We covered ‘Planning and Documentation’ in our previous article. The next important factor to consider when building web apps is people.
The ‘Planning and Documentation’ phase cements the essential foundation for the relationship between developer and client, and depending on the size and complexity of the project, could be a lengthy one.
As with any project, it is paramount that the lines of communication are kept open between the client and project team at all stages. This sounds elementary, but it cannot be stressed enough.
Unlike building a house where you can see when the foundations are poured and the walls built, software is much harder to gauge progress. It can appear to be taking shape one day and the next it can be completely broken, which can be frustrating. All the moving parts of software are interlocked. Developers often have to disassemble some elements to make them fit with new sections of code.
Project meetings can be buried in technical mumbo-jumbo with the many complex layers of software, so it’s essential that the project team strip away these layers and keep the client as informed as possible so they can make critical decisions about their software. This can be done remotely, but regular face-to-face meetings are far more effective when working through complex issues.
In our experience most developers hate meetings, but regular meetings and project review with both the client and developers in the one room create a united team approach – it removes the ‘us and them’ mentality.
Access to the key players is vital at this stage. Although it’s important for all communication to be delivered via a single point of contact, both the client and development team must provide open and honest access to all relevant parties.
For example, if you are building an office management system or CRM, then the input of the people who use it daily (office manager, admin people, sales team) is critical. If the CEO’s mother is going to have the last say on the project, yet have no involvement in the construction, she needs to be at least interviewed early.
Scope creep is the cancer of software development. It starts out small and barely noticeable – an idea, “wouldn’t it be cool if …” and before you know it your cool idea is costing a fortune in medical bills and threatening to kill the project.
It’s common, in fact expected that the scope will change as the project progresses, so it’s important to identify the costing of each idea early. The phrase, “wouldn’t it be cool if …” should be immediately followed by “what are the cost benefits?”
Slow or halted progress can be caused by a number of issues.
The last 20% of a project places the highest amount of stress on both the project team and client. The client is usually desperate to get the project live and making money and the development team are in constant testing and review to iron out bugs. This can take longer than anticipated.
It is a common misconception that bugs are just the result of careless programming. No doubt, careless programming does cause bugs, but it’s not even a Top 10 culprit.
Remember, up until beta release only a small number of people have touched the project. It probably works well in a way that makes sense to them. However, as more people test the software, they use it in different ways and uncover errors, usability issues and an array of potentially complex issues. These must be worked through systematically. It will be tempting to redesign some things at this point. Don’t!
Launch the app as soon as you can and release updates often.
Yes – this can and does happen, especially when using offshore developers. So, what can you do to minimise risk?
As you can see, it’s all about engaging people regularly and openly. Communication throughout the software development cycle is often just about getting everyone singing from the same song sheet.
Weekly or fortnightly milestones are the most effective way we’ve found.
Jason Hawkins is a senior application strategist, information architect and director at KND. His knowledge is based on years of industry experience in taking online application ideas to reality across a broad range of industries.
KND are web and digital professionals with over 10 years in the business. We specialise in web, cloud and mobile apps, eMarketing and SEO strategy, servers, hosting and design. We work closely with our clients to achieve successful outcomes. Call us today (+61 7 3367 0600) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org) to discuss your next project.Posted by Jason Hawkins on 2 December 2011