The software development process is never truly complete. Even once a project is declared market-ready, it’s closely monitored and improved, with frequent new fixes and releases.
But the fact remains: development teams must deliver software quickly, in spite of it being unfinished to an extent. Given the fast-changing nature of software, technology can become outdated — even obsolete — extremely quickly. Plus, businesses must stay ahead of the competition by reaching the market ahead of their peers.
So, how do you escalate the software development process without sacrificing quality? It is possible — as long as you follow these guidelines.
1. Establish clear requirements from the get-go
This is a fairly straightforward one, but it’s important to mention nonetheless: establishing clear requirements at the beginning is pivotal to steering the project successfully. Without these goals and demands, you’ll lack direction, which can lead to confusion and detours. All of that will undoubtedly delay your project further. By clarifying goals and resolving errors later on you’ll be saving time.
In addition to defining the requirements, make sure every team member involved is aware of and understands each objective. Again, this will prevent delays due to confusion.
2. Define Your Strategy and Roadmap
Requirements don’t exist in a vacuum. You must also determine how you and your team plan to successfully address them. That is to say, what’s your strategy?
A roadmap, detailing every stage of the project and benchmarks you plan to achieve along the way toward ultimate delivery, will serve as a guide for you, allowing you to meet your objectives in a timely manner.
3. Have Standards in Place
While there are, of course, industry best practices to follow, having your own internal standards in place will also serve as a guide, establishing further goals for you to meet.
In order to ensure that everyone is on the same page and understands the standards you have established, write them down and post them in accessible locations, such as an internal server or intranet. Ask employees to confirm that they have read and understood them. Projects should always conform to your company standards as much as possible, although there should also be a certain degree of flexibility.
4. Divide the Project into Components
Any project can seem overwhelming when you’re looking at it as an entire entity. But breaking it down into smaller chunks will make it more manageable. Consider it as a collection of smaller parts, and assign small teams individual tasks to meet.
This will make the process more accessible for each team and team member, who will likely have greater success meeting smaller goals quicker than they would attempting to tackle a huge project as a whole all in one go. This will also lead to better quality since teams will be laser-focused on achieving strong outcomes for “mini” projects.
5. Properly ManageTechnical Debt
Technical debt refers to opting for a solution or approach that is easier and less time-consuming but is ultimately a weaker solution than one that might take more time but lead to higher quality work. While this might seem like an optimal way to cut the hours spent on your project, it will end up hurting you later on. Think of it as a Band-Aid approach: it masks the current, obvious problem, but it doesn’t address the underlying, root causes.
In fact, technical debt will often result in longer project timelines, because you’ll more than likely have to go back and address problems later on. It can also cause these issues to escalate further. Unfortunately, you can’t get rid of technical debt altogether. So you need to manage properly, only resorting to it when absolutely necessary and always coming back to pay it at the first opportunity.
6. Keep Work in Progress to a Minimum
Of course, it’s impossible to reduce work in progress (WIP) to nothing. But it’s helpful to your timeline to limit it as much as possible. With too many components and tasks currently on the table, things can easily get disorganized, and team members will feel stressed and overwhelmed.
One way to better manage WIP and the overall project is to use a project-management tool, which will allow you to track progress and keep tasks moving through the pipeline efficiently, as well as note when there are too many pieces on the table at one time.
7. Keep It Lean
Ultimately, your project needs a clear focus so, in order to meet your mission, you should keep it as lean as possible. This means cutting out the clutter and staying driven and focused on your goals and meet the project requirements. Rather than spending time — or wasting time — on unnecessary tasks that are time-consuming but don’t actually lead to real results, focus your energy on the tasks and pieces that truly contribute to the bigger picture.
Using Agile methodologies can also help keep your operations lean and manageable. Avoid repetition that isn’t wholly necessary. Repeat testing often is necessary, for example, but dozens of in-person meetings to touch base are likely not.
8. Automate Wherever Possible
While not every task or process should be automated, automation is a critical tool to have at your disposal when you’re looking to speed up development. For example, it’s often used in testing, accompanying manual testing efforts.
Remember that automation requires skilled professionals to script processes like testing and that it’s not just a tool to deploy out of convenience. It must be used strategically where and when it makes sense for your project and team.
9. Expand Your Team
There may come a time when your existing team simply can’t accommodate a project of a particular scale. In that case, consider augmenting your current capabilities by adding more developers or other staff. Outsourcing is often a good option, especially if you have certain projects that require additional staff or are looking for special skill sets that don’t exist on your current team.
This will lead to a faster turnaround, since you’ll be better equipped to handle your workflow and will have the requisite skills to turnaround your product quickly.
Using a combination of these strategies, you can improve your efforts to accelerate the development process while maintaining a high standard of product and work — and help you reach the market faster while staying ahead of the curve.