As you might imagine, this is the most common question we get asked. Followed closely by a rather hopeful “are custom software development projects ever delivered on time?”
Tech projects and, in particular, software development projects get a bad rep. And rightly so, since 70% of IT projects finish late or over budget.
According to Monday.com , only 61% of Project Portfolio Managers apply a defined project management methodology to projects and although companies love Agile project management(53% of companies interviewed employ at least one Agile methodology), they often only adopt it piecemeal.
All of which adds up to the fact that the real cost of your custom software development is heavily dependent on whether you have the right processes in place to help you deliver on time.
But, having the right process in place starts long before you start using your chosen project methodology. So how do you work out an accurate project time frame? And what can you do to avoid going over budget?
It’s all in the discovery …
Discovery is the planning stage for your project. It’s about understanding exactly what you need for your bespoke software development to scope it out and plot it in project format. It’s a bit like a project about your project.
Here’s how to nail your planning or discovery phase:
Get ALL of your stakeholders involved. And by stakeholders, we don’t just mean one token individual representing a department.
Ideally, you would talk to more than one person in each department and you should aim to talk to them more than once.
Set out a meeting schedule and be clear on how many meetings stakeholders will need to be involved in, up front. It’s common to play down people’s involvement for fear of scaring off potential project participants, but being open and honest about the time required from the beginning, will help people realise that you mean business. During the discovery period, you can also start to set expectations around timeframes and decision latency (the amount of time it takes for a team to make a decision).
Write down what type of contribution you will need from each stakeholder during the planning phase and how often you need it, so you can create an access plan. Early engagement with this during the planning phase helps to secure access later on when you need it again.
Once you’ve set up all your discovery meetings, make sure you also include time to document your findings, plus schedule sessions to consistently feedback to stakeholders. This feedback loop is critical to making sure that you’ve understood requirements and dependencies accurately.
If you’re working with a partner, give them full access to your system so they can dig deep and see the good, the bad and the ugly. Consider what documents and information might help a partner to understand the business better. If you’re not sure what they are (because you don’t know what you don’t know) a good partner should know what questions to ask, to find out.
Working out how long everything will take, may feel like trying to estimate the length of a piece of string. It’s certainly the most difficult part of planning a custom software development project and it’s the most critical part to estimating the delivery timescales and budget.
Take your time to plan properly even if it adds time to your project. Our in-house discovery process normally takes about 6 weeks so if you’re running this yourself, we’d recommend allowing a similar amount of time to plan your custom software development project.
6 weeks may sound like a long time, but we find that doing Discovery first actually reduces the overall project time so you gain the 6 weeks back later down the line.
Consider similar projects or recent software developments, use your domain expertise and challenge yourselves to create a three-dimensional view of the product.
But if you are unsure, rather than guessing (which is the sure-fire way to go over time and budget), now might be the time to get a partner in to help.
Our discovery process for example, has been tried and tested hundreds of times so we can apply our best-practise knowledge to your domain expertise to guarantee on-time and in-budget delivery.
Finally, here are three things we did to help SaaS business Gavurin launch a robust MVP in record time that might help you too:
Struggling to accurately work out the time and budget for your custom software development project? Let us guarantee your delivery.
If you would like to discuss a bespoke software development project, challenge or goal please book a 30 minute Clarity Call with us and we'll point you in the right direction (even if you chose not to work with us)