A staggering 70% of all projects eventually fail to provide what was promised to clients. But good managers always find a way to avoid getting to the R.I.P list. And the very first thing they do is decide what methodology or model to adopt: Lean, Agile, or Waterfall.
While for the common folk these three words may sound like meditation song titles, more experienced guys know that these are the development methodologies widely used to structure, plan, and control software as a service (SaaS) projects. In this blog post, the JatApp team will show you when and how to implement Lean, Agile, and Waterfall models to run a project smoothly and release your SaaS on time.
Even though the Waterfall methodology was introduced decades ago, it remains relevant for some projects up until now. It’s a simple approach to organizing software development into sequential, cascading steps. If you try to draw these steps, you’ll see that the model on your sketch will resemble a waterfall.
The Waterfall model
The Waterfall model is easy to understand, which makes it a go-to solution for development teams with little experience. Also, there’s no room for miscommunication, as all requirements are clearly defined before the design stage begins.
According to Waterfall principles, each stage has to be completed before the team can move on to the next. Moreover, you can’t change requirements in this type of project. Similar to how a waterfall flows only downwards, there’s no going back once the design stage starts.
Best suited for:
- Projects with a clearly defined scope and predictable outcomes. If you neither have fast-changing requirements nor suspect that revisions may be necessary, Waterfall can be a wise move for your team.
- Teams with little experience. If your team members can’t boast many years of experience behind their backs, Waterfall can become their life-saver that guides through each stage of product development.
Recommendations for rocking the Waterfall project
The Waterfall methodology requires a project manager to clearly understand the project goals and means to achieve them. Below, you’ll find some useful pieces of advice to keep your SaaS project up and running with this traditional model.
Provide enough time for requirement gathering
The requirement phase is where business analysts and project stakeholders meet to decide what a SaaS platform will look like. It’s one of the most important parts of the Waterfall projects. Since it’s insanely costly to make any changes to the project during the development phase, a manager needs to allocate an abundance of time for interviews with stakeholders from the beginning. This can help dot the i’s and cross the t’s in terms of product functionalities.
Rely on the maturation process to refine requirements
One of the main challenges in the requirements stage is clarifying what the project stakeholders want from their solution. To overcome this hurdle, project managers use the maturation process, a strategy for gathering requirements and documentation, which, by the way, is paramount in the Waterfall methodology. The following process includes five steps and takes up to several weeks to complete. As a result, stakeholders have a clear vision of their software and can communicate their requirements well to the rest of the team.
The maturation process in project management
Specify the roles of everyone involved
With the sequential Waterfall methodology, managers need to be clear when discussing the roles of each team member working on the project. If they’re ambiguous about who is accountable for what, the project is more likely to fail. This is because Waterfall team members are interconnected and interdependent. If one person is lagging behind, it will impact everyone else on the team.
Ask for group feedback
It’s always a good idea to hold a retrospective meeting once every two weeks, as it allows managers to receive valuable feedback from team members. Good managers ask the team what is working well, what doesn’t, and how the situation can be improved. Also, they take notes to make sure that every issue is covered during the meeting.
Even though managers need to focus on challenging moments, it’s equally important to pay attention to the team success. Celebrating even little wins helps the team feel good about working on the project and value the progress they have made.
Back in the 1980s, software engineers relied mostly on the Waterfall model to manage their projects. But soon they realized that the world of software development was evolving at a rapid pace, so adapting to change became a necessary requirement for many businesses to stay afloat. Under the Waterfall methodology, projects often took several years to complete, so by the time the product was released, it could easily become outdated and even dinosaur-y. The Agile model was born to change that.
In Agile, the tasks are divided into short sprints that last up to four weeks. Programmers continuously request feedback from clients during each sprint and make necessary changes to software. In such a way, the process includes several tests during the development process.
Communication between engineers, customers, and end-users is the number one priority under this model. Unlike Waterfall that focuses on rigid procedures and documentation, Agile principles put more emphasis on how to meet customers’ needs.
Agile development methodology
Best suited for:
- Projects with rapidly changing requirements. Most SaaS companies opt for the Agile methodology, since it enables teams to easily make changes to software based on end-users’ feedback. Rather than delivering a set of functionalities for this year and then restarting the product development to introduce a new version the next year, users are offered the latest version each time they sign in.
- Businesses entering new markets. Agile allows you to implement new ideas as you learn more about your niche.
Best practices for becoming an Agile Jedi
Agile Jedis should be shielded from blockers and challenges to remain focused on the project deliverables. While we’re not sure about a lightsaber in this regard, these best practices will definitely make a difference on your SaaS project management battlefield.
Create a clear vision
First, it’s essential to set specific and measurable business goals for your SaaS project. The goals should be based on both project stakeholders and end-users’ needs. Teams should consider how Agile processes can help attain these goals.
Create the product roadmap
With the clear vision in place, you need to build a comprehensive guide for your team members to follow throughout the project. Writing user stories can help in this respect. User stories refer to concise descriptions of features from a user’s perspective.
Here’s an example of a user story from one of our SaaS cases, an AI-driven building energy management system. It looks as follows: “As a facility manager, I want an administrative panel, so that I can manage access rights for different users”. As user stories combine both business and functional requirements, team members can view them as a roadmap during each sprint.
User story template
Monitor tasks with daily meetings
Daily check-ins are critical to keep track of your team’s progress. More specifically, daily meetings facilitate communication between team members and allow managers to quickly identify and address bottlenecks in each sprint. This also helps to make sure that everyone is on the same page and knows what’s going on with the project.
Implement sprint review
At the end of each sprint, the team should reflect on the progress made. This is an opportunity to analyze what worked well and what could be improved. Besides, during sprint reviews teams often celebrate their successes to keep the spirit up, especially if they go through some challenges in their work.
The history of Lean methodology dates back to the 1970s, when Taiichi Ohno built a system called the Toyota Production System. The goal of this initiative was to cut down inventory costs and increase the effectiveness of the automobile supply chain by getting rid of any type of waste. Inspired by inventory management in grocery stores, Ohno used visual signals to make an inventory request only when a specific item was needed, which helped to combat overconsumption and streamline the entire manufacturing process.
Today, the Lean methodology is widely used in software development. When Lean principles are in place, software engineers focus on avoiding non-productive activities, while ensuring quality in completing tasks. Lean teams aim to identify blockers that could hinder the SaaS development process and reduce the project timeline by streamlining process flow. But unlike Agile, Lean team members don’t set specific timeframes. This model also emphasizes the importance of continuous learning, encouraging teams to keep an open mind when making decisions.
It’s also worth noting that many people wrongfully assume that Lean and Agile are the same thing. Basically, the main difference lies in goal setting. While Agile teams strive to create the product that aligns with stakeholder requirements and end-user needs, under the Lean model, the primary goal is to eliminate all processes that add no value to the product development.
Best suited for:
- Small teams. Lean teams consist of no more than fifteen people. Otherwise, it would be rather challenging to keep the lines of communication open between all team members, which is, as a matter of fact, a top priority in this SaaS methodology.
- Projects with a tight budget. As the Lean model helps to remove inefficiencies in all activities, we see it as a life-line for clients that want to deliver a quality product without splashing out on development.
Tips to unleash your full potential in Lean development
With this development approach, a project manager is preoccupied with two things: waste and value. Let’s find out what strategies help them to be less stressed out and more effective.
Define value from client’s perspective
A Lean project manager should specify the project’s value from the customer’s point of view. In such a way, it’s possible to build a solution that can satisfy customers’ needs better than competitors. Moreover, determining the product value will also give an idea of how much customers will be willing to pay for this particular SaaS on a regular basis.
Map the value stream
A value stream map illustrates the process of building the product from start to finish. With such a map, you can analyze the process for waste, eliminating unnecessary procedures that compromise the product quality. On top of that, you need to visualize steps that add value to your SaaS, as it would help to maximize your team’s productivity.
Make value flow at the client’s demand
Lean methodology concentrates on close cooperation between end-users and development teams. Ideally, the project moves forward only when a client requests a certain feature. Gathering customers’ feedback to add another functionality to your SaaS is a way to go if you want to save your resources and avoid spending lots of money on engineers’ rework.
Conduct a Root Cause Analysis
In Lean management, Root Cause Analysis (RCA) is a method that enables you to dig down to the root cause of the problem that causes inefficiencies in your processes. To conduct this analysis, you need to be more like Chandler from Friends TV Series, asking as many why’s as possible in any unclear situation.
Let’s imagine that you release the latest version of your SaaS solution and your support specialists are bombarded with bug reports from users. You start investigating how your quality assurance (QA) engineers let that happen and learn that they failed to perform all required tests. Then, you examine what caused that and discover that the development team delivered features at the very last minute. This, in turn, occurred because they built most features right before passing them to the QA team.
Looking into the cause of this, you realize that the developers spent more time on the features than was planned. The reason behind that is the fact that each software engineer worked on several features at the same time and therefore submitted a bunch of functionalities, overloading the QA team.
But why was the team involved in such multi-tasking? When analyzing what happened, you understand that you haven’t introduced any regulations on the amount of work that can be done simultaneously.
Whew! This investigation wasn’t an easy feat. The given case shows that sometimes problems may turn out to be more complex than you might think. RCA with its iterative approach helps to solve such puzzles, preventing complex issues from ever occurring again.
Root cause analysis
JatApp’s approach to SaaS development
At JatApp, we have a unique development methodology that blends Waterfall’s thorough planning with speed and adaptability of the Agile model. This type of methodology relies on structure, clearly defined timeframes, and Agile workflows. Prior to the start of any SaaS project, our managers are involved in meticulous planning and mapping to set goals, deadlines, and tasks. Unlike pure Waterfall, our teams get down to tasks regardless of the project stages, which significantly speeds up the software development process.
Like in any Agile project, our clients can request changes to software at any stage. However, as we also implement the Waterfall methodology, we make changes only after conducting detailed analysis to make sure it won’t negatively affect the entire project. As a result, the given model lets JatApp remain responsive to clients’ needs, while also attaining the highest level of product quality.
JatApp knows how to achieve a champagne moment for your SaaS project
The software development methodologies we’ve described in this article cover common options for most SaaS projects. When the moment comes to choose one, the most wise thing to do is base your decision on project needs. With JatApp, you can have the best of two worlds: speed and responsiveness of Agile teams and Waterfall’s focus on planning and documentation. Not without reason, our clients report 99% satisfaction rate and say many good things about our SaaS products on Clutch.
If you want to manage your project without any hiccups, contact our team to embark on a safe and hassle-free journey with us.