Before your company starts on any software development project, you should create a clear process to deliver a successful product that meets your objectives while staying within the timeline and budget. When you use a poorly designed process that doesn’t fit your specific needs, you can end up compromising product quality and cause significant delays.
Whether your in-house development team does all the work, or you outsource to South America with a company like BairesDev, take some time to learn about how to perfect your software development process, including the methods listed here.
Choose the Right Methodology
The software development life cycle (SDLC) consists of the steps you take from the first idea through deployment and beyond. Without an explicit SDLC, you’re likely to end up with longer timetables, budget overruns, and subpar product quality or project failure. SDLC steps typically include:
- Analysis and planning
- Technical requirements
- Design and prototyping
- Building and coding
- Maintenance and updates
Different methodologies vary the sequence and order of these steps based on specific project needs, goals, and size. The two main approaches you can choose from are Waterfall and Agile.
With this methodology, you follow each step of the SDLC in sequence through to the end, finishing one completely before moving on to the next.
- Teams with extensive documentation needs.
- Projects where goals, requirements, and technology stack aren’t likely to change.
- Larger organizations that require sign offs on all requirements.
- Smaller projects.
- Projects with a fixed scope.
Not good for:
- Testing a new product.
- Projects that require user feedback early on.
- Making changes along the way.
With this dynamic and iterative methodology, you execute development in “sprints” of time, prioritizing work in order of importance and deadlines. After each iteration, you conduct testing and obtain user feedback.
- Teams doing continuous updates on products.
- Startups and technology companies testing new products.
- Tackling changes and responding to needs along the way.
- Projects that don’t have a full list of requirements yet.
Not good for:
- Tight budgets or timelines.
- Risk-averse teams.
- Projects with well-defined requirements and scope.
The following video compares Waterfall and Agile:
Tweak Your Workflow
With an optimal workflow, you can promote efficient teamwork, provide transparent tasks and goals, and eliminate unnecessary repetition. Try to assign responsibilities to achieve effective multitasking, without overwhelming your developers with too much work. To provide ongoing guidance, depict your workflow in a digital graphic accessible to the whole team. During development, ask the following questions to identify inefficiencies or bottlenecks:
- Does your workflow include slow stages?
- Is work piling up for a specific activity or developer?
- Are developers frequently reopening tasks after they’ve been marked as done?
- Are developers killing many tasks before they reach done status?
Make Time for Testing
Start planning your testing scenarios early in the development process, whether for your in-house team or for outsourced QA. Allocate sufficient time to test for errors and deficiencies, so you don’t end up with buggy software products. The goal is to keep testing and fixing issues until your software meets specifications and successfully solves the original problem. Here are some testing tips:
- Simultaneous testing. Simultaneously test, track, and fix bugs as your team develops the software, using automated testing to help as appropriate.
- Pair programming. Multiple people should review all of the written code, with built-in cross checks by at least two developers.
- Final testing. When your team completes all the software features and production is ready to go, you still need another round of in-depth testing. One option is to release the product to a small group of beta testers and monitor their use.
To increase the likelihood that you get the final product you want, communicate your overall project goals to the entire development team. Ensure that developers understand their own individual goals, tasks, and responsibilities, while also seeing how they relate to the goals of other team members and the overall project.
Identify a set of criteria to ensure all tasks are fully completed in terms of functionality and quality. This common definition lets your whole team know exactly what it means when someone says they’re “done” with a feature, reducing the need to reopen completed tasks because of unmet criteria.
Stress that it’s preferable to take longer to complete a task just once than to revisit it several more times to make fixes. Additional methods for improving team communication include:
- Identifying which communication channel to use for each purpose.
- Holding daily meetings to let developers synchronize their efforts.
- Having a single point of contact between the development team and project stakeholders.
Reevaluate Your Team
Reevaluate your team prior to starting development to ensure that everyone has the expertise required to make the project successful. Provide training, if needed, to expand your developers’ skills and help them learn new techniques. Make sure your team is excited about the project, so they’ll care about the quality of the results. Once the project begins, use the following methods to measure team productivity:
- Sprint burn-down reports. If you’re using Agile, at the end of each sprint determine which tasks are “to be started,” “unfinished,” or “complete.” To ensure this information is useful, don’t allow developers to set artificially low goals or report tasks complete when they’re not.
- Velocity metric. Pay attention to the reasons behind the speed of each developer. While longer velocity times could reflect problems with knowledge and ability, they could also be the result of strong commitment to best practices, code quality, and testing.
- Cycle times. Examine how much time it takes developers to resolve issues, how many issues arise at one time, and how many issues are outstanding, in progress, and completed.
- Throughput. Determine the number of tasks, errors, and features developers complete, to give you a comprehensive view of overall workload over a given period.
Outsource Software Development
The best choice for your company’s software development might be to outsource projects or augment your IT staff. With these approaches, you gain access to a large pool of experts who have just the right skills for your specific project, along with experience in choosing the most efficient process for your needs. You’ll also receive ongoing technical support with post-launch updates and maintenance.
Outsourcing can save you money on the overhead, benefits, training, and onboarding required to maintain a full-time in-house team, since you only pay for software development when you need it. Using this approach, you can free up your employees to focus on their core business functions to promote growth and expansion.
An Optimal Development Process Leads to Good Results
If you take steps to optimize your company’s software development process, either in-house or through outsourcing, you’ll increase the chances of a successful product. Steps such as choosing the right development methodology, making time for testing, and improving team communication can help you reach your desired outcome.