Even the best software development projects can get delayed - anyone who has been in the business for any appreciable length of time can tell you just how true that is. Sometimes, an upgrade takes longer than expected. Sometimes an enhancement has unintended results (read: it breaks something else and that something now has to be fixed). When these things happen every once in awhile, they really aren't anything to worry about. They're a natural part of a constantly evolving process.
But if they're happening all the time, every time... that is another story altogether.
Planning, or a Lack Thereof
Whenever you start trying to figure out exactly how these things are happening, you'll usually narrow things down to two distinct issues: poor planning or miscommunication. The thing to understand about this, however, is that they're far more closely related than you probably realize.
One of the most mission-critical things for you to understand is that planning is a two-way street between you and your development team. There is a constant sense of give and take. You need to sit down and create a detailed plan that includes software requirements because they need you to sit down and create a detailed plan that includes software requirements.
There are certain pieces of information that they will need before they start developing, as it all goes into communicating what your vision actually is and how they should properly follow it. It's all about narrowing down the expectations of the scope and results of the project for both you and your developers and if you skip this step, it's a bit like being lost at sea without a compass. You're pretty sure land is "that way," but is that something you really want to bet on in the moment?
The Problem With Miscommunication
But the problem with (a lack of) planning doesn't end there. In many ways, it's just beginning - creating a ripple effect in the worst possible way.
Poor planning can and likely will lead to many miscommunications, which itself is a critical part of the software development process. When you're building a piece of custom software designed to better support and empower your business processes, for example, sometimes things may change that alter or expand the scope of the project. These changes can't be enacted on a whim. They need to be in writing and agreed to by both you AND the developers.
Those changes continue the ripple effect, impacting both the timeline of the project and the ultimate budget. Were those covered? Were they even considered? Were you aware of them to begin with?
Your software development team likely already understands the necessity of good planning and good communication - after all, they've probably been in situations where there was a genuine lack of one or both of these things and they aren't eager to recreate those circumstances anytime soon.
If you are constantly running into issues with software projects - if the scope is rapidly expanding and you just can't seem to control it, if the timeline for delivery keeps moving farther and farther towards the horizon or if you absolutely can't believe how much your budget has increased in a short amount of time - it's absolutely time to make a chance. Sometimes, that change will require you to look within - at your own planning and communications skills. Other times, it's an indicator that you will need to switch development teams. Maybe an outsourced services provider would be more in line with what you're trying to accomplish.
But in any event, something has to give and the only way to fix these consistent software delays and issues is with genuine action. Because to be perfectly honest, at this point, you literally cannot afford not to.
About the Author
Lance Keene, the founder of Keene Systems,
has 40 years’ experience in custom software development.
Over the course of his career he and his team have written software for companies such as Mack Trucks,
Bayer, Calvin Klein, Hershey, IBM, Kimberly Clark, Lindt, Sara Lee, Pfizer, BAE, L'oreal, Ocean Spray, Dana Farber, Tootsie Rolls, Guiness, Texas Instruments, and CVS.
(see full client list)
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