A reliable software product isn’t something that just gets built ad hoc. Every software build takes effort, time and commitment.
These factors can be applied in pursuit of a specific goal, or they can be scattered as teams attempt to reach a goal without clearly understanding that goal or their role in its pursuit.
A clear software build plan can prevent team efforts from being wasted.
The Software Development Lifecycle and Why It Matters
Like biological organisms, software goes through its own lifecycle. Understanding the cycle of software development can enhance the planning process by providing a framework for planning and a way to understand why certain roadblocks appear when and where they do.
The software development lifecycle offers a way to understand and organize the process of creating software from start to finish. For project team members who are less familiar with software development, it can also clarify the process, explain why certain steps are necessary and help the project succeed.
What should your software development planning look like? Alexandra Altvater at Stackify recommends focusing on six phases: requirement analysis, planning, design, development, testing and deployment.
The first step, requirement analysis, involves looking back. Where are old systems failing to measure up to current demands or to the organization’s goals? With an understanding of the problems the new software needs to fix, the team can begin to plan by accounting for known risks and strategizing within the confines of their budget.
During these early stages, evaluating feasibility is also valuable, writes Muhammad Raza at BMC. Examining whether it’s financially reasonable to invest in the software and whether the team has the time and resources they need to execute the vision play a key role in good planning.
It may also be wise to examine applicable regulations and laws at this stage to ensure that a completed software development project doesn’t expose the organization to liability.
As the plan takes shape, the team can focus on the nuts and bolts of design and development. A strong testing phase helps ensure that deployment goes more smoothly, while planning for deployment itself helps address potential roadblocks with the software’s actual release.
When a software project requires the greenlight from executives, the early planning phases can be more complex. It’s easy to confuse the goals of the project itself with the intermediate step of getting approval for the project.
To help teams build their case for a particular piece of software, Eileen O’Loughlin at Capterra recommends focusing on six main points: the problem to be solved, the solution, the costs, the benefits, the timeline and practices for change management.
Since all six of these points are also addressed when modeling the lifecycle of software development itself, ideas generated during software development can often be adopted in any presentation or document that must also generate buy-in for the project.
Embrace Planning and Project Management
A 2017 study found that software failures cost U.S. companies more than 268 years worth of downtime, resulting in $1.7 trillion in losses for the economy. Much of this lost time, money and opportunity could have been avoided with the right plan for building and testing the software, writes Jory MacKay at plan.io.
A software implementation plan includes plans for testing. Such a plan drills down into each stage of the software development process, giving teams the specific guidance they need at each step.
At this stage, taking the time to get the budget numbers right can save time and frustration. A project team that puts in the work to understand all the costs associated with the software build and builds flexibility into the project stands a better chance of having the project stay within its budget.
Budget-minded planning can help control costs. Creating a plan for strong project management can help the team, as well.
Teams that have put effort into determining why new software is needed and how to execute it on a budget sometimes feel as if a detailed plan for project management is unnecessary. Yet forgoing good project management and planning can cost more in the long run, Ben Aston at The Digital Project Manager writes.
When the planning and project management phases involve everyone working on the project — with a shared focus on planning, budget estimates and other details — the project itself can proceed much more smoothly, Toby Osbourn at Textexpander writes.
Good planning makes for better software, regardless of the goal or the means for achieving it. “Not all projects are the same, and not all specifications are the same,” writes Nate McGuire at Mayven Studios. “However in all cases, the goal is clarity around features and setting expectations on what the final project will be.”
This clarity helps create a unified vision everyone can understand, whatever their individual expertise in software development. Proper planning and project management “unites clients and teams, creates a vision for a successful project and gets everyone on the same page of what’s needed to stay on track for success,” says Aston.
The results last far longer than the project itself.
Map the Terrain, Then Plan a Route
It’s easiest to avoid getting lost when you have both an accurate map of the terrain ahead and a clear route to navigate it. The same is true when building software. Teams can best stay on track when they understand the goal to be achieved and the methods for reaching that goal.
One of the most important reasons to plan well in advance of launching a new software project is because planning reduces risk and clarifies the work among team members. “Project management is important because it ensures what is being delivered, is right, and will deliver real value against the business opportunity,” says Aston.
A strong planning stage will focus on an end goal, allowing the team to examine potential challenges and opportunities through the launch of the finished software. By including the release of the software as part of the software development plan, the team gains the opportunity to identify efficiencies.
“When you manage a release effectively, it helps you gain a better understanding of the tasks and goals associated with each stage of the process,” writes Will Lam at Taplytics.
When planning a new software build through its envisioned launch, the team must focus not only on software release as a goal, but also on the purposes that release is intended to serve. By identifying the problem and envisioning its solution, a fintech company can ensure it builds software that helps meet its business goals.
“Implement a new software system for the right reasons, and not because everyone in your industry has started using this shiny new software. What works for them may not work for you,” cautions technology journalist Maricel Rivera.
Software builds are the result of many people working in concert. By understanding the most common challenges in a software build’s lifecycle, making a plan, and setting clear goals and expectations, financial companies ensure that the software they build enhances their core missions.
Images by: scyther5/©123RF.com, ronstik/©123RF.com, nd3000/©123RF.com