Custom software development, project management can mean the difference between the success and failure of a custom software development project. Software development projects are complex and multi-faceted, represent a major investment in both time and money, and can be fraught with problems if not managed properly. Finding a competent custom software development partner is only one part of the equation. You must also have a clear vision, strong management, and a well-thought-out plan.
Custom software development and project management start with detailed planning in advance to ensure that you get all the features that your business needs. It will also help prevent costly scope creep. Here are the key steps that will help ensure that your custom software is delivered on time, and to budget.
Before you get into the detailed design of the software, define your high-level goals. For example, these might include streamlining current processes, automating time-consuming manual tasks, or increasing productivity. Once you have defined your top-level goals, identify quantifiable metrics that you can use to measure the success of the project in respect of these goals.
Custom software development and project management is a team effort. Many people within your organization may have input into the project. While getting input from all levels of the organization will benefit the project, you will need one final decision-maker. Appoint a single senior member of the team to manage the project. Too many decision-makers can lead to confusion and a lack of direction.
Talk to key members of your team about the day-to-day process that is currently employed. Document how tasks are currently completed and draw up flow diagrams of the processes. In a large organization, you may need to limit the number of employees that you involve in this process. Remember, though, if you only talk to senior managers, you may not learn about bottlenecks that occur at lower levels of the organization.
Be mindful of scope creep from the outset of the project. It can occur from the early planning stages, right the way through the development cycle. Focus on the key objectives of the project and stay within the boundaries of the original concept. Scope creep is the most common cause of custom software development projects running over budget and being delivered late. Professional, custom software project management will ensure that you get this and other critical factors right.
Just because it is possible, doesn’t mean that it should be added to the scope of the project. When you are defining the required functionality for custom software, prioritize features into “must-haves” and “nice to haves”. The “must-have” features will be those that will accomplish your original goals. The “nice to haves” are optional features that would be useful but are not essential to a successful outcome of the project.
You know your business much better than your software development partner does. Even if a software development company has developed similar applications before, don’t assume that they know things like industry-specific terminology, regulations, and laws. Define your requirements clearly and explain ambiguous terms. A simple misunderstanding can be very costly in a custom software development project. This is a critical step in successful custom software development project management.
Plan to have your custom software solution delivered in stages. This will allow you to complete your own testing of each stage and give your feedback. This will also allow the software developers to concentrate on specific aspects of functionality. When providing feedback, keep in mind your “must-haves” and “nice to haves”. Too many unnecessary software change requests could delay the completion of the project.
The relationship between a client and a software developer is different from the traditional supplier/customer relationship. The relationship will work much better if you view your developer as a team member. You will both have deadlines to meet if the project is going to be completed to plan. You will need honest and transparent two-way communication if you are going to achieve your goals.
Good software developers make programming look easy. You say what you want, and they deliver it. Remember, though, that a simple change that you ask for may take hours of work to complete. If you do ask for changes in the scope of the project, however small, make sure that your developer tells you what the impact will be in both timescale and cost. Internally, you will need change request management to ensure that your project manager is the only person who can approve software change requests.
A successful customer software project is one that delivers a solution to the objectives, on time, and to budget. That requires good planning from the outset of the project and sound project management throughout the life of the project. Work with your custom software developer and stay focused on your key objectives. That will ensure that you receive a custom software solution that meets your business needs and provides you with a good return on your investment.
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