How to Start a Software Project — Step by Step
by Andreea Oproiu & Diana Prisăcar • almost 3 years ago • 6 min read
Starting a development project requires a holistic approach in order to set up the entire team for success. Besides the technical skills, there are many logistic, communication or management-related techniques that need to be taken into consideration for effectively blending all the requirements and goals together.
First comes the idea, then comes the work. Hopefully, as structured as possible. Because software projects are quite complex, to begin with, they require a high level of attention to detail and in best-case scenarios, a high level of foreseeing their prone to be pitfalls in order to avoid them.
Good news is — you can follow these steps if you want a clear path for your new project:
1. Set up your team
Putting the puzzle together starts with a dream team. You need to define a core team that can handle each aspect of the project. For this, you have to keep an eye on these aspects:
- Skills - do their skills match your current project?
- Experience - does their background recommend them?
- Budget - are they suitable financially wise?
- Stakeholders - what are their communication needs? Is your team compatible with them?
2. Get the team involved
For professionals to give their best on a project, the most helpful phase is giving them an overview. This leads to an in-depth understanding, and therefore to get their buy-in and involvement in the project early.
Consequently, it’s best to keep your peers aware and involved when you set requirements, shape the team or define the objectives. Whilst you don’t want to add loads of overhead (and it’s often tricky to get people involved when they are busy!), the best way to kick-off a project is to set and manage expectations early. By getting your team involved upfront, they will feel more included and involved in the decision-making and therefore have a much more positive impression of the project as a whole.
Some areas you might want to consider discussing in the early phase of the project are:
- What is the team’s preferred approach to work on this specific project?
- What are the feasible methods of getting feedback from the client/stakeholder?
- How does the team want to communicate with the client/stakeholder?
- What would be the necessary internal meetings and how often?
- Should catch-ups be ad-hoc and informal, or more planned in?
3. Managing relationships with stakeholders
- Define who is involved and when
Outlining and defining the stakeholder involvement should be part of the project initiation process. Who is doing tasks, who is signing off deliverables or reviewing and giving feedback?
- Setting project communication
Setting a clear project communication plan is useful for gaining more control and vision over your work. Define when and how the communication will take place with the stakeholders, and then sync your plan with the team and identify where their involvement will be.
4. Select the project methodology
From how the client works to how your team is set up, this will impact the type of methodology you choose for the project.
Think of all the aspects that need to be taken into account — timing, budget, flexibility (both your team’s and the client’s) and ultimately the scope of the project, and the methodology will come accordingly.
5. Choose the tools to build with
Although many managers are attracted to choosing more tools than needed, you should avoid unnecessary ones and the most important aspect is to consider how well they integrate. Define clearly the communication, project planning and project management tools you’ll choose to use.
Part of the kit that gets the Sensidev motors going, we have JIRA for project management, Slack for communication, Zeplin for design, GitHub for code hosting, version control and collaboration.
6. Identify risks in advance
Managing risks requires identifying them beforehand. The success of a project goes hand in hand with the team’s ability to mitigate risks and being prepared for more potential scenarios. All the previously mentioned steps - defining the team (internal and extended), the tools and the methodologies act as a foundation for this step of the process — risk management plan and strategy.
The best approach to this plan is to outline all the possible stakes and define their probability (high to low), impact on the project (high to low) and status (new to closed). The materials may come out hefty, but their results will be made to measure.
For example, the agile methodology is a great way to mitigate risks. By using the correct Agile ceremonies and artefacts, teams can quickly identify and address these risks. Also, the iterative process allows for quick feedback from the end-users and enables teams to adapt and respond to it.
7. Set up the product requirements
Before kicking off the project properly and gathering requirements in the planning stage, it’s best to outline what you already know. Look at the project from all the angles: the business, the client and the user, and put all their needs on paper. This will ensure a thorough understanding both of the background and the context for this specific proposition.
8. Define the scope and deliverables
It’s ideal to get the entire team involved in this planning step. The most facilitative methods for this are processes like story mapping, which can help you flush out and prioritise the deliverables.
Also, here are a few tips for prioritising them:
- focus on the high impact - high urgency items at first
- continue with the high impact - low urgency ones
- revisit high urgency - low impact
- leave the low impact - low urgency one at the very last step of your process
9. Structure your budget and timings
Following on from your list of deliverables, you now have a rough project scope and need to put timings and roles against this. Work with the team to estimate timings and the team shape against this.
Depending on the process, you might be estimating in Sprints or in phases with sign-offs, but make sure to sync with the team on these, in order to set the right perimeters. Again, don’t force a process onto a project, make sure the process fits the project. Agree on the team shape and then put costs against this.
10. Finally — measure success
How do you measure the success of a project? Well, it depends on each one of them, and it is up to you and your team to create the criteria for this success. This will also help you along the way, to review and understand what works, what doesn’t and when a task is successfully delivered.
Are there any other steps that you take into consideration when initiating a software project?
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