What is project management and why is it a critical success factor in software development? These are the questions about project management we’ll answer for you today. We’ll cover the primary differences between waterfall and agile project management processes and discuss the seven steps you need to take to see development to completion.
Waterfall vs. Agile. Which project management process is better?
Project management is an art of planning and executing projects using time-management, tracking, risk management, and troubleshooting. This process helps businesses get from point A to point B along the path of least resistance without taking unnecessary and costly detours.
Two of the most common project management approaches are Waterfall and Agile. The former was adopted from traditional businesses where the second step of the process could not begin before the first one was complete. The latter approach is an iterative and feature-oriented approach that works well for small teams and time-sensitive projects. Agile development does not require a step-by-step plan, using sprints of predetermined length and deliverables instead.
Each project management process, Waterfall and Agile, has its advantages and disadvantages. For instance, a fixed-price project and an MVP can benefit from a well-documented Waterfall approach, as all requirements are delivered upfront, and changes are unlikely. However, if you choose the time and material model, Agile development might suit the project better, as it provides quicker results and is better equipped to dealing with requirement changes on the fly.
A step-by-step guide to project management
If you are wondering how to become a project manager, the answer is you will need lots of practice. The role of a project manager is critical to the product’s success. However, you can’t work on knowledge and education alone. To hone your skill, you will need to go through this 7-step process time after time until you reach perfection.
Step 1. Requirements Elicitation
This step allows you to focus the project’s vision and collect actionable requirements from stakeholders, who have a direct or indirect influence on the requirements, like product owners or end-users. The elicitation process can comprise interviews, user cases, and scenarios. You need to consider the requirements of all stakeholders and get a detailed list of end-user needs, that will form the basis of the system requirement specification (SRS).
Step 2. SRS Development
High-quality SRS means you have more chance of meeting the project’s budget. At this step, clarify, organize and prioritize the user needs gather in the previous step. There are several levels of granularity to requirements, from the broader definitions of the project’s scope and goals to the finer details of specific features and procedures. To ensure the high quality of an SRS for business software solutions, devise several features for every user need and develop several test cases for every feature.
Step 3. Project Estimation
This step is critical for both startups and established businesses as a single day of delay can make or break the project. Based on an SRS you should estimate the time necessary for every specialist’s work, including developers, designers, SEO experts. Estimate two timelines for every task: an optimistic and a pessimistic one. After you have estimated the time necessary for every task, use Monte-Carlo analysis to estimate the likelihood of completing the project within the estimated amount of time. You can also use the Gantt Chart to visualize the separate stages of the in-house or outsourcing development process over time and get a better understanding of its time frame. Based on the development timeline you can estimate the project’s budget.
You might want to hurry the developers along, but before you choose speed over quality, set your software development priorities straight.
Step 4. Scope Reduction
If the project estimation meets your budget and timeline requirements, you can skip this step and move onto step 5. However, if you can’t afford the time or money the project will take, go over the requirements and features one more time. You need to interview the stakeholders again and identify the major features the project can’t go without. You need to reduce the project to a minimum viable product (MVP) that has a market value. Once you reevaluate the project with a reduced scope, move to the next step.
Step 5. Development Planning
This step allows you to have a clear picture of every development stage and the whole timeline for specific experts working on the project. A detailed plan will allow you to manage human resources of software development services provider in case tasks are not completed on time. Use the same Gantt Chart you have developed in step 3, but make it more detailed with specific tasks assigned to individual developers, designers or other specialists.
Step 6. Risk Management
Most software projects fail because of unforeseen risks, so risk assessment and management is a critical step necessary to ensure a positive outcome. To assess risk, use a premortem method. Unlike a postmortem autopsy performed after the patient is dead, a premortem analysis is conducted at the outset of the project. Assume the worst has happened, and the project has failed, then move back along the timeline and propose the reasons for its untimely death.
For every risk, evaluate the likelihood and impact, creating a risk matrix. Address the problems at the upper right corner of the matrix that are the most likely and that can have a severe impact. If you are new to project management, you will need to consult the project’s lead developer to assess the risks. Do not discard the risk matrix after the project is complete; software companies store them in a risk registry extended after every new project.
Step 7. Project Execution
Even the most careful plans sometimes fail, so to ensure the project is finished on time, you need to keep the hand on its pulse. Start each day with evaluating the project’s progress according to the Gantt Chart you have created in step 5. If there are any problems, analyze their reasons and propose actionable solutions. Unexpected risks can arise, both technical and personal. The former can be resolved by inviting consultants while extra specialists are often enough to solve the latter. Every other week go back to your risk registry, analyze and broaden it with new troubles you have faced.
Project management starts long before the developers begin coding. High-quality preparations, like requirements elicitation, scope assessment, and risk management are invaluable for the project’s success.