Have you ever sat back and thought about just how many things have to fall into place for your agency to pull off a successful software engineering project?
Planning, testing, measuring, refining… the list goes on. And somehow, you need to keep your team motivated along the way. What’s more is that no two software engineering projects are ever the same, with software specifications, end goals, audiences, and process activities varying from one to the next.
With a dizzying number of variables at play, planning and executing repeatable software engineering processes within your agency may feel impossible. But, the good news is that with some practical tips in mind (and help from the right project management software), it doesn't have to be.
Stages of the software engineering process to enhance
Every software engineering project is unique, most follow a similar basic software development life cycle.
Which of these could use some work within your agency?
The first (and arguably most important) phase of the software engineering process is the planning phase, where teams gather all the data models and information they need to determine the scope and purpose of the project itself.
In most cases, this involves defining the exact problem or shortcoming that the completed software product will solve. Research during this stage may also involve:
Sending out surveys
Determining which resources will be needed
The planning phase is crucial because it can set a project up for success (or failure). The more research and planning the team does, the better prepared and informed everybody will be as the project moves forward.
Planning feeling overwhelming? Consult Teamwork’s guide to software development project management.
Systems analysis and design
After the planning phase comes the system analysis and system design process.
This is when you’d conduct a feasibility study to ensure that the software systems being created will meet customer requirements and conform to general industry standards.
If the results of the software requirements analysis are favorable, software teams can then move on to create a detailed software design. This can take some time depending on the complexity of the project — but it's a must for software teams before moving forward to the next phase.
All the research has been done, the project passed the feasibility study with flying colors (hooray!), and a software design has been completed.
Next comes the fun part: the primary software development process. This is where teams begin:
Creating the infrastructure for the product
Documenting everything done along the way
Throughout the development process, software teams should be in constant communication with the design team so they can work together to keep the project on-task.
This is an exciting stage, but a lot can go wrong here, too. Effective collaboration between developers and designers is a must, but it's easy for communication to fall apart at this stage too.
Thorough software testing and quality assurance should be part of any successful product before launch. Ideally, this would include automated and human testers (such as members of a quality control team) to use the software for a period of time and make note of any issues to revisit and resolve.
You’d rinse and repeat this process if all issues are successfully corrected and no further flaws or errors are found. This is also a great time to gather feedback and input on the overall user interface and usability.
Understandably, this stage is important yet complex because it involves members of development, design, and quality control teams working together. It's also an unpredictable stage, as discovering complex problems can delay project timelines.
Last but not least, we come to the implementation phase: where the software is prepared for its official release.
During this phase, software teams collaborate to help clients and end-users implement the finished software into their daily workflows. Often, this happens as part of a beta testing phase, where the software is released to a small group of users who provide feedback to the team.
If problems or errors come up during beta testing, the software returns to the testing phase for further enhancement before being released to the general public.
If all the other phases of the software engineering processes have been done correctly, implementation is usually rather seamless. That being said, this phase is often where hidden issues from previous steps come to light — which can be frustrating for software development agencies.
Use these 11 tips to organize and enhance your software engineering processes
Each stage of software evolution is important in its own way. What are some things your software team can do to improve its own process moving forward? Below, we’ll give you 11 tips to organize and enhance your software engineering processes.
1) Plan and execute tasks with project management software
First and foremost, start using software project management tools (if you aren't already).
The right project management software will:
Improve communication and collaboration (among your team and with clients)
Use algorithms to automate some time-consuming tasks
Establish roles and timelines
Make sure everybody is on the same page
Opt for a project management solution that's versatile and customizable enough to work with the complex needs of a software project in mind.
Teamwork, for example, is designed with such features as comments with @mentions to keep team members in the loop regardless of their roles in the project. Meanwhile, automated report generation helps project managers see where things stand in terms of deadlines and milestones, individual workloads, and budget.
Check out how Teamwork can make this easier with our product tour!
2) Pick your project management framework
Which is right for your agency?
The Agile development methodology (common in software development) relies on collaboration, along with adaptive and simultaneous workflows, to get things done.
These methods are centered around simultaneous and incremental work, where large projects are broken up into smaller and more manageable pieces.
Agile methodology is also designed with adaptability in mind, understanding that adjustments often need to be made during the complex software development process.
Waterfall project management, on the other hand, takes things at a more linear pace.
Specifically, projects are broken down into steps that are:
A project can’t move onto the next step until the deliverables from the previous one have been completed. The Waterfall model works well for some software teams and projects, but it is significantly less flexible than the agile methodology.
Similar to the Agile approach, the Scrum methodology focuses on incremental work to get things done efficiently.
However, Scrum differs slightly in the sense that it specifically uses increments or sprints of fixed time (usually around two weeks) to complete tasks. With Scrum, team members also participate in daily check-ins to review progress and keep everybody on the same page.
3) Set the tone with a project kickoff meeting
Before your team dives into its next software process model, schedule a brief kickoff meeting where every member of the team gathers to discuss the project, ask questions, and meet with each other in real time.
These meetings are a great opportunity to make sure everybody is on the same page and to ensure a shared understanding of the project across every member of your team.
With robust collaboration tools and convenient task list templates, Teamwork has the features you need to hold more successful kickoff meetings, whether your team members are meeting in person, remotely, or some combination of both.
4) Establish measurable and practical KPIs
Metrics are vital in software development because they help your teams better measure their own progress and the success of the project itself. Choosing the right key performance indicators (KPIs) to track and measure can set your entire project up for success.
Some of the most popular KPIs to track in software development include:
Of course, manually tracking KPIs can be time-consuming and cumbersome while pulling important resources away from the project itself. This is where having a project management solution like Teamwork can make all the difference, quickly and accurately tracking your selected KPIs and generating detailed reports for better insight.
5) Identify potential risks in advance
Some risk comes along with any type of software project. However, this doesn't mean you need to wait for problems to present themselves to resolve them.
Risk management is a key part of any successful software development plan.
With a solid risk management strategy in place, teams can identify likely risks and create a plan to mitigate them in advance. This, in turn, reduces the potential impact of predicted problems affecting a project.
Some of the best ways to identify potential risks in advance include:
Interview stakeholders to discuss issues encountered in previous projects.
Use situational analysis frameworks to identify external factors.
6) Automate workflows and cut out repetitive tasks
Project management platforms are designed with automation features to help team members cut out repetitive tasks, keeping your project on-schedule and allowing team members to focus on their strategic work.
Some common tasks that software development agencies can usually automate include:
Unit and functional testing
Take time to review your team's processes to determine which steps can be automated to improve productivity while keeping your project on-budget and on-schedule.
Teamwork makes workflow automation a breeze with the ability to set up event-based triggers, time-based triggers, and even custom automations tailored to your specific needs.
7) Motivate the team with strong leadership
Leading a software development team of any size goes beyond coding, programming language, and computer science knowledge. To truly motivate and inspire teams, leaders should exhibit:
Excellent communication skills
Ability to look at the big picture without sacrificing attention to detail
The best leaders in a software engineering project also tend to be the ones who are the most adaptable, so be sure to use all the tools at your disposal (including your project management platform) to integrate these characteristics into your own leadership style.
8) Test deliverables
Testing is a vital part of the software development process, so don't overlook quality control and assurance.
Make sure your team has a specific series of steps and protocols to follow before releasing any software (even as a beta release). This will give you the opportunity to identify bugs, glitches, and other issues that need to be addressed.
Whenever possible, use a project management platform like Teamwork to streamline and automate your testing and quality control process. This will free up team members' valuable time to focus on other tasks.
9) Keep meetings short and productive
If you've ever been stuck in an unnecessarily long meeting that just wouldn't end, you know firsthand just how counterproductive these gatherings can be.
Not only can drawn-out meetings be a waste of team members' time, but they can also be a waste of money. In fact, it is estimated that unproductive meetings waste more than $37 billion each year.
To get the most out of your software project meetings, plan ahead and keep them as short and to-the-point as possible. Using a tool like Teamwork's meeting agenda template is a great way to document and prepare (without overdoing it).
10) Recognize your team's hard work
A little recognition goes a long way towards keeping software engineering teams motivated.
This is especially true with bigger, more tedious projects, where it may be hard for team members to see the light at the end of the tunnel. When you take the time to recognize your team's hard work, you can keep them feeling valued, appreciated, and motivated to keep up your agency’s momentum.
Some ways to recognize your team's hard work are:
Give direct shout-outs during meetings.
Share praise from clients and project managers.
Deliver a handwritten note or card.
11) Celebrate wins often
Last but not least, find unique ways to celebrate wins on a regular basis. This means not just acknowledging great work but rewarding it.
Did the agency hit a development milestone? Did the software pass usability testing?
These are all excellent reasons to celebrate with anything from a free day off to a catered lunch (for in-house agencies). When team members are rewarded regularly, this can help them keep the ball rolling.
Streamline your software engineering processes with Teamwork
Developing, testing, and ultimately releasing useful software components is an extremely complex task that requires hard work from a large group of people. With these tips in mind, software project teams can better plan and organize their internal processes.
Better processes, better results, happier clients.
With help from software project management tools like Teamwork, software engineering agencies can streamline their work while freeing up valuable time. Reach out to our team today to learn more about Teamwork's features or to request a free trial.