Stellar results cannot be achieved from a poorly planned development process. The key to stability and efficiency lies in project planning.
Our first step is to identify the project requirements. If you are doing this in-house, you’ll need to adopt a dispassionate approach here and try to strike a balance between shooting for the stars and coming up with a viable plan.
Prioritize the discovery phase
We complete a requirements analysis that ropes in key stakeholders, end users, and the development team. This helps us get a clear vision of what needs to be done and avoids the trap of revisions having to be made along the way.
Our thorough requirements analysis involves the following steps:
Identify relevant stakeholders and end users
We identify the stakeholders who will serve as project sponsors. That is, they’ll have the final word when it comes to determining the project's scope. If you are working in-house, this is where you start nailing down exactly what you want and who gets to sign off on various parts.
We also work with the client to clearly identify their end users. After all, the end goal is to meet their needs and preferences.
Run the project discovery
The next step is project discovery. This is our process, based on eight years of IT experience:
- Start by asking the client for their technical requirements.
- Discuss the client’s long-term business needs.
- Take an inventory of everything the client has in their development arsenal, from the cloud to their repositories.
- Compare the client’s initial requirements with what the discovery team has found so far.
- Get on a call with the client and have deeper discussions. The goal here is to gain an understanding of the customer problems they are trying to solve.
- Work closely with the client as we come up with a roadmap. This collaborative approach allows the client to rely on our technical expertise while ensuring we’re putting in milestones that meet their business needs.
We keep the communication lines open. Allowing the client to stay involved helps ensure we’re meeting expectations.
Analyze feasibility and prioritize requirements
It may not be possible to deliver all the requirements gathered from the stakeholders and end users. So we determine which ones are feasible and necessary, then prioritize accordingly. Here are some ways to go about the process.
- Make a list of clearly worded requirements that feed the company’s bottom line.
- Rank the requirements from ‘most critical’ to ‘nice-to-have.’
- Conduct an impact analysis that considers the benefits and consequences of creating each requirement.
- Resolve conflicting requirements by thoroughly discussing them with key stakeholders.
- Discuss the feasibility of the requirements with the development team (are they actually doable in technical terms?)
The analysis should result in a final list of features the teams will bring to fruition later. At this point, it’s time to check in with the stakeholders to make sure they are fully on board.
Get stakeholders to sign off on the requirements
Once you’ve homed in on specific requirements, prepare detailed descriptions and have the stakeholders sign off on the final list. This will prevent any confusion and conflict along the way and avert your teams from working outside the project's scope.
Taking the time to run discovery lets you gain a deep understanding of the project. That means you’ll be much better equipped to deliver an end product that meets expectations and won’t require time-consuming and costly revisions.
Now that you’ve finalized and approved your list, you need to clearly communicate it to the various responsible teams. Which is where the roadmap comes in.
Create a roadmap
The roadmap should give a clear picture of the product requirements and timelines, recorded and approved. This means your teams will be able to focus on tasks that have a real impact, make decisions independently, and avoid scope creep.
Roadmaps are commonly presented as a visual guide that outlines the following:
- Company vision and business strategy
- The project’s scope
- The roadmap’s audience and their responsibilities (for example, executives as product owners, project managers, and the development team)
- User stories (i.e., product features and how they impact the end user)
Make sure you get continuous feedback from key stakeholders and update the roadmap as needed.
Adopt a DevOps culture
DevOps methodology can significantly improve the processes in your company. It promotes collaboration between traditionally siloed development and operations teams and improves delivery by keeping the development process lean and agile.
The DevOps methodology helps teams maximize software development efficiency by promoting collaboration, automation, and rapid deployment. To be specific, it emphasizes the following principles:
- Cross-functional collaboration. Organize teams that include engineers, software architects, IT operations specialists, cybersecurity experts, and QA testers.
- Automation. Turn to CI/CD, which enables frequent software rollouts by bringing automation into the development process. The combined practices of continuous integration (CI) and continuous deployment (CD) entail constant integrations of small changes and the automatic release of new functionalities.
- Shorter development cycles. Go for iterative development cycles that break down complex code bases so developers can work on smaller and more manageable pieces.
Proper management of the people component is integral to lean operations, so take stock of the following tips:
Limit your work in progress (WIP)
Too many open tasks can put too much pressure on your teams, making them overwhelmed and a lot less effective. Productivity tends to decline as multitasking shoots up, so limit your work in progress. Project managers often use a kanban board to set the maximum number of tasks per column, allowing teams to quickly clear their pending tasks.
Reduce work hours
Software development requires creativity, and you simply can’t squeeze creative juices out of developers exhausted from working long hours. Not only will they fail to come up with great solutions, but they could end up writing code with too many bugs. This makes the whole process of working extra hours self-defeating, as your teams will spend a lot of time fixing errors.
Set and track KPIs
You can only effectively manage what you can measure. So, make sure you’re tracking relevant metrics. If your process is based on DevOps principles, here’s a list of KPIs that will help you measure your team’s efficiency:
- Deployment frequency (DF) – measures how often you release code to pre-production, production, and end users.
- Lead time for changes (LT) – measures how long it takes for your team to implement and deliver code after agreeing to a code change.
- Change failure rate (CFR) – measures the rate of deployment failures or code changes that require remediations.
- Defect escape rate – measures the number of bugs in the final product.
- Mean time to recovery (MTTR) – measures the time it takes to recover from service interruptions.
- Engineering reliability – measures operational performance, network latency, and the factors demonstrating your teams’ capacity to meet the client’s goals and expectations.
The right KPIs will not only help you monitor the efficiency of your teams but also improve it.
Avoid technical debt
Technical debt refers to the deliberate use of less-than-stellar coding to achieve a faster turnaround. It involves a conscious decision, as opposed to mistakenly creating a faulty architecture due to bad code.
Although technical debt can speed up the development process, it can also result in system complexity that eventually slows down your team. As much as possible, avoid taking the debt and write proper code from the start.
DevOps practices like automated deployment and small work batches help prevent the accumulation of technical debt, but they’re not a cure-all. Here are some tips to help you counter the problem:
- Communicate the compounding costs of technical debt to key decision-makers.
- Identify the problematic areas in your codebase.
- Eliminate problematic code by refactoring or replacing them with clean code.
Just like actual financial loans, technical debt can blow up when not promptly paid off.
Outsource software development
If you’ve read this far, then you are likely new to the lean DevOps approach. Hopefully, this article has shed some light on why it is an efficient way to achieve your goals.
Of course, you might want to skip the learning curve and hassles of managing the process in-house and outsource to a DevOps agency. As one of the early adopters of DevOps, Alpacked has become particularly adept at using the methodology to decrease time-to-market, reducing the deployment cycle by up to 70%.
You can turn to us for DevOps assessment, building software from scratch, consulting, and deployment management.