How to manage your software development project

by Don Lowe

November 6, 2018
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Managing software development requires that you understand the development process and what problems you will need to tackle down the line. It is not just a matter of technology either, but of people.  

Go into the project with the right attitude

You should aim to see each and every project as a learning experience. What you do well now can be improved upon and things that go wrong will teach you how to do better. Make sure that everyone on the team not only strives to reach the project goals but also that they seek to grow from the experience.

Determine the goal

In the previous article we identified key areas to think about when determining your goal. A project is a project when it achieves the results that it was initiated to deliver. Software projects are for delivering new tools and capability for your staff to work with. Because of this you should identify suitable staff members, who understands the need of your product, to be involved in its development from an early stage. This will allow them to provide input and feedback that ensures that what you develop is useful to the end users.  

This should naturally be followed by communicating the goal to the rest of the team. It is important that there is a clear understanding of what capability is required from the solution from the very beginning.  

You must also test and validate that the solution being developed does what the end users need it to do. This will ensure that your project stays on track and that there is no unnecessary work going into features that no one is going to use.  

Clearly defined processes

You must know what processes should be used and how to adapt them to each project. Having the same processes for your projects prevents confusion and miscommunication. In a similar vein, there is no project plan so perfect that alterations to it will not be required.  Determining an effective and simple change management process from the beginning will save you time and effort later down the line.  

Clear communication within the team

A software project needs a core team that carry the main responsibility of the development process. For some aspects of the development you might need to bring in extra support, be it in-house or outsourcing, to supplement your core team's skills. However, these specialists are just that – support. You should allocate your core team to the development of the software solution so that they will be able to focus on this task.

Allocating the right people to work on the project is essential. You need not only the right skills but the right attitude to see the work through. Failing to do this will result in the project not delivering the needed capability and will likely take longer to develop as well.  

You should aim for having one source for managing requirements that is up to date, accurate, and that everyone uses. This is often referred to as "having one source of the truth." It will ensure that everyone onboard has access to the same information and that it is correct.  

Having an effective communication strategy implemented and adopted by everyone involved in the project is also important. Similarly, instructions should be given in writing on a specific channel of communication. It is easy to forget or misremember instructions if they are only given verbally during a coffee break. Providing the information in writing ensures that it can easily be found again and that it is not misremembered 

Well-defined roles

Everyone on the team, core team or otherwise, needs to know what their responsibilities are. A lack of well-defined roles will have disastrous consequences on the efficiency of the team. There will be duplication of work and since no one is accountable for a task being completed tasks will be overlooked and forgotten.  

The benefits of having well-defined role descriptions include: 

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  • ​Increased accountability and efficiency
  • ​Improved delivery, resulting in effective cost management
  • ​Improved working environment as there will be fewer conflicts due to misunderstandings
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    ​Reduced stress as individuals understand exactly what is expected of them
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    ​Senior management time being used more efficiently when making decisions and giving ad-hoc advice
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    ​A framework for accomplishing tasks as individuals know what is expected of them and which team members are responsible for work they are dependent on
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    Increased flexibility within the team or organisation as one person can fill more than one role, or one role can have more than one person allocated, depending on the complexity and size of the project

​Do not become overwhelmed

Should you find that the software project that you have been working on is, in fact, not a project, there is still hope. By going through the above steps and making the necessary changes you can still turn things back on track. If the process seems overwhelming and you are unsure where to start - it might be a good idea to turn to a consultant for assistance.  

At the end of the day, the more efficient the software project management, the more successful the project.