10 Steps for Success: Software Development

POSTED: March 19, 2019 10:26 am, By


Software developers face a big challenge trying to create and deliver software that suits a customer’s needs and streamlines their business process. There are many pitfalls to avoid during the software development cycle and the roadmap is often not clear. Many times, customers do not understand the inefficiencies in their own business process, or they do, they do not understand how to apply it. In large part, this is the job of the software developer.

In typical scenarios, a software developer is approached by a customer who is currently engaged in an inefficient, expensive business process. The process flow of the process is used for the purpose of managing a series of disputed spreadsheets. Off-the-shelf software has been tried but does not meet the specific needs of the company in question. In a streamlined, cost-effective manner. Successful execution of this task can be broken down into specific steps.

Step One: Understand the Customer’s Business Process Flow

It is critical to understand the process flow for which the software is being developed. Meet with the customer and discuss his or her business. What are the processes currently being used to manage the business? Ask questions and sample the customer for details. By the end of the meeting, or perhaps several meetings, the developer should understand the business process. Once the process is understood, the developer works with the customer on possible ways to streamline the process with a software solution.

Step Two: Gather Specific Requirements from the Customer

Requirements gathering is the foundation on which the rest of the software project will be built. Without good requirements, the typical result is software that does not meet the customer’s needs or does not fit their business process flow. Requirements make up the detailed blueprint for the software program to be developed. They are detailed lists and descriptions of specific actions that the software must perform. This often includes defining levels of security, or access to the software, data setup and storage requirements, specific functionality throughout the application, reporting capabilities and other details. All this needs to be done with the customer as completely as possible. This is why it ‘ The software is addressing the business flow. Requirements should cover every step of that process.

Step Three: Document the Requirements

Once all the requirements have been compiled and sketched out on poster board, white board and bar napkins, it’s time to write a proper requirements document. Organize the requirements in a way that follows the business process flow. Create a concise, clean document that embodies all the customer requirements. This not only provides the developer with a good blueprint for the program, but it also serves to hold the customer accountable later (as detailed in Step 7: Avoid Scope Creep).

Step Four: Review the Requirements with the Customer

Meet with the customer once more, or as many times as it takes, to review the requirements document. Go over every detail to make sure everything is covered. This will ensure that the program will perfectly meet the customer’s needs and fully support their business process flow. That what joke; it never wants to be perfect. This will simply help minimize the number of requirements that will come up and impact the coding process. The more thoroughly the job is done, the better the coding cycle is, but there is always something forgotten by the customer (or even the developer, shudder!), Missed in the discussions, or misunderstood all around ,

Step Five: Agree on an Estimated Completion Date

Discuss the project time-frame with the customer. Ideally, the deadline will be flexible enough to allow enough time for the proper development, testing and release of the application. Realistically, the customer usually has a deadline that in part dictates the schedule. If it is too aggressive, there are a couple of choices. First, more developers could be added to the project. This can ultimately speed up development time, but team development comes with its own challenges and deserves its own article. Secondly, the developer and the customer can start the process of trimming down the requirements in an effort to shorten the development time. Perhaps there are some requirements that can wait for a second release of the software, or some that can be combined or simply dropped as having been “nice to have.” In the end, agree on a date and stick to it. Not only will the customer be happy, but the developer can then move on to the next project. Nothing kills the spirit of developers faster than a forever-project that is never completed, always in need of more tweaking.

Step Six: Code the Application

With customer-approved requirements in hand, it is time to go forth and code the application. For most developers, this is the fun part. Often a copious amount of caffeine is involved. Coding is the time for the developer to flex his technical and creative muscles. The smart developer will take each project as an opportunity to stretch technical understanding and learn a new skill or two. Try something a bit different than the last time; continue to grow in skill and technique. During the coding phase, don’t be afraid to meet with the customer when necessary in order to get clarification on, or refine a requirement.

Step Seven: Avoid Scope Creep

“Scope creep” is a well-hated term known by any developer who has ever written software. It is the process by which the customer continues to add or change requirements well into the code phase, or even the testing phase. This is where the requirements document comes into play. Politely point out to the customer that, while a brilliant idea, it was not captured in the agreed-upon requirements and refer to the document if necessary. In most cases, the change or feature can be shelved until after the initial release and a second version is being considered. Sometimes, however, the requirement that was missed is so important that the customer plays the dreaded “well we just won’t be able to use this without it” card. At this point the developer can concede and incorporate the change into the software. Alternatively, she can print out all the source code, burn it on her gas grill and walk away.

Step Eight: Developer Tests the Application

It is highly recommended that the developer test his own work as development is going on, and once coding is completed. Run through every scenario possible in the software, use it like the customer will, abuse it like the customer will. The goal is to ferret out as many bugs as possible before releasing it to the customer for testing. The customer will still find plenty to complain about, but hopefully by way of performing off-the-wall actions, not finding obvious issues. It’s a good rule of thumb that every good software tester finds about one third of the bugs, so find some impartial good testers if possible. They can shake down the application before it gets to the customer.

Step Nine: Release it to the Customer for Testing

Meet with the customer and demo the finished product. Answer any questions and help the customer see how the software addresses the business needs. Many customers don’t have any idea how to test software, so explain the basics to them. Have them go through most if not all of the different screens and functions of the program. Tell the customer they should “try to break it.” Most people like that challenge and will test more thoroughly. If necessary, provide the customer with some testing scripts, steps to follow for testing, to prime the pump and get them started. Establish a good process for the customer to use to document bugs. Sending the developer an email each time a bug is found is not a good process. Rapidly listing a litany of issues over the phone to the developer is not a good process. Have the customer document the bugs in bug-tracking software, or even just a spreadsheet. Show them how to provide screenshots that show the application state and error. As bugs are fixed, the document can be updated to reflect the fix.

Step 10: Release to Production

Finally, the project is complete and it is time to release. It now wants to manage the customer’s business process. Try not to get roped into writing the training materials for the customer unless they are specifically paying for that service. Even then, hire a starving writer to do that. Good software development skills should not be wasted on writing training material. Often, the customer or part of his staff wants to write the training materials while testing is on it. The new software should be prepared for the change in advance. If possible, the customer should hold any necessary training classes needed before the release or shortly after it. After release, there are some problems that need to be fixed. Success is not better. Software projects, especially very large projects, are extremely difficult to smoothly execute. Common pitfalls and releasing a great product. are extremely difficult to smoothly execute. Common pitfalls and releasing a great product. are extremely difficult to smoothly execute. Common pitfalls and releasing a great product.

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