Your company is going into a major software development project. You’re investing a lot of time and resources into the project and the application you’re developing is critical to your business’s success. How do you make sure the project is a success? While no one can guarantee success in development, there are some things you can do to ensure that your custom application development goes as smoothly as possible.
It’s important to note that not every application development project is going to be a winner. Sometimes things go wrong despite the best-laid plans — things happen that are outside the team’s control, and for one reason or another, the project fails. The key word here is “control,” however. While you can’t control every variable in a project, there are some things you can control that will contribute to the project’s success.
If you get a handle on these five things, you’ll have a good shot at a successful application development project.
- A clear goal
- A savvy sponsor
- Experienced developers
- A good project manager
- Agreement on budget and schedule
Want to learn more? Let's dig deeper into that list.
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1. The project has a clear goal
Building a piece of software is usually a group effort. Building anything with a group can be challenging. Different people will have different ways to solve a problem, different ideas of design or even different priorities of what should be done first.
Ultimately though, it all comes down to one thing: users have to want to use it. Involve them before the first line of code is written. Find out what would make the project a success for them.
The finished project has to provide value to the business. It has to save money, make money or improve another identified metric within the company. Map those goals out before the project gets underway. Get baseline measurements that you can use for comparison when your project is complete.
And yes, requirements can be expected to evolve as the project proceeds. Successful projects anticipate this and provide a means to manage change and test each change against user and business goals.
2. The project has a savvy sponsor
When you implement new technology in a business, it means a change in the way the work gets done day to day. People are naturally resistant to this change. Successful projects have an internal champion, also called a project sponsor, in the company where the new software will be used.
The sponsor on a successful project uses their leadership skills to overcome resistance. They communicate with end users, champion the new solution and influence adoption. They also are always available to the team throughout the life of the project.
The client sponsor on a successful software project understands the development process. They understand the impact of changes to the budget and schedule and they understand the end goal.
3. The project has experienced developers
Successful projects have developers that are chosen for their productivity and competence, not their hourly rate. It’s tempting to hire the least expensive developers to work on your project but that causes headaches.
Experienced developers spend time learning about your company and how the software they’ll build will fit into your organization. Being able to think like a user, communicate with non-technical users and wear multiple hats, are skills developers hone over time and years of projects.
Photo by Christina Morillo on Pexels
4. The project has a good project manager
Successful projects have project managers (PM) who can see the course of the development at a high level, foresee challenges and head them off at the pass. The PM on a successful project will:
- schedule meetings to draw them together
- document clear objectives and requirements
- establish project milestones
- create a communication model for the project
- schedule events to celebrate project wins along the way
- help resolve issues that arise so the team can be as efficient as possible
The PM on a successful project acts as a bridge between the project owner and the developers, handling communication and making sure everyone gets what they need.
5. The project has agreement on budget and schedule
Being over-budget or late is the usual project-killer. Successful projects are usually the product of an agreement: both the developers and the project owner agree on how much the project will cost and when it will be done. That’s not to say that the budget and the schedule are set in stone at the beginning of the project and never change — most budgets and schedules do change a little. However, that’s where the project manager comes in. Through communication by the project manager, that agreement is maintained as requirements, features and schedules slip and change.
Learning from successful software development projects
As you can see, in order to put this sort of project together you need experienced developers, a project owner dedicated to the project and a project manager who can ease communication between a development team and their employers. Finding all those pieces might seem daunting but it doesn’t need to be. A good technology consulting firm can help you put the pieces together.
Take Omni. We are Wisconsin technology consultants with experience in custom application development, Agile methodologies and project management. We can help you understand what software you need and help you create a team that will build your solution.
Ready to start your software development project?