Falling behind schedule is a common headache of many project managers supervising software projects. Failing to meet deadlines doesn’t only affect the project manager’s career, but also the entire team, the company’s reputation, and future success of everyone involved.
Preliminary research and analysis, risk assessment, and careful planning are all ways to reduce the chances of failing the project. But software projects aren’t just accurate figures and functioning code. So much depends on the people who write thе code — the software development team. How to make sure the human factor doesn’t sink your project’s ship — that’s what we are talking today about.
1. Look out for pitfalls in project requirements
The best way to deal with problems is to prevent them in the first place, so before beginning work always look out for red flags. Each project manager knows certain pitfalls and has special tricks in his or her toolkit. Our experience shows that a project smells fishy if you encounter one of the following:
- Contradicting requirements. Beware, obscurity and ambiguity in the original technical requirements and specifications will certainly result in more work later on.
- Potential drawbacks in third-party backend. If the project requires integration with a third-party service, it’s a good idea to include some extra time for potential conflicts or breakage. Besides, if the backend or service isn’t yet finished, there is a risk that it won’t be functioning when the time for integration comes.
- Third-party code. When your client insists on using the code previously developed by other teams, make it clear that this is not always beneficial. In some cases, it’s easier and faster to write a feature from scratch rather than fixing and working with existing poor-quality code.
2. Build the right team
If managing large-scale software projects is your daily routine, you’ve probably experienced a striking paradox: when trying to compensate a late software project by throwing more manpower, each time you add a programmer to the team, the project falls even further behind. Why? Because you’re disrupting the team.
Obviously, a team is not just a bunch of developers assigned to the same project. It’s a bunch of developers working as a solid mechanism, compensating each other’s drawbacks and always ready to cover for fellow programmers. Building the best team starts out by picking the right people.
“It’s extremely important how the team is assembled. When choosing the right people, managers can’t rely only on technical background and certifications. It’s also important to consider each individual personality, otherwise you’ll end up with a group of experts and not necessarily a team. Ideally, team members should ‘click’ on a personal level, have certain common interest, enjoy working with each other. When you have a great team of developers, they learn from each other quickly, so it OK if not everyone is a top-notch expert. There are many types of roles within a team: the superstar, the initiator, the workaholic, the problem-solver, and many more. Truth is, you can’t build a team out of superstars.”
Sergei Plaxienko, Head of Web Development
3. Facilitate communication between developers
Most project managers would agree that communication within the development team is key to the project’s success. Of course, there are many developers out there who work independently, take on freelance jobs, or work remotely from different parts of the world. While some might argue that regular meetings and excessive interaction are a waste of time, our practice has shown that by improving communication between developers we can greatly improve the chances that the project will be completed on time, and completed well.
When we say ‘communication’, we don’t necessarily mean regular boring meetings that take up a huge chunk of developers’ time. There are many ways to facilitate interaction within the team, encourage developers to learn from each other, and minimize misunderstandings. In a previous post, we listed 10 ways for improving communication between software developers. If you find yourself in a situation where you have a group of smart, talented programmers and still struggle to complete projects on time, try those tips.
“Communication between fellow developers is a must. Take our PHP department, for example. Corporate culture there is excellent. The guys are very united and have great relationships — most of them went to the same college, many have known each other before coming to Azoft, share similar hobbies and interests. They spend a lot of time together, and not just at work. This has a great impact on building relationships within the project team — it’s easier to find a common language.”
Oleg Valiev, General Production Manager
No doubt, all software projects are different and each new task might bring unexpected challenges for the team in the middle of a development phase. However, by following some basic concepts mentioned above, project managers can minimize potential risks before even starting development. Having built a good foundation, you can make sure you have enough time and resources to finish every project well and on time.