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Software Development Planning – How to Establish a Successful Development Process?

Aleksandra Rajczyk
Aleksandra Rajczyk
Software Development Planning - how to establish a successful development process

Just like recipes are helpful when you’re making a dish for the first time, software development project planning will help you get your idea on the right track. Get to know what are the essential steps in building software and how to make the process more effective.

Knowledge about software development planning comes in handy no matter the size of your company. Whether you run a startup or an organization impressive in size, software development procedures look pretty much the same. Good practices included in software development project planning can be implemented in other internal and external processes! Here we’re going to have a look at what is planning in software development which will help you in understanding the software development process that your IT company follows. 

What is software development planning?

Software development planning is a sum of methods that are meant to make the software development process easier to manage. Effective software development planning helps the team predict the outcomes of working on a project. It encompasses all the steps in software development, starting from requirements gathering and ending on maintenance. During the planning stage, the development flow gets established, teams are formed, and the roles are divided between the members. Every stage of software development becomes The person responsible for keeping track of the software development planning process is usually the Project Manager. 

Why is software development planning so important?

Common sense says that it’s always better to do your homework instead of improvising. In the case of software development, planning guarantees good outcomes. Every project has objectives that have to be met to consider the end product successful. It’s even better if the objectives are reached on time and within the budget. Software development planning is also the major factor behind good return on investment: planning steps show you clearly where the money goes and when to look for savings. 

Careful planning could save you from some common headaches in project management, like a rush, miscommunication, delays, and unexpected costs.

Steps in software development: pre-production in 4 stages

Some things should be decided even before the project goes into the development stage. It’s especially important when you’re looking into outsourcing your software development process. Here’s what you should think about:  

  1. Scope

Two questions have to be answered to create a scope: 

1. What problem does the software solve? 

2. How does this software solve the problem?

Those answers lead to an accurate description of the idea. That’s where the software development planning starts. A clear vision establishes goals and expected results, limitations, and assumptions.

  1. Requirements

Gathering requirements is important if you want to choose the best technology for your idea. Here’s where your ideas have to take shape. Try to sketch the way a user would interact with the software. It doesn’t have to be perfect – what matters is putting your point across. Sketching will help you in listing the main features of the software and the tasks it’s supposed to perform. Then your development team will be able to come up with the most efficient software development planning. The better you describe the basic architecture and design of your idea, the quicker you’re going to receive valuable feedback. 

  1. Budget

This is where you break down the development process into stages and estimate how much money each one of them will consume. A Project Manager or Account Executive should help you in this stage. You may be tempted to start looking for savings right now but hold your horses a little longer – there’s a number of components that go into software development planning than you’re aware of. 

  1. Timeline

Based on the complexity of the idea, the list of necessary features, and the budget available, the development team will be able to estimate a timeframe for each stage of the software development process. 

Keep in mind that these 4 steps don’t have to be extremely detailed. Rough estimates are still better than none. However, writing down the plan will help you in communicating with your team. Software development planning thrives on good communication, and good communication starts with expressing your ideas in clear, simple sentences. It’s especially valuable when you’re considering making an MVP. 

Software Development Life-cycle: How to establish a software development project step by step?

Understanding software development isn’t a necessary requirement to become a Product Owner and creating a piece of software, but it will make talking to your team easier. Software development life-cycle planning divides the process into these seven steps:

  1. Planning

This stage focuses on creating the blueprint of the software development process. The planning takes into consideration every factor that could affect the project: resources, estimations, schedules, requirements, and risk assessments. A dedicated Project Manager is assigned to watch over the process and make sure it moves forward. 

  1. Analysis

Here you have to decide what makes the piece of software you’re about to create relevant to the target group. Defining requirements is essential for business goals. After the goals are established, you can plan the tasks that will lead to achieving them. 

  1. Design and Prototyping

The visual stage of the software development planning process. UX/UI Designers use patterns and user stories to build an architecture of the software. 

  1. Coding

Here’s where the magic happens! Based on the requirements, the development team chooses the technologies and software engineers that are the most suitable for the job. Coders write code in a language they specialize in, e.g. JavaScript, Ruby, Python, etc. 

  1. Testing and Quality Assurance

Once the code is written and the software is functional, it’s time to test if it works the way it’s supposed to. Various types of testing can be performed in this stage – both manual and automated. The goal is to fix all the bugs and find areas that could use some improvement. After that, the software goes back to the coders or straight to the deployment stage. 

  1. Deployment

The software is now available for use. It’s released to the users while the development team monitors the performance. 

  1. Maintenance and Updates

A process that usually doesn’t have a definite timeline. These are all the actions taken in order to make sure that the software is bug-free. The team addresses every issue that may arise and fixes it as quickly as possible.

It needs to be said that software development planning doesn’t have to follow a specific path to be successful. Don’t try to fit your idea into strictly defined phases; if something doesn’t feel right, talk to your team and try to find a different solution. Always keep your head open – that’s how real innovation comes to life! 

Examples of software development planning tools

At its core, software development planning isn’t that different for other kinds of projects. The most popular tools used for software project management are well known to everyday consumers. Even the most experienced Project Managers rely on tools like Microsoft Excel and Google Docs. Each software house has its own preference for project management software so it’s important to find the common ground. Some of the most popular choices include Asana, Jira, and Basecamp. The Project Manager should make sure that everyone has access to the relevant tools and other means of communication.

In general, communication between team members is more important than tools. Scheduling and participating in meetings should be the top priority. However, good software development planning should include the preferred management software so everyone’s on the same page. 

Software development process flow: which approach is the best? 

The agile model has been the most popular way of managing IT projects in recent years. The agile approach is known for its flexibility and delivering high-quality products. There are different ways you can plan out your agile model called Scrum and Kanban. Aside from those two, there’s also the traditional waterfall model. It’s important to choose the right method to get the best results and let the product grow into the best version of itself. 

Below you’ll find a brief introduction to three models for software development planning.

Scrum

Scrum is one of the most popular agile methodologies. In the software project planning according to Scrum, the development cycles are organized into sprints. Each sprint lasts for about 1 to 4 weeks and has a clear goal – usually, it is dedicated to developing a single feature. 

Kanban

Essentially, Kanban is a board. The purpose of this board is to create the project flow. All of the tasks that help achieve the goals are put on the board. There are various ways to organize the Kanban board: it can be divided into simple columns “to do-in progress-done” or more sophisticated to accommodate the project’s needs. It’s important to keep the board up to date to easily spot potential bottlenecks. The Project Manager should monitor the board according to the workflow. Kanban is sometimes considered a subsidiary of the Scrum methodology. 

Waterfall

The Waterfall approach is considered less flexible than other methodologies. However, not every project is suitable for Scrum or Kanban. In Waterfall, the entire project is broken down into stages. The project can’t move to another stage until the previous one is completed. Stages are created based on the business goals of the project. 

Choosing the right model is key for efficient software development planning. Take your time deciding which approach suits your idea the most.

Summary

No war has been won without a good strategy and detailed planning is the best strategy for every project. It does take time but in the end, it actually saves you from a lot of problems. Predicting obstacles helps you prepare for different scenarios. Therefore, don’t rush your software development planning stage – put some heart into it and set yourself up for success!

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