by Steve Mezak

Meet your software development deadline with these tips

Aug 09, 2017
CIO Enterprise Applications IT Governance

The keys to success: Get input from your team at the outset, and have a definition of "done" for all development stages.

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Credit: Thinkstock

The goal of completing your software development initiative on time is pretty much a given, but in reality, deadlines are not always met. And when engineering a B2B or B2C software product, missed schedules impact an enterprise’s market plans and hurt revenue targets. Thus, the importance of accurate planning and meeting deadlines cannot be stressed enough. However, with the right mindset and good communication with your team, you can hit your development goal on time and with less pain. 

Get early input from the team

One way to help meet your software deadline (or deadlines) is to get input from your team about the development process and timeline – right from the start. This contributes to keeping software on target and avoiding any gaffes along the way.

Follow these simple practices with your engineering team from the outset, to help ensure your project is delivered on schedule and on budget:

  • Talk about overall development goals and expectations, and review all deadlines at the beginning
  • Get feedback and input on the development schedule and time estimates before it’s all finalized
  • Have your team provide timely feedback at all deliverable stages, to ensure further success as you move towards other deadlines
  • Consistently remind the team of the “big picture” consequences of missed timelines, such as lost revenue
  • And show appreciation when deadlines are met on time or ahead of schedule, and celebrate successes

It’s also important to have a team discussion on the possible scenarios that could delay the software initiative or affect deadlines. Some things will be impossible to predict when you’re planning, so be sure to allow a cushion for unpredictable setbacks, and consider all possible scenarios that could delay your effort.

Good communication keeps everyone on track

Overall, seeking preliminary input from your team and good communication keeps everyone on track. Don’t inhibit communication, and be aware of your company’s culture and style as it relates to communication. Encourage a culture where the leader’s “virtual door” is always open for discussion. If you’re outsourcing software development, bring your team close to your in-house group with video conferencing, with shared successes and challenges, and by soliciting their opinions on the project and ideas for improvement.

Seek continuous input from your in-house or outsourced software team. Daily stand-up meetings sound doable at first, but stressful deadlines and piles of work take their toll on attendance. It can be easy to neglect regular meetings, but don’t. Poor communication can be a bigger concern than security or the safety of your intellectual property. Toxic communication practices lead to a lack of general understanding of the software initiative from start; difficulty discussing problems and subsequent solutions; uncertainty about expectations and deadlines; missed opportunities to innovate; and an unhappy team, leading to sub-par work and results.

On time means all done

For a software initiative to be on time, all individual task deadlines must be met along the way. One slipped deadline makes a second miss more likely – and a third or more. Some take the attitude of, “It’s OK if we missed one deadline; it was a minor thing, anyway.” This thinking soon finds a software engineering effort so far behind schedule it becomes too costly to continue.

Make sure your software team understands what “done” means for various stages of the software road map. Make that part of the early discussion. In fact, have a definition of “done” for all the tasks along your development journey. The Study of Product Team Performance 2016 – produced by Actuation Consulting and co-presented by Accelerance – reminds us that effective teams have a clear definition of “done.” When teams own the meaning, they tend to outperform their counterparts that lack a clear target. According to the report, nearly 30 percent of product teams surveyed indicate that the product team as a whole collectively develops its definition of done. “The practice of establishing a definition of done within the team makes team members hold themselves accountable to their done definition and to each other,” notes the report, “with any benefit of management’s standardizing a definition outweighed by the demotivating effect of management handing it down as an edict.”

Don’t be too optimistic

If you are eager to move quickly with your software development initiative but concerned about missing your deadline due to lack of in-house talent – or the inability to find and hire the right team at the right cost – consider outsourcing software development as an option. Outsourcing can help you ramp up quickly, keep you on track and deliver your software on time. Just be sure to follow the above tips. Subsequently, don’t be overly optimistic about development planning schedules and deadlines. Get input from your team at the outset, and don’t assume a missed deadline is OK. Teams that are overconfident and relaxed about deadlines may rush their work later or overlook something critical – and you’ll miss that release date.