Imagine that you bought a new house and asked your friends to help you with moving in. When you start packing your things, you find out that you can’t put everything in your car, and you actually need two trucks to transport your stuff.
You have to pay five times more than you would have spent on gas for your car. Also, you told your friends that unpacking won’t take more than an hour, but it actually took more than five hours. In the end, you’re all exhausted and frustrated.
To avoid such disasters, you should always devote some time to planning. Planning is essential, especially when it comes to important events.
Digital projects are no exception in this respect. In fact, nearly 70% of IT projects fail because of insufficient or no proper planning. Project Management Institute reports that due to poor project planning, 45% of projects don’t finish on time, while even most agile and innovative businesses waste 9% of investment.
Project planning plays a crucial role in the entire software development life cycle, since a well-planned project is less likely to face any delays, budget overheads, or deliver a low-quality product. However, it’s always difficult to decide whether your plan includes enough details to preserve the project from failure.
In this article, the JatApp team will describe what project planning is, discuss some best practices, and reveal what we do for making our software project plans effective. After reading this article, you’ll learn how to plan your own projects and what potential challenges to expect.
What is project planning?
Project planning is a process of defining and describing the project delivery activities for avoiding delays, cost overruns, and quality flaws.
Launching a project that has no specific schedule, budget, and goals is like entering the void. What can you expect from a project that has no particular purpose? It will last for ages and bring no viable result. That’s why the aim of project planning is to determine a direction, according to which your software product will be developed.
It doesn’t necessarily mean that occasional changes won’t happen, but planning sets a one-way direction, so your project team knows exactly what they’re expected to do for successfully launching your product. Besides, project planning has other benefits to mention:
- All project stakeholders are on the same page. A software development project plan clearly defines the scope and objectives of the project, so all stakeholders don’t have any additional questions. By having a shared understanding of the project goals, your project team is less likely to develop a product that doesn’t meet your requirements.
- Team communication is more effective. When a digital project involves many people, especially working in different locations and time zones, communication becomes a critical issue, as the probability of misunderstandings gets higher. That is why project plans usually include specific information about communication channels that should be used to ensure collaboration between different stakeholders and teams within the project.
- Everyone understands their duties and responsibilities. Almost 37% of companies confirm that their projects failed because team members didn’t know their individual roles and responsibilities. Once a software project plan involves a distinct list of the necessary tasks and activities, it’s easy to distribute the project work duties amongst the members of the project team. As a result, no tasks are left untouched.
- Any disagreements and conflicts of interests are easy to manage. When stakeholders have any disagreements, it’s always possible to refer to the software development project plan that states the project’s definite deadlines, objectives, tasks, budget, and so on.
Useful hacks for planning your project
Project planning process requires you to take many things into account, so it’s really hard to keep everything in order. Nevertheless, we would like to share with you some project management best practices that can simplify your planning process:
- Identify your business needs. Development of a digital product should satisfy some of your business needs, otherwise launching the project doesn’t make sense. Think of your current business strategy, situation at the market, and external factors influencing your company in order to choose priorities for your business. For example, one of our clients was interested in building a solution for the educational sector. Before we started the project, JatApp’s business analysts helped the client to determine their business needs by conducting a deep market research. The results of this analysis prompted JatApp to offer the customer development of the online tutoring marketplace. Eventually, the product managed to gather over $500K in funding and now it has 70,000 of monthly users.
User interface of the online tutoring marketplace
- Discuss the budget. Before starting a project with a software development company, don’t hesitate to discuss the financial aspect. You need to decide how much money you’re ready to spend, and whether investing beyond the budget would bring your business any extra advantages.
- Create a detailed project schedule. To avoid an everlasting development of your product with no final results, you need to have precise deadlines for every single milestone.
- Prepare a risk management plan. It would be preposterous to count on your luck and expect no risks. A myriad of external factors can negatively impact the project, so you need to have a plan B if something goes wrong. You can estimate some time and budget for a backup, in case any unexpected circumstances affect your project.
- Agree the quality assurance strategy. You may trust your IT vendor, but you still have to decide how you’ll check whether the product is up to your expectations. For that reason, you need to discuss a quality assurance plan and quality criteria with your agency. Quality assurance is a vital part of any software development project, so we recommend getting familiar with this concept in our dedicated article.
How we plan projects in JatApp
In JatApp, we consider early planning as one of the main project management best practices. We make first rough estimates at the stage of project initiation to understand how much work should be done to develop your product. These estimates include:
- Project purpose
- What product should be developed
- Expected project delivery date
- Approximate budget
- Quality criteria
- Product’s goals and problems it will have to solve
- Product features and their brief description
As soon as we agree upon all preliminary requirements, we can concentrate on the actual project management plan for software development that necessarily involves the following aspects:
- Functional and non-functional specifications. We document all technical requirements related to the product. The requirements are based on your business needs and detailed information about what kind of product you expect. JatApp presents functional/non-functional specifications in three formats: user story, user flow, or screen. As an example, writing a detailed technical specification for an automated powerbank rental platform, enabled JatApp to determine how the solution should operate, estimate how much resources are needed, and design the system’s architecture. Consequently, the product met the client’s business needs, even though it was developed within a tight deadline.
Product’s user interface
- User experience (UX) prototype. As soon as we have all functional and non-functional requirements, our UX designers start working on a clickable prototype that shows all control components,and how a potential user will interact with your product. We’ll show you all screens planned for your application, so you can confirm whether the proposed UX design is what you’re looking for.
- User interface prototype. When you confirm the UX prototype, it’s time to create a design for the user interface. Again, we’ll show you all product screens with the suggested design, colors, and fonts. We believe that demonstrating the UX/UI design to our partner plays a significant role, as they should be confident that their customers will really enjoy using the product. For instance, JatApp worked on Pre-Quest, an online test platform for schoolchildren aged 9-12 years old. Since the product should be primarily used by kids, our company created a fun and engaging UX/UI design that keeps students focused and excited about preparing for school entrance tests. That was exactly what the client wanted, and we successfully developed the entire product.
Fun and engaging design of Pre-Quest
- System architecture design. It is a document that describes the architecture design of the future product. The document contains a general scheme of the product components, their descriptions, and Unified Modeling Language (UML) diagram showing the relationships between the components. Additionally, we provide information about the app’s key performance indicators (KPIs) and possible ways of their improvement.
UML diagram example
- Work breakdown structure (WBS). For your better understanding of what tasks should be accomplished to develop your product, JatApp will provide you with a WBS that displays all processes and their hierarchy within the project. WBS is created according to the product specifications, system architecture, and UX/UI designs. In other words, WBS is a more detailed and final version of the software project plan.
- Detailed project budget and schedule. The budget and the project schedule are formed according to the functional/non-functional requirements, system architecture, UX/UI designs, and risk estimates. In JatApp, we usually plan individual time and money measures for backend, frontend, and Android/iOS parts. If necessary, we separately provide the schedule and budget related to the involvement of our DevOps professionals.
- Project roadmap. Even though WBS shows the entire project structure, it doesn’t describe the sequence of the tasks within the project’s timeline. JatApp uses Gantt charts to demonstrate the project’s milestones, acceptable time for tasks accomplishment, and relationships between them.
Gantt chart example
- Communication plan. As you can see, we have a lot to discuss with our clients during the process of project planning, so we need to establish a seamless communication. JatApp always pursues a goal of being a comfortable IT vendor to partner with, which is why we create a communication plan according to your requirements to make our interaction timely and systematic. This plan usually involves specific information about format and dates of progress reporting, meetings, and product documentation handling.
Communication plan example
- Change log. Even though project planning pursues a goal of defining project requirements, we fully understand that you may have additional plans related to your product development and may decide to make some changes. Changing project requirements isn’t a problem for us, as long as they don’t contradict the project scope. As soon as we agree about a change to be made, we provide you with specific information about how much extra resources this change will need and save these details in the log.
Launching a project with JatApp is trouble-free
Planning process in software engineering is the thing you can’t live without in IT product development. Sad to say, but any project will naturally fail without a thorough planning of project goals, schedule, cost, and key responsibilities. But by having your project planned in advance, you significantly decrease your risks of failure.
In this article, we’ve covered how to plan your project effectively and what project planning practices are used by JatApp. Our vision of the project planning process enabled JatApp to complete more than 200 successful projects for clients all over the world.
If you want to launch your project with JatApp, just contact us. We’ll get back to you as soon as possible.