A software development project may seem, at first glance, to be quite daunting; there are so many components to the project, with things to consider like budgets, integrations, adoption of the new software, possible time constraints… the list must seem to go on and on!
With all of this on your mind, planning a software development project, therefore, may seem like a Herculean task! But, when you break down that project into its fundamental components, you’ll see that it’s really not as impossible as it seems.
In this blog, we’ll walk you through the five initial steps to take when planning your software development project. Need some help along the way? Give us a shout and our software development experts can get you sorted out.
Step 1: Identify the Business Problem You Want the Software Development Project to Solve
The first step to any software development project is to identify the particular business problem that you’re looking to solve. It may seem simple – “I don’t like how we do X.”, but it’s very important to be specific in naming the problem in a clear and concise manner.
Breaking the problem down into a problem statement, with the outcomes or results that you want to see achieved can help. As an example, let’s take time off approvals – arguably, something that many organizations struggle with. In this instance, the problem statement would look something like this:
“Time off approvals: Create a process that will be efficient for employees, managers, and HR/Accounting to record, approve, view, and track time off, allowing for faster, easier, and more effective time off management.”
Got your problem statement? Great – let’s move on to Step 2!
Step 2: Ensure You Thoroughly Understand the Business Process and Key Contributors
This step of the software development project journey requires that you take a deep dive into the business process itself. How is the software development project you’re planning for going to help move the business process along? What bottlenecks are currently in place that you’re hoping to ease? Who in your organization has the most knowledge of the process as it stands now?
It’s crucial to the success of your software development project to thoroughly understand the business process of the problem you’re trying to solve. To use our example above, if you’ve never gone through the process of putting in a time off request, how can you know you’re designing a more effective, more efficient and faster solution? So, for this step, you need to break down every component of the business process into its most minute details. And we mean minute details; you’re going to want to do a whiteboarding session where you list everything:
- The people involved in the task(s).
- Specific steps that happen in the task(s).
- Devices used to perform the work.
- Is the work available offline, or is an internet connection required?
- How much time it takes, and how often the work is performed.
- The data that is required for the work in each task.
- Business rules that need to be taken into consideration.
By going through each task in the business process with a fine-tooth comb, it’s easier to see patterns emerge, and gaps that appear. This leads to Step 3.
Step 3: Challenge Yourself to Streamline that Process – How Can You Optimize It?
After completing the extensive work in Step 2, you should have a pretty good understanding of gaps in the business process. So, now it’s time to challenge yourself on where and how you can streamline things. Here are some things to consider:
- How can you optimize the business process to achieve the goals and objectives you want? Think about the vision you have for what your future process might look like.
- Determine what’s already optimal about the process, and what could use some improvement. Can any of the activities be combined to streamline the process? Can you cut anything out of the process to make it more efficient?
- Be sure to get feedback from key players in the business process – make sure that you’re tapping into their expertise with the process itself, and ask them to weigh in on what they think would work to optimize it.
- Don’t forget your customer in this process – if the business process you’re analyzing affects the customer in any way, shape, or form, it’s very important to make sure you take that into consideration before acting.
- Are there ways to automate the business process? Can you use automation to capture data automatically, as opposed to having to do things manually? Are you able to automate decisions based on particular data that’s entered, or based on any actions that are taken by the end-user?
Step 4: Determine the Feasibility of the Software Development Project by Calculating the Business Value
All that you’ve done in the previous steps – answering the questions you’ve answered, and mapping out the current process – have been to help you determine the business value and benefits of the potential software development project. Is it the right step for your organization to take? In Step 4, we examine this closely, because this is the step that determines if you’re going to move forward with that software development project.
Business value typically falls into four distinct categories: Revenue, Efficiency (also known as cost savings), Volume, and Other. In this step, you need to determine if the software development project you’re considering can significantly improve one, or more, of these business values for your organization. Consider the potential costs to your business of not solving the problem – what would happen if you continued with “business as usual”? What is it costing your organization, in time or money, to keep doing the business process the way you are right now?
Decide which business value is most important to you and do an analysis on the project. Our time off request example from above would most likely fit into the Efficiency category, so if this was our business, we’d want to look at the time constraints of our employees (how much time per year is this wasting), and cross reference that with the financial costs (how much this business process is actually costing us).
If the business value you’re going to receive from solving the business problem with the software development project is greater than continuing with “business as usual”, the software development project makes sense. It’s time to move on to the next step.
Step 5: Create Your Software Development Project Plan
Congratulations! You’ve made the decision to go forward with your software development project. Putting a plan in place will not only ensure that you have the right resources at your disposal, but it will also help you to keep focused on your goals and help you to measure what success will look like for the project.
Here are some of the vital parts of your software development project plan:
- Define the project scope – this helps you to solidify what you’re going to achieve.
- Prioritize the features you want to include in the first iteration of your software development project – are there specific things it must do, and are there other things that can wait?
- Identify who on your team will be responsible for what part of the project.
- List your project tasks and owners.
- Define your project schedule – when do you want the first iteration of this project to be launched? Is there a specific deadline you have to meet?
- Identify any potential risks that may come up during the project.
- Get champions for the project – to ensure that the software development solution is adopted, and you’re able to get the maximum ROI, change management planning is vital. Champions help to deliver the message, generate excitement, and help with use cases.
A Software Development Project Takes Planning – We Can Help!
A software development project can help your organization to stand out from the crowd and can be as simple or as complex as required. Whether you want a quick customization of a current out-of-the-box solution you’re using, or you want to build a solution from the ground up, software development projects have the capacity to improve your customers’ experience with your brand, bring innovative products or solutions to market much faster, make your operations safer or more efficient, and more.
Regardless of the size, your software development project needs to be planned out. This is where we come in. At ProServeIT, our software development experts have helped dozens of companies over the last year alone to identify software development project opportunities in their organization and come up with a plan for executing on those projects.