How to Overcome 5 Biggest Challenges in Software Development Projects
Software development has been notoriously difficult to manage since computer technology was invented. Project managers have devised many methods of planning, organizing, and executing software projects.
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The waterfall method works well as a solution to planning for the problems that can cause large institutional projects to fail. On the other side of the spectrum, the agile method is well suited to small development teams working closely with customers.
Regardless of their size, software development projects will face a set of common problems. In this article, we’ll consider five of the biggest challenges they face, and ways they can be overcome.
Miscommunication between Managers and Development Teams
Organizational problems often begin outside of the development team. When miscommunication crops up between business management and a developer team, it can lead to a failed project.
Failure can take many forms, however.
A project might be delivered on-time and under budget, but the features included don’t meet user expectations.
In other cases, high expectations by business managers can lead to unrealistic deadlines that can’t be met with the available resources.
The best way to handle communication between business leaders and development teams is to have dedicated staff like business analysts to maintain open channels between both groups. These go-between team members specialize in understanding the concerns of both sides.
They facilitate better communication during the planning and feedback phases of a project.
Lack of Collaboration within Development Teams
Communication can break down inside of a team as well. When team members with overlapping responsibilities or dependencies fail to communicate, it can cause project milestones to be delayed, features omitted, and quality issues to crop up during testing.
Teams operate at their best when they have a synergistic culture.
There’s a balance of independent and collaborative time that works best for every group of developers. It’s up to project managers to discover the best mix of communication tools and group discussions for their team’s skill sets and personalities.
Choosing an effective set of collaboration tools can also get a project off on the right foot.
Lack of Flexibility After Initial Planning
Another common challenge for software development projects is handling problems that happen after the initial planning phase is complete.
Sometimes flaws in the initial plan are discovered after significant time has been spent building an app. In other cases, new features are requested by the customer, or key requirements were missed during planning.
When the initial plan didn’t take these risks into account, the developer team will struggle to meet its deadline.
Sometimes technology is simply too complex or fluid to make a perfect plan that will survive the duration of the project.
It’s best to set aside time and resources for the possibility that the plan will change in a significant way. If everything goes smoothly, that time can be devoted to testing and optimization.
Choosing the Right Technology Stack for a Project
Technology today has a bewildering set of options for a software development project. They all have their pros and cons independent of your development team, but your team’s skill level with a given technology stack is also a consideration.
When the chosen technology tools are mismatched with the requirements of a project, though, it can lead to setbacks.
Performance goals might be impossible to meet, or it may prove difficult to maintain the finished application after its release.
One of the key decisions during planning is the technology tools and platforms the team will use to craft an app.
Both the technical and organizational pros and cons of each option should be carefully weighed. If you have enough experience and skill on your team with a given platform and it fulfills the technology needs for the project, it’ll probably be a good choice.
That said, don’t be afraid to give your team the training needed to use a platform that will provide better results than the technologies they’ve used in the past.
Recruiting the Right Mix of Skill Sets
When it comes to putting together a development team for a new project, selecting the right mix of skills and personalities are both keys to success.
The skills needed to put together a good team comes from experience, and it’s central to the role of a project manager.
Sometimes projects are hobbled by a lack of key technical skills, or collaboration may suffer because a team has too many independent coders and not enough social personalities.
Team building for a software project can be like drafting players for a sports team. There will be a set of technical skills that need to be filled, and most project managers know how many people for each skill set will be needed given the size of the project and time available.
Beyond that, each team member’s experience with the development method chosen is also a factor. A team of agile developers will need time to adjust to a heavily documented and planned project, for example.
On the more informal side of team selection is the chemistry of different personalities in a group and the dynamics that teams have at different sizes. All these factors go into creating an effective team.
The technologies that underlie today’s software continue to evolve rapidly.
The technical potential of these technologies has eclipsed the platforms that were used to create software a generation ago, but the challenges of pulling off a successful project haven’t left us.
That’s because much of the difficulty in software development lies in the human elements of a project: Communication, planning, risk management, and group dynamics.
When the human factors are out of sync, then development teams can become less effective and unable to recover from unplanned changes or missed opportunities.
Project managers with the right skill set can put together the most effective team. When these challenges are well managed, projects will end with satisfied customers.
Ashley Wilson is a content creator, writing about business and tech. She has been known to reference movies in casual conversation and enjoys baking homemade treats for her husband and their two felines, Lady and Gaga. You can get in touch with Ashley via Twitter.