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10 Steps to Create a Robust Software Development Project Plan

Developing software is not easy, and it takes a lot of time and effort to make it happen. That said, irrespective of whether you are looking to get software developed for yourself or your client, you will need a robust software development plan. A software development plan gives you the direction towards meeting the objectives of your organization and the project as well. 

The software development plan is beneficial for businesses that hire a software development company. Let us dig deep into the details of the software development plan to have a clear idea of the process. 

What is a software development plan?

The software development plan refers to an integrated and organized management process in which the methods of carrying out the development process are highlighted. It also includes everything you will need to complete a software development project. A full-proof software development plan helps prevent all hurdles that may crop up during the execution of your project. At the same time, it helps ensure complete utilization of the allotted time and resources. 

A few key decisions are taken up during the planning phase to avoid unforeseen errors. 

It includes the technologies that will be used, the steps of running the project, key stakeholders, responsible resources and teams, external dependencies, the timeline and estimated costs, etc. 

Software Development Plan

What are the benefits of software development planning

With everything moving to an agile approach, where developers and clients emphasize experimentation, discovery, iteration, etc., deadlines, you may wonder about the significance of a project plan. There are a few environments in the software development spectrum where the delivery date is of top priority. 

A few examples of the above-stated circumstances are: 

● In a startup environment where the funding is phased. The startup should know that the funding runway provides the required support to deliver on time. 

● It is vital for an agency to meet client deadlines, so a software development plan is crucial. A software development company always drafts a plan before starting the development procedure. This is especially significant when the agency charges based on materials and time. 

Now that we know how important it is to draft a software development plan, let us go over a few steps to create a robust plan. 

How to create a project plan for software development in 10 steps?

1. Define your project workflow

Defining the workflow means that you have to define the different phases of your software development project without diving much into the nitty, gritty of tasks. This step enables you to group the different tasks without diving into much detail. More often, there is much emphasis on the launch and delivery phase that further leads to the misalignment of the timeline. That said, the lead time for the following and preceding phases shouldn't be ignored too. 

2. Set your planning horizon

The longer a project is, the higher are the chances for future estimates to be inaccurate. Hence, drafting a detailed plan for something that will likely last longer than 6 months can be somewhat less valuable. You should set a rough horizon to make sure that things move forward in the right direction and as expected.

This is because a lot of unknowns may impact the timeline of a project and may also result in significant inaccuracies. 

3. Break it down into development phases

After you have a significant idea of the deliverables required for a particular project, you can initiate the process by separating them into a few discrete logical packages. One of the best ways to achieve a successful breakdown for your agile project is by employing the user story map. This way, you can break down all small deliverables according to the chronological order of the user map. 

4. Give your team the context

When you estimate the timeline of your project, resist the urge to prime your developer team with opinions or suggestions of specific tasks. The best way to assess the timeline of your project is the blind estimate fashion. In this case, every team submits their views, and then the views are put in front of the team so that no strong voice influences others. With the help of various techniques, you can estimate the timeline of each phase to achieve this. 

5. Uncover estimation constraints

When it comes to estimating different aspects for your project roughly, prompt by putting further questions, like, "how to achieve this", "why", "explain the process more in detail", etc. This will allow the team members to explore the rough estimates in their minds. This type of questioning pattern will enable you and your team members to make assumptions. It also allows them to revisit the ideas and concepts as they discover new information as a part of reflection. 

6. Question the estimates

Allow a contingency for all unforeseen complexities, and the additional scope is wise for a company offering software development services. The more complex and longer a project is, the more contingency is required. Though it is because of the optimistic biases made by humans, the budget of a project is either estimated over or under. Hence, it is advisable to build a 10-25% contingency to be on the safe side. 

7. Plan time for the validated learning

No denying the fact that projects may experience delays. Hence, you must stay prepared for all unexpected delays and know how to deal with such circumstances. The best way to achieve the goal of your project is to maintain a risks and issues log along with a list of mitigations that will help you overcome them. 

A few projects undertake a "premortem", defined as a session before starting a project to analyze the things that may go wrong during the process. All other accompanying mitigations are discussed as well. 

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8. Plan the transition to service

A few well-delivered projects can fall at the final hurdles because less time is allowed to handle the completed systems. A crucial part of project management is to make the project remembered, so it is important to get things right related to maintaining a good relationship with your business and client.

Ensure to get along with the service delivery teams, who often have a "transition to service" checklist, full of non-functional requirements. All of these are usually baked into the plan of a software development project from the beginning. 

9. Post-project review & optimization

Another aspect of the software development project that is often neglected is the lessons learned session. This usually happens because after a project is completed, the project teams often disband quickly with the resources and re-allocate them to other initiatives. Unfortunately, it leads to a lack of learning and pressurises all future projects to spend time learning all lessons over and over again. 

This turns out to be a costly and inefficient affair. Also, it is critical to measure the metrics you set down in the business case in the post-project phase. This way, you will know if your project is delivering the expected revenue and, if not, how to enhance and optimize it for benefits. 

10. Milestones

As we have already mentioned in our blog earlier, a software development project plan should have incremental and separate milestones instead of having a final delivery bang at the end. This will help your project team to determine whether they are on the right track and will they be able to achieve the smaller deadlines. It also enables you to have a good handle on the health of the engagement. 

Conclusion

For all complex projects, having a blend of traditional approaches to project management is highly recommended. When hiring software development services, ensure that the team values their project plan. Software development plans are still required to achieve the desired goals. Ensure that the goals are clear and documented properly. Also, all essentials should be communicated along the way. 

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