If you’ve been in or dealt with the software industry for any length of time, you’re probably familiar with the truth that software projects always take longer than planned. There are, of course, several reasons this is the case. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the more common ones and offer suggestions on how to prevent them from arising.
When developing software, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of tasks to complete and various resources to manage between these tasks. Moreover, these tasks require a hierarchy between the other tasks and resources for everything to flow smoothly. In other words, it takes a great deal of time and experience to create and manage an accurate plan for developing software.
Unfortunately, every client won’t want to go through the time and cost of creating a plan. Instead, they want all of their resources spent on development. And this is fine, but they need to be aware that the plan for their project is nothing more than a loose roadmap.
Another issue that arises frequently in software planning is that the developers provide overly-optimistic estimates. They believe they can complete a task in the development process quicker than they actually can. Good project management accounts for this by having a buffer on estimates to account for these sorts of issues.
When creating your plan, make sure your team has the knowledge and experience to account for non-development tasks. Things like setting up environments and test plans aid in creating good software. When a software plan doesn’t account for these small tasks, they can quickly pile up and make a project take longer than estimated.
Changing or Ambiguous Requirements
Software is built with project plans and project plans are based on requirements. If requirements change, are missing from the beginning, or just vague and translucid, it will impact the time required to complete the project. This should go without saying.
But one way a project can be stalled is through unclear requirements. When tasks are ambiguous, a developer is going to either guess, which causes extra work later, or they’ll ask for clarification. If they have to ask for clarification, time is spent on asking, awaiting the answer, and then clarifying it, which can slow down the project, especially if it’s a task that other tasks depend on. Both of these will impact the timeline of the project.
When you’re deciding on the requirements for your software plan, take your time and make sure all of them are detailed and clear.
Losing Key Developers
Software development, as an industry, is in constant flux. Developers usually only stay at any one of their positions for one to two years, then they move on for more experience and higher pay. It’s not uncommon for a key developer on a project to leave for another job.
A project team develops a sort of momentum when working on a single project for a long period of time. If one of the key developers leave during the development, it may cause serious delays with the project. The development company will need to replace the developer, or the work will need to be split among the remaining ones. And even if the developer is replaced, that replacement will need time to ramp up and familiarize themselves with the codebase.
If you’re the owner of the product, and you’re having a third-party company develop it for you, you can find out what sort of backup plan they have in the event of staff changes. A software company with a decent-sized team can recover from one loss pretty quickly. Smaller companies may have partners or outsource developers they keep on retainer for such instances.
Decisions and Information
Making decisions and providing software developers with necessary information is one aspect of the project that is completely in the control of the client.
As your software is being developed, there will come times where the development team will need input. They might require art from your creative department or documentation from your IT department. They could need approval on a design or engineering change that’s necessary.
If you want to keep the development moving at a steady clip, you need to communicate with the key people across your departments and with your stakeholders about having a snappy turnaround on decisions and information that the project needs.
This certainly isn’t the final say when it comes to incidents and practices that can slow down a software project, but it covers many of the most common issues companies face when experiencing longer-than-anticipated development times. Keep them in mind when going into your next project for a better chance at it finishing on time.