Management is the key to the success of every project — this is a well-known mantra. Software development projects aren’t an exception, either. Proper management can mean the difference between a successful, on-time, bug-free software product and a buggy, unresponsive, and late software product.
In this article, we’ll go over some of the key steps teams need to take to properly organize their software development projects.
#1 Define the Objectives of the Project
This might seem like a “basic” step, but it is too often neglected. Not defining the objectives of the project can lead to a variety of bad outcomes: tunnel vision, missing the forest for the trees, or a shaky foundation that needs to be redone again and again later on.
It is essential to clarify the objectives of the project (the primary and secondary objectives), what is expected of your company (deliverables, time, deadlines, budgets…), and how much wiggle room your team has to achieve these objectives.
It is essential to write down all of this information in documents, have it validated by your clients, and then send a copy to each of your team members. This doesn’t leave room for misunderstandings and prevents the need to redo work later on.
Of course, these objectives shouldn’t be set in stone — that makes the project overly rigid and inflexible. An agile process where your team constantly defines and redefines objectives through lean processes and constant feedback from the client will be far more effective.
#2 Break Down the Project Into Bite-Sized, Clearly-Defined Tasks
The first step is to make a list of the tasks to be done. This step is the most important since it lays the foundations of the project. If you forget a task at this point, fail to properly document it, or don’t assign it to a team, the entire foundation of the project will be shaky.
List all possible tasks and be very thorough during the design and writing of the list: For each task, always ask yourself: “What tasks do I need to accomplish beforehand to be able to do this? What does this mean for the rest of the project?”. By doing this, you will be able to properly document the tasks.
Only after you have successfully broken down the software project into tasks and have properly documented each one should you move on to the next step.
#3 Define the Sequence of the Tasks
Not everything needs to be done at once, especially not when it is a large software engineering project. Since it is essential to start work on projects immediately to not waste time and resources, you should almost always have a list of tasks that you can currently carry out. For example, you can organize a project kick-off meeting with stakeholders well before you have finalized all the project details.
After you have established the list of tasks, you must “link” them together — order them.
For each task, you have to define all the predecessor tasks —. all the tasks that have to be done upstream before you can take care of that specific task. In a software development context, ie. building the servers is a precedent task and is required if you have a task that requires you to stress test concurrent usage of specific site functions. Without a server, there’s no sift functions you can stress test.
By ordering the tasks clearly, you create a logical progression that helps you properly manage the project and prevents team members from waiting for other parts of the project to finish before they start theirs.
#4 Flesh Out Each Task: The Deadline, The Deliverables, the Constraints
Now that you have an ordered list of tasks, it is time to iron out the more granular details and finalize the framework you use during development:
- Finalize the details of the tasks with the client: agree on deliverables, timetables, and budgets. Make sure you leave some leeway for your team and don’t promise to over deliver if you know you can’t.
- Start using management tools (organizational, budgetary, etc.) to create effective software development teams that can properly handle the tasks.
- Set concrete rules, dates, and meetings with your team members and outsourcing partners and make sure they adhere to them. This is essential if you want every part of the project to move forward on a consistent basis.
Now that you have a fleshed-out list of tasks, have organized a team to take care of it, and have made the deadlines, budgets, and deliverables clear, it is time to start the development process. Of course, no project sticks to plans fully, and as a manager, it is your job to be able to evolve and accommodate your team fully and respond to their changing needs. Some deadlines or priorities might be changed, but what’s important is to always make sure the software product engineering process is moving along smoothly.