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How to Create a Software Development Project Plan

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Most software projects start with high expectations. But things often go awry during production and projects fail to get off the ground.

While you can’t always prevent a project from going off the rails, you can increase your chances of success by sticking to a solid project plan. 

Keep reading to learn why a software development project plan is important and see what a step-by-step guide to creating one looks like.

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Why You Need to Make a Plan

Without a doubt, having a plan is one of the most important things you can do when producing software. With that in mind, here are some of the top reasons you need to have a plan in place.

Identify Potential Barriers

DevOps leaders often run into trouble when starting a project because they fail to fully consider the resources required to complete it. 

Generally, teams run into issues like staffing restraints, a lack of bandwidth, budgetary limitations, and hidden complexity. 

Connectivity and network constraints can also pose unique development challenges, especially for businesses bringing digital services into emerging markets. 

By forming a plan ahead of time, it’s possible to account for potential barriers and make accommodations to avoid them.

Communicate More Effectively

Another top reason projects fail is poor communication between project participants.

That’s because managers, developers, designers, and security teams tend to have differing views on how software should operate. 

By forming a solid plan and going over details as a group early on, you can prevent small miscommunications from turning into catastrophic failures. 

Set Expectations

It is also necessary to outline expectations at the beginning of a software development project. 

In other words, executives and clients may have differing views and expectations regarding the shape or direction of a software project coming from managers and developers.

For the best results, all parties need to come together to go over the general direction of a project and determine what’s possible — and what to avoid. 

Outline Security and Privacy Issues

Security and privacy requirements can change drastically over time. 

On the security side, new threats and vulnerabilities can arise overnight, requiring teams to adjust their strategies and policies. And governments and watchdog groups are increasingly cracking down on privacy violations and penalizing companies that fail to disclose data usage or provide consent.

For this reason, security and privacy admins should visit with DevOps teams before the start of a new project to provide key updates, answer questions, and offer input and best practices.

Improve Your Process

Continuous improvement is now a top need for software companies. To remain competitive, teams need to constantly focus on making software development faster, more efficient, and more affordable. 

In light of this, forming a preliminary plan can help your team share feedback and improve output and delivery. 

Create Your Software Development Project Plan

Now you understand why you need a software development plan. Here is a step-by-step breakdown to guide you through the process.

Software Development Project Plan

1. Define Your Goals

The first thing you should do is define the goals for your development project. 

Setting basic goals helps team members visualize the end goal and determine what they need to make it a reality. If you don’t clearly define goals, you could run into a situation where everyone has different expectations and objectives. 

To that end, it’s critical to set basic expectations early. Once in a while, you should also gather your team and review your original expectations to make sure the project is moving in the right direction.

2. Determine Your Needs

After you form a vision, the next step is to figure out what you need to make it a reality. 

To clarify, you should assess the size and scope of the project and make sure you have the resources in place to bring it to fruition. 

For example, you might need to obtain more technical resources or personnel. At the same time, you may have to expand your budget or bring in a third-party vendor or consultant.

Be honest and open about your needs early on with higher-ups and communicate what you need to get the job done. This way, you can avoid running into any potential barriers once you start.

3. Assemble Your Team 

Your team will most likely have other objectives and responsibilities that could get in the way of production. This could make it difficult or even impossible to devote the necessary time to a new project.

Take a good look at your lineup of DevOps professionals and try to get a sense of each person’s current workload. By having visibility into each person’s workflow, you can have an easier time prioritizing deadlines and assigning projects.

Don’t be afraid to pull someone off one project and assign them to another if the project is more important. Sometimes, effective management requires triaging projects and moving people around strategically.

Further, you should assign roles and responsibilities at the start of a software project. Have team members take ownership of various project components to hold them accountable and keep the project on track.

4. Assess Your Data Management Strategy 

Data is one of the most important elements of any software development project. As such, it pays to check that your data is clean, fresh, reliable, and in compliance with any specific regulations before starting out.

Begin by identifying all data sources. You should also carefully consider who can access data during the project and when they can access it to prevent security violations.

5. Create a Schedule

Software development can take a long time, especially if you’re building a new program or application. As seasoned developers know all too well, projects almost always run over schedule. 

To avoid potential scheduling conflicts, it pays to create a production schedule and assign deadlines while understanding they might have to move.

6. Be Flexible 

Projects can change significantly mid-flight. This is particularly true when iterating and improving software across different versions.

For the most part, you should strive to be flexible about software production. Be sure to check in daily and keep tabs on how the different stages of development are progressing.

As we mentioned before, keep in mind that you might need to extend deadlines, request more budgetary allowance, and bring in more team members as projects get bigger and more complex.

In some cases, managing software development also requires lighting a fire under team members from time to time.

Make Planning Easier With Plutora

As a manager, you need deep visibility into your production cycles. This is one of the most important enabling factors for success. 

To improve visibility, more and more DevOps leaders are turning to Plutora’s Value Stream Management (VSM) SaaS platform. 

Plutora lets you visualize workflows and track projects from idea to delivery, with real-time updates and value stream flow metrics (VSFM). The platform also makes it easy to communicate key factors like project milestones, dependencies, and delivery timelines. 

In sum, managing software development is no easy task. But when you have the right management platform in place, the process becomes much more efficient. By using Plutora, it’s possible to accelerate software delivery while improving quality and collaboration — resulting in a better all-around system for stakeholders, DevOps members, customers, and project leaders. For further reading, be sure to check out Plutora’s eGuide on value steam flow metrics. This guide explains how VSFM improves day-to-day tasks and decision-making. Download your free copy here or jump into a product demo to see the power of Plutora firsthand.

Justin Reynolds

This post was written by Justin Reynolds. Justin is a freelance writer who enjoys telling stories about how technology, science, and creativity can help workers be more productive. In his spare time, he likes seeing or playing live music, hiking, and traveling.