For a business investing in a software development project, while the project’s schedule and budget are important, the success of the project is deeply connected to its ability to provide value and ultimately help the business effectively address their business challenges.
With that in mind, let’s explore the 7 most important steps to start a successful software development project. These steps will help you deliver a quality software product that aligns with your budget and timeline.
- Build consensus with stakeholders on project scope and requirements
Start by defining and gaining a common understanding of the project’s scope.
A well-defined project scope ensures a clear focus on building a product that addresses the business challenges. It also serves as a solid check-point for the team during software development. It helps you understand the big picture and translate the main objective into a comprehensive technology solution, rather than focusing on a bunch of disconnected requirements.
It is important to have a clear understanding of the project’s requirements and expectations, so that you can ultimately evaluate the project’s success.
Establishing the project’s SMART goals, software’s features, deliverables, constraints, and evaluation points is an essential first step towards its success. Discuss them clearly and openly with the stakeholders before the project kick-off. It helps avoid ambiguities and gets everyone on the same page and working towards the same goal.
Create a thorough plan for the project
Defining the project’s scope and planning it go hand-in-hand.
A successful software development project relies heavily on meticulous planning with regards to time, cost, the team, and the quality of the final product. The features to be built into the project itself needs to have a certain level of flexibility in line with the agile manifesto to respond to business change rather than following a business plan meticulously.
Involve your team when you assess the list of deliverables, resources, and potential roadblocks, so you can set a realistic project timeline and estimate while ensuring a certain amount of flexibility that is important for adherence to agile principles.
Whether it’s a small or big project, put in place a transparent and accurate process that would cover internal communication guidelines, task progress reporting, Definition of Done, KPIs, responsibility assignment matrices, and SOPs.
Assemble a highly professional, congruent team
The dynamics between team members can have a great impact on a project’s outcome. The nature of the project gives you an idea of the kind of experts you need to create a harmonious, highly professional team. Usually, well-established outsourcing companies have the experience of bringing together a team of like-minded experts that work well together.
It goes without saying that every team member should have a clear role to play in the project. Clear communication of expectations from each role leads to improved performance and increased commitment. Furthermore, it facilitates easy assessment of the team’s achievements.
Another key aspect of having a productive team is breaking down communication silos between its various members. To ensure that important project information is not overlooked, some companies build cross-functional teams. This way, all team members contribute with ideas and feedback for each product iteration, reducing the possibility of rework or misunderstanding.
Agree on common tools, applications, and systems
Whether it’s a Continuous Integration system, a Version Control System, an automation testing tool, or setting-up the environments necessary for the project, every team member needs to be familiar and comfortable with the tools you’ve selected.
Having a common set of tools, applications, and systems, accepted by everyone, positively impacts the project’s efficiency and speeds up software development. It offers easy access to the project’s resources, ensures centralized information rather than disparate bits of data, and promotes a more transparent and productive communication process.
Establish communication paths
Proper communication is key any successful development project. It deserves a seat at the table and requires careful planning.
There are several ways you can ensure a smooth communication process with all stakeholders.
Frequent meetings can help you feel the pulse of the project, identify disconnects, and find ways to solve the issues at hand.
Whether it’s daily standups or sprint reviews, communicate with all stakeholders consistently to make sure everybody has a common understanding of the project’s scope, iterations, status, or roadblocks. By talking about the project’s progress, you remove heartaches associated with last minute changes that haven’t been discussed.
Choose the most appropriate communication channels for your project and establish a guideline to encourage transparent, organized, and constructive communication between all parties. The communication needs to be timely and straightforward so that risks due to insufficient communication are minimized.
Maintain project documentation properly
Although it is time-consuming, having every step of the project documented will eventually help in the long run.When you need to induct new members to your team, or replace a team member that has just left, effective project documentation will help these new members hit the ground running from day one.
However, it is important that project documentation happen in parallel with project execution without impacting timeline. This is simply because, Agile Manifesto emphasizes on Communication over Documentation, and that is key to success of any agile project.
Prepare to mitigate risks
Addressing project uncertainties early on can help you mitigate a great deal of risk. For example, tasks such as registration with a payment gateway provider, identifying a third party software vendor that your software needs to integrate with, or engaging with the shortlisted third party regarding licensing costs can be done early on in order to avoid unnecessary delays that are to be expected in those situations. Having a strategy to pro-actively engage with these external factors will enable you to be in control of the progress of the project
While starting a successful software project requires you to think through several steps carefully as enumerated above, the one step that is exceedingly important is customer adoption. So, customer inputs are key throughout your project in order to ensure that your software meets its intended purpose.