In the best case scenario, the software you develop for your business should support your people AND their processes. It should enable them to work “smarter, not harder,” so to speak. They should be able to do more after using that solution than they could before, thus ushering in a new era of collaboration, productivity, and profitability for your organization.
But the software itself isn’t enough to get this particular job done.
The process of software development is equally important, as it helps guarantee that you end up with a finished product that is capable of meeting those needs and exceeding those expectations in the first place. Because of that, there are a few key things that you need to keep in mind before, during and even after you develop software for your business that are certainly worth exploring.
The Essential Factors to Consider BEFORE Starting Development
Even during the early days of software development, there are a number of key factors to consider to help make sure that you and your colleagues are actually moving in the right direction to the first place. It’s possible to do a tremendous amount of work before you ever realize that there was a significant problem baked into the “concept” phase of your app. Naturally, mitigating that type of risk is always a top priority.
These considerations include important elements like:
- Is the application intuitive? Remember that you’re designing an app to help users accomplish a goal or solve a problem. It may technically work – but does it work better than whatever technique they are currently using?
- Will your application solve the user’s problem WITHOUT disrupting their existing business processes? People should never have to change the way they work to make up for the limitations of your solution.
- Will the application deliver measurable results? In other words, does it do what you’ve promised it will do in the way you said it would?
- Do you have people with the experience necessary to effectively manage requirements? In other words, does your app require some speciality that you don’t currently have access to? If “yes,” how do you bring someone in who HAS those skills?
- Will your software seamlessly integrate into the current IT systems? The answer to this question should always be “yes” – users should never have to come up with complicated and costly workarounds just to make disparate systems “talk” to one another.
- The cost factor. Does your app A) do what it promised, B) in the way that it promised, C) in the most cost-effective way possible? Once again, the answer here should always be “yes.”
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The Key Steps to Begin the Software Development Process
Along the same lines, it’s also important to understand the rough framework that you’ll need to follow to guide your software from vision into reality. Yes, every solution is a little different from the next which means that there may be some experimentation at play. Having said that, here are the things you’ll need to focus on regardless of what type of software you’re developing:
- The establishment of clear communication paths. People will have questions during the development process. They need to know where they can go to quickly get reliable answers to those questions, so they can keep moving forward.
- The definition of best practices and conventions. These are usually dictated in part by the specific nature of the software, as well as certain project-specific deliverables.
- The creation of a meaningful definition of “done.” How do you know when your software is “finished”? Are you working towards a minimum viable product, or is “done” something far more polished and ready for long-term use without major modification?
- Choosing an appropriate continuous integration system. This is a practice where you will integrate code into a share repository as frequently as possible, usually several times a day. That integration is then verified by a series of builds and tests to stop small problems today before they become bigger ones tomorrow.
- Use version control systems wisely. Remember that version control is an invaluable tool to use to make sure you’re always moving forward, not spinning your wheels. Make sure you understand how to use it to the fullest effect.
Along those lines, there are a number of other things you’ll need to account for, too. In terms of defining the environments required for your solution, you’ll need to pay careful attention to not only your development environment but also your user acceptance testing environment AND your staging and production environments, as well.
You’ll also want to prepare the codebase and project structure (again, giving you a “framework” from which to build from moving forward), and create a document for local project setup, too.
The Cost Equation
Generally speaking, there are five major factors to consider that all contribute to software development costs in some way. These include:
- The time a project is expected to take to complete.
- The initial scope of the project.
- The number of developers working on the project.
- The location of the project.
- Any extras that may be needed, like additional software needed for development, additional infrastructure needed to support current efforts, etc.
If you get into the development phase and begin to experience budget troubles or cost overruns, these are the areas that you should examine first. Oftentimes budget problems are the result of scope creep – a project is getting bigger than initially envisioned. But certain unexpected extras could contribute to that issue, as could a suddenly shortened time to delivery.
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Breaking Down Your Software Requirements
Finally, you need to pay careful attention to not only software requirements, but the true story going on beneath those requirements on a daily basis.
- Always make an effort to understand the role of the requirements. WHY is something as important as it seems to be?
- Make sure the right people are defining the requirements to begin with. Everyone has a voice, but not everyone’s voice is necessarily of equal importance in this type of hierarchy.
- Define those requirements with “enough” detail. If your people cannot understand WHY something is important, how can they be expected to devote enough attention to it?
- Recognize that requirements change. Software development is nothing if not malleable. Requirements are not written in ink, they are written in pencil, so to speak.
But finally, always make sure you’re paying attention to the people on the front line on a daily basis. The most important voice is ultimately those of the people who will need to use and depend on the product that you deliver to them. They will absolutely have opinions about what is working and, more importantly, what isn’t.
Make absolutely no mistake about it: it is in your own best interest to listen to them whenever you have the opportunity.