AgileBusiness Process Optimization

Agile software development and IT process optimization: a comprehensive guide

Many software development project managers face a similar dilemma: Out of fast, cheap, and high-quality, you need to pick two. Projects completed quickly and cost-effectively often suffer from compromised code quality, while developing top-notch software on a tight deadline often makes you go significantly over budget. And although successful apps are sometimes launched cheaply and with state-of-the-art coding, that usually takes more time than you can afford. Whichever way you go, you’re sure to face challenges on the way and get stuck in project bottlenecks. But does it have to be this way? What if you managed to get closer to the ideal of having it all? You can do so by using agile methodology and optimizing software development. Curious? Read on to find out how.

Man in a blue shirt and woman in purple shirt sitting on a couch

Contents:

What is software development?

Let’s start with the basics. What is agile software development?

Agile software development is a methodology that helps eliminate waste and allows companies to build high-quality products quickly. Agile teams respond to change fast: They do this by dividing the whole project into smaller chunks (called sprints).

Software development lifecycle

Each team will divide their projects into different stages. Typically, at the end of each stage, the project manager will set milestones that will signify that the team is ready to move on to the next step.

When helping our clients, Inwedo divides the software development project into 6 stages:

  1. Requirements & vision
  2. Discovery
  3. Product design
  4. Development & quality assurance
  5. Implementation
  6. Release & maintenance

You can start optimizing the process before it even starts – that’s why the kick-off stage is of utmost importance. Always remember to start improving your project right from the planning stage.

What does the efficiency of the software development process depend on?

The likelihood that your project will be on time and on budget depends on various factors. Let’s take a closer look:

Complexity of the project

The simpler the project, the easier it is to make it efficient. Conversely, increasing the complexity of a project will likely slow things down.

The three key factors that determine the complexity of your project are technical requirements, project requirements, and deadlines.

Using tried-and-tested solutions in your software definitely decreases the technical complexity of the project, but you may be aiming to develop something never seen before. Providing more benefits to users can increase the difficulty of your dev team’s work. But it may be worth it.

You may also be working within tight budget and time constraints – this is particularly the case for smaller businesses that are trying to break through. Navigating these limitations can also add complexity to your process.

Maintaining the quality of the code

Clean code and thorough documentation of the process and all changes implemented often prove to be the keys to increasing software product development efficiency, especially at later stages of the project like QA, debugging, and post-launch maintenance.

Keeping your code to the highest standards is an investment that will definitely pay off.

Just imagine how difficult it would be to find a bug caused by one syntax error originating from using the wrong type of dash, when thousands of lines of code are messy, badly organized, and changes to the code are not documented. The more time your devs spend looking for errors like this, the more your efficiency will drop.

Team size, skillset, and performance

It goes without saying that even the best-planned projects can’t be successful without a team that can bring your vision to life.

When hiring developers, don’t skimp: Invest in top-notch talent, even if it costs more. Establish clear hiring criteria and don’t stray too far from your standards when employing team members.

Carefully evaluate how many people you will need for your project, and make sure to reach that number. Any gap between what’s needed and what you have will end up either compromising your code quality, delaying the project, or limiting the end-product’s features and capabilities. Sometimes, however, hiring a team just for a single project may not be feasible.

That’s where a software development service provider like Inwedo comes in. When outsourcing some of your work to a software house, make sure the team has plenty of experience, knows how to work together, and how to play to their strengths. Such a team of experts can help you from the very beginning, at the project kick-off, or even earlier, during a discovery workshop (more on that later).

A man with glasses writing software code.

How do you optimize the software development process?

When optimizing the software development lifecycle, it’s a good idea to start small by making improvements to a single project. If you notice these adjustments work well, you can repeat them on future projects, and over time, even apply the same principles across your whole organization (or just the dev team).

We identify 4 areas in which you can implement improvements in software development:

1. Setting clear expectations, requirements, and a project roadmap

Process optimization can start even before the project kicks off. During the planning stage, you can already identify areas that could do with a little tweaking and change things to make the project more efficient.

Having an outsider take a look at your project can provide an alternative point of view that may just end up being the game changer you need. At Inwedo, when we begin working with a client, we usually start with discovery workshops. This is something that can provide you with a clearer vision of your project, set out your goals, and help us develop an effective action plan.

Additionally, it will give us a better insight into your company and the project, so we can help identify areas for improvement early on and not waste precious time and resources in the early stages of the project.

Not to mention the fact that our team will get to meet yours and start building trust, so that once the project kicks off, we’re full steam ahead, hand in hand. If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of incorporating a discovery workshop into your software development process, we have not one but two articles outlining everything you need to know. Check them out!

When it’s time to move to the kick-off, our task force will have a sit down with your project team and commit time and attention to getting to know your company and project even better. We will help you develop the project roadmap, set meaningful milestones, develop a to-do list and divide tasks. We will also take a deeper dive into areas that can already be improved, which areas of the project might not be very realistic, and where we could potentially aim higher together. Take a behind-the-scenes look at how we carry out the kick-off meetings here.

2. Software development project management

Often, whether a project will be completed efficiently or not depends on how it’s managed. After all, even the best plan can fail if something gets lost in the process.

When trying to optimize your team’s software development processes, you can take a look at the project management aspect of it.

A good software project manager keeps their finger on the pulse throughout the project’s duration when it comes to aspects like time, resources (including human), and costs, and adjusts these on an ongoing basis as needed.

Those adjustments are a key feature of agile development. By applying the principles of agile and lean, the process can be optimized to improve reaction time, eliminate waste, and adjust the project as the situation changes. This can ultimately lead to meeting your time and budget targets and releasing your product to the market without delays.

3. Increasing the team size

More often than not, projects come across unexpected roadblocks, bottlenecks, and challenges.

If you think this might be due to a shortage of skills or capacity in your team, it might be time to get more people on board. You may look into outsourcing some of the work to a software house, which is much faster and more efficient than going through the entire hiring process for in-house devs. This is especially true if you require a very specific skill that might end up being just a one-off, so you may not require this person’s skills in the future.

The key is to realize this need for more hands on deck early on, rather than when it’s already too late – see why agile is so important? If you start noticing early signs of burnout or fatigue from your team, hire more people.

4. Automating what you can

Removing human error from the equation by automating your processes is a tried-and-tested way of increasing efficiency.

When something can be done well by an algorithm rather than a person, there’s no reason not to take that step.

Be careful, however, because there are certain areas where humans cannot be replaced. Always keep this in mind.

While automation can be costly and time-consuming in the beginning, it pays off in the long run.

You can look into automating your paperwork, QA process (to a certain degree), various aspects of project management, e.g., work distribution (like in this custom system we made for one of our clients)… the list could go on forever.

Agile is the way forward

Marketing gurus agree that to succeed, you often just need to be the first, the pioneer, the go-to in people’s minds. But to achieve that, you need speed. And for speed, you need efficiency. And for efficiency, you need optimization.

Cultivating agile software development culture in your team is a proven way of increasing the effectiveness and speed of dev teams while decreasing costs.

Don’t settle for what’s been working for you and your team so far – it can always be better. We encourage you to use what you’ve learned in this article to take a look at your processes, find key areas for improvement, and start working on optimizing them immediately.