Managing software development projects takes time, effort, and energy due to the vast number of work tasks involved in a successful development and build. These key tips will help you to understand the best way to approach and deliver a software development project whilst utilising the best time management, resources and skills required to complete an on-time and successful build that gives you a finished and polished product ready for distribution.
The first step to successful project management is understanding the life cycle of the development to establish how you will manage and deliver the scope of the project. Understanding each of the steps required to then create a successful product, helps you outline the work involved in each of these steps and the timescales associated with them. This is a key way to plan your resources and time effectively and efficiently which then helps to give you a timeline of development steps broken down into more manageable periods which helps keep the project on schedule. Defining the lifecycle provides a clear view of the entire project and allows you to create deliverable objectives within stages and assign the personnel required to each of these tasks; freeing up resources for other tasks which can work in unison.
A life cycle can also help you set costs and then base decisions on these costs at each stage of the development helping you manage the budget more efficiently. For example, if one section requires more budget allocation due to an unexpected result, through continually monitoring the other sections you can reallocate unused budget from another task to keep the project on schedule and within budget.
Deadlines and Milestones
Now we have our life cycle of the development, another key tip for managing a software development project is to ensure that each of these stages are allocated deadlines and milestones to complement the overall development of the build. The key term is to complement one-another; meaning that each of the milestones must work in unison with one another to ensure the project is delivered within the timescale. The responsibility lies with the software project manager to ensure that the final milestone, the date in which the project is finished and delivered, is achieved but also to ensure that each of the individual milestones are also delivered on time to accomplish this.
Milestones help set short- and long-term goals which aid in the development and production process. Project managers can then identify certain challenges or any potential bottlenecks which may hold up the completion of the full project by setting these goals. The team would come together to discuss and set targets within a Sprint session where an end sprint goal is agreed which outlines the outcome required to be achieved at the end of the time period and milestone.
It goes without saying that communication is key when working within a development team. That is why it is essential that you create an effective communication strategy to provide a framework for this communication to be effective. Ensuring that each member of the team communicates efficiently and effectively with one another; highlighting potential issues, explaining delays or unexpected events alongside conveying what has went well, what has been achieved and any suggestions for the saving of time or resources all help ensure the ultimate target is achieved.
Trust, support, and transparency are three key terms that should be implemented within the team members to ensure that the tone of the project is of high quality and ran successfully. Providing an environment where people feel open to communicate their issues as well as positives can help people raise potential issues or conflict early and throughout the project development to ensure that the project is completed more efficiently. Communication should begin early and often, taking shape by the means of formal meetings and dialogue to ensure that each team member is clear on their expectations and your expectations of them as the project manager. Structuring your communication through scheduled sessions, regular updates and ‘check-ins’ help form an agreed structure in that team members feel prepared and required to produce their work allocation at completed intervals. Daily meetings or briefings allow the team to review the previous day’s work, discuss forthcoming tasks, and discuss progress toward requirements, milestones, and any key performance indicators.
These methods all help build the structure which compliments the life cycle and development process ensuring a timely and accurate build. By including all team members in the appropriate communications also helps them feel valued, included and part of the wider team goal, further embedding the trust, support, and transparency aspects of the project. When working as a team, working in isolation rarely helps the project run as smooth as it could if all members were included.
A characteristic of software development is the identification of issues arising to prevent the delivery of the successful product. As previously discussed, issues can arise at a variety of different stages and the early resolution of these issues prevent wasted time and resource trying to find cost effective and appropriate solutions. That is why the definition of agreed milestones and effective structured communication can help identify these issues and through the use of group participation, can help to find ways to solve them before they become a major prevention to completion.
Each time a task is agreed, considerations should take place as to the risk involved within that task. This includes problems that could arise such as insufficient data, lack of required resource, software bugs, lack of financial resource etc. By discussing and addressing these issues promptly, the likelihood of the milestone being achieved increases as these issues will then not arise during the planned work of the development and halt the ongoing work until the issue is resolved.
Risk factors should be given a rating to address the priority level for such issues. This way it can help steer the right amount of resources to the resolution rather than wasting too much effort, time and money on a minor issue where it should be spent on others which could seriously impact the final design.
Finally, testing regularly and often will also help reduce the amount of issues that arise. Test at each stage of the process to ensure that the work is as agreed and performs correctly and encourage feedback through the communication strategy from all members of the team. Foreseeing any potential problems early, dramatically reduces the risk of a problem escalating further in the development.