting and stalling. Everyone should have a baseline knowledge of the project and its requirements. The project scope should be known to all team members so they can plan their activities accordingly.

People need to be committed to the project and its objectives, and should not be afraid to not know something or fear failure. Open communication fosters empowerment and stimulates employees to do more.

Avoid risks by having a risk management plan in place

Each project has certain risks. Managing risks mostly falls on project managers, but the whole team should be aware of them. They should recognize signs of impending risks and act on them. With a set plan for how to deal with them, they can be anticipated and resolved properly if they occur. Such plans give a boost of confidence since issues won’t be such a surprise and something your team won’t know how to handle. 

The agile approach helps minimize risks tremendously. By constantly delivering and monitoring software execution, risks can be reported much sooner than in other approaches. Keep in mind that plans are not bulletproof and should be always taken with a grain of salt.

People use the software – always keep that in mind

Let’s not forget. Each software is made to be used by others. It’s made for someone. And that someone is your success measure. If you missed the end user, you missed the whole project, and could end up costing you. “Repairing” your software to update it to fit users is not only costly but demotivating as well. 

That software is built for people by people, so treat it as such. It’s not just coding and that’s it. It’s about understanding the environment where it will be used and what behavior will it potentiate or record.

Remember, there is no perfect and unified formula for every software project

No project is perfect. No project management approach is perfect either. Different project scopes and domains mean that each software development team will do them differently. Some basic pillars and procedures are the same, yes, but in the end, nothing goes with the same flow. 

If you had one super successful and easy project, doesn’t mean that the next one will be the same. Hopefully, it will be successful. Easy? Well, maybe not. So, don’t be too strict in your development process, keep the agility to adapt. The phases of the project will be the same, but progress might encounter setbacks. The important thing is how you manage it. It’s key to how you manage the team and what kind of culture are you promoting. 

Lastly, nothing is ever set in stone. Follow the guidance and automate processes, but don’t be dragged into making everything static. “Grow with the flow” is the saying of the day.

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