Software development planning only seemingly seems simple. Meanwhile, this task requires careful preparation and reflection on the project's assumptions. The plan must be created before the start of software development projects. Of course, you can modify the plans later, but you need to be aware that the quality of the prepared plan determines the success or failure of a given project.
Software development plan - what is that?
A software development plan is a road map that shows how project requirements will be turned into functioning software. The process of going from the requirement to the product includes planning, idea generation, development, documentation, implementation, commissioning, and maintenance.
11 questions to answer before starting a Software Development Project Plan
If you want to start building a detailed development software plan, you should answer a few questions, and the answers will give you confidence that you are going in the right direction.
- What is the product vision and purpose of the product?
- Who is the target audience of the product?
- What are their expectations?
- What are the deadlines and budget?
- Who are the main stakeholders of the project?
- What are their expectations and requirements?
- What will be the critical functionalities of the final product?
- What technologies will be used in the implementation of this project?
- Who will be the project manager?
- What will people be involved in this project?
- How will the success of the project be measured?
But don't be discouraged! Another option is to participate in Discovery Workshops, where a team of specialists will help you define the project's goals and find answers to all essential questions. The result of the work during such workshops is a document containing all the critical information for the project (including a road map to a successful product, time and budget estimates, strengths of your product, hidden pitfalls, and much more).
If you want to learn more about the Discovery Workshop, read the series of articles on this topic.
Why do you need a Plan for the Software Development Process?
Research shows that every project, even the smallest one, should be preceded by creating a plan. It means that the final product has a greater chance of achieving business success and will be made according to the planned time and budget. If you have created such a project at least once, you know that the last two issues are always critical. Because even the best product needs to earn, it won't happen fast enough if the budget has been significantly exceeded.
In addition, thanks to the plan, you will be sure that the software development team perfectly knows their goals and tasks. This way, you will avoid situations where some project team members deal with unnecessary tasks without understanding the idea and the project. Of course, when creating a plan, remember that it must be in line with the software development life cycle, which determines the work order and tasks for developers (and not only for them).
The plan will help you at every stage of the product development process. It will also be invaluable support for the project manager, for whom project management will be a pleasant task in this situation.
Don't forget that software development project plans should be available to all participants in the process.
Critical aspects of creating a software project plan
There are a lot of things you need to analyze to create a good software development plan. The following aspects are certainly not a complete list, but we are sure that neglecting them will harm your project.
When creating a plan, you must define the scope of the project. Perhaps your project will only cover partial product development, or maybe your team will be responsible for the product from the idea's full-time to implementation and maintenance.
The project's scope affects not only the time of its implementation but also the number of software development project teams needed.
If the project is short-term (i.e., it will be completed within a maximum of 6 months), then you should prepare a plan for the entire project.
If the project is long-term, you can consider planning in stages. It is because the longer the project lasts (e.g., several years), the more similar the initial assumptions will change. It's just that, in the long term, it is difficult for us to predict many factors that may affect the project. Planning at 6-month intervals is a good option for long-term projects.
Then you can consider factors that have already appeared during the project and were not anticipated earlier (e.g., the impact of huge inflation on employees' salaries).
Amount of work
At this stage, it is crucial to estimate the amount of work that needs to be put into all stages of the project development.
It is a big challenge because if we assume that the project implementation time is too short, then it will not be possible to finish it on time. Suppose we assume that the project implementation time is too long. In that case, the client may decide that we artificially inflate the costs. The best option is to entrust such a task to a professional company that, like ours, has been involved in software projects for many years. However, if you prefer to do it on your own, then the best method is ... openly talking to project team members. Listen patiently to all-time estimates and refrain from commenting or putting pressure. It will make your interlocutors try to provide the most realistic data without falling into the trap of unrealistic forecasts.
A project's milestones mark specific points on its timeline. These are checkpoints that indicate the performance of specific project activities. It could be, for example, creating an MVP or completing the prototyping phase. Milestones are there to signal that a software project is progressing as planned.
More figuratively speaking, milestones have great power in measuring a project's progress. They help motivate the team and coordinate its activities, providing everyone in the development process with an insight into the work progress. In addition, they allow you to monitor important dates and identify potential project bottlenecks.
It is always worth setting milestones in a given project, as it has many benefits for the project.
However, be careful not to confuse the milestones with the project goals. You want to achieve project goals, while milestones show what has already been completed.
At this stage, you need to plan the software development team structure that you will need for this project.
When building a team, you must know that at different stages of the project, you will need a different number of employees with different competencies. In the initial planning phase, you will need more support from the design team than in the implementation phase. In turn, in the implementation phase, the critical team will be developers, not planners. Therefore, when considering what specialists you need, start assigning them to each project stage. It will definitely make the task easier and make the image clearer. Building a team is a fascinating and challenging process at the same time. There are many factors to consider (experience, competence, flexibility, and many more) that are important throughout the process.
In our next article, you will find detailed tips on how to build a software development team and what to pay attention to.
Even if your plan is elaborated down to the smallest detail, something you didn't anticipate always happens. Don't worry, it's normal! Especially in software development projects. Most importantly, you should be aware of this and be able to face such unforeseen events. Flexibility and openness to change are something that distinguishes every good manager.
Of course, you can prepare for changes to some extent. It is crucial to monitor work progress on an ongoing basis to identify the problem at the earliest possible stage. A small problem can be solved relatively quickly without consequences for the entire project. But if a problem is identified too late, or if you delay in resolving it for too long, the consequences can be serious, including project delay and financial implications.
It is a good practice to summarize after each stage of the software project. Then, richer in such knowledge, you will be able to assess whether the plan for the next stage is optimal, and maybe it should be adopted based on previous experience and emerging risks of various threats. Do not stick to the arrangements made before the start of the project, in line with General Eisenhower's motto: "Plans are nothing; planning is everything."
Summary of the software project
The project was completed, and the project team was dissolved and assigned to the following tasks? Unfortunately, this is a common and serious mistake. In today's world, companies that can learn and draw conclusions gain a market advantage.
Therefore, after completing the project, remember to organize a project summary. Invite all project participants to this task, and think together about what positive aspects can be used in other projects and what to do in future projects to avoid the current problems. Conclude together and make sure to write them down. If you don't do this, you will forget about them after a few months of many other tasks.
We guarantee that this approach will bring you positive results. It's just that your coworkers won't have to learn the same things every time, which is costly, time-consuming, and simply ineffective.
Preparing a good software development project plan is fundamental to the success of your product. The planning phase is as crucial as the entire development, implementation, and maintenance process.
A good plan is like a good guide for the entire team. Thanks to it, you will receive a project in line with your expectations and, what is equally essential - within the assumed time and budget. The plan makes everyone clear about their tasks and helps to communicate effectively. Preparing a plan requires work and time, but it is a valuable investment.
The software development process is always challenging, but don't be fooled by those who say it can be done without a plan and effortlessly. However, we are sure that the effort put in at the beginning of the process will undoubtedly pay off in the form of a successful product.
About the author
Milo Miszewski - Chief Executive Officer
Milo founded mDevelopers in 2010, bringing his over 10 years of sales management, B2B solutions, and business relations. Milo acts as the general director, as well as a mentor and advisor. In everyday work besides managing the company, he supports the sales department in networking and building relationships.