How to Plan a Software Development Project

Andrew Zola
Storyteller
Andrew Zola on Linkedin

The planning phase of your software development project is often overlooked, but it’s very important. While it can be tempting to rush into development without proper planning, this approach can lead to miscommunication, delays, unsatisfactory results, and unexpected costs.

Whether it’s for large-scale enterprise software or a simple mobile app, when you start working on a greenfield project it’s important to establish the following:

  •      Scope
  •      Requirements
  •      Budget
  •      Timeline

Let’s dive right into it.

Scope

Planning your software development project starts with its scope. It’s necessary to have a clear idea about what you’re trying to build or you will end up wasting a lot of time and money.

Requirements

You have to clearly list all the functions and designs to communicate how it’s supposed to work to the development team. If you’re having trouble accomplishing it, it will be a good idea to engage a project manager to help you accomplish this task.

At this juncture, you need to do some sketches about why someone will use the product. Take it a step further and display how it will be used through storyboards.

By doing this, you can turn these abstract situations into something more tangible. These sketches will also give you the opportunity to share your idea and get feedback from those who might potentially use the product.

Budget

The list of requirements will enable the software development team to come up with a rough estimate (that’s based on experience). Although it’s far too early to come up with a precise number, this information can help give you get an idea about the time and money needed to complete the project.

Timeline

The list of requirements will also help the development team make an educated guess about how long it will take to turn your idea into a functional product. But your timeline can be based on milestones or scrums.

To manage this process efficiently, the project manager or owner needs to maintain direct communication with the team to keep track of progress. There are many project management tools (like Slack and TeamWork) available today, so the same approach could also be effective in a remote setting.

The time it takes to develop a mobile app or enterprise software is significantly relative to the project’s needs and the available resources. For example, for a simple mobile app, it can take anywhere from two to three months to build a minimum viable product (MVP) with two developers on board.

But if you stop at this stage, you will leave the testing to real users. Taking this path will also add a lot of pressure to quickly fix errors. As a result, it can have a significant impact on your budget.

Although there is high-level of uncertainty in software development projects, it’s important to have some sort of plan. While it will be near impossible to have a highly elaborate plan with detailed requirements before you start building it, the effort you put into developing the plan is still valuable.

While the project plan might certainly evolve during the development cycle, writing it down at the beginning is the first step to ensuring that both you and the development team are on the same page. It will also work as a guideline to what you are trying to achieve.

Finally, it’s imperative that you don’t try to force-fit all projects into a traditional plan. Instead, the better approach would be to adapt it to each project and its requirements.