Mitigating Risks for Software Development Projects
Necessity of Planning and Managing Risks for a software development project
Role of Skilled Managers in minimizing risks for offshore software projects
How to identify and mitigate risks in typical offshore software development projects
For any software development project, an experienced team is critical to a project’s success.
A software development project is at its most vulnerable during the planning phase.
Skilled, experienced managers can eliminate the majority of common errors from the process.
“By failing to prepare,” said Benjamin Franklin, “you are preparing to fail.” This is particularly true in software development, whether the project is tackled in-house or outsourced offshore. From planning to project delivery, software development is fraught with risk, and it affects all parties, including those creating the code, project managers and, of course, the client.
The cascade of new technology hasn’t made risk mitigation any easier. In fact, extra layers of platforms, coding language and delivery models arguably make delivery more complicated to manage. Trying to anticipate what quirks and challenges a project will yield is like trying to predict the weather. The solution, therefore, needs to include better forecasting.
With the right approach, you can anticipate risks and plan to succeed.
Why Prepare For The Worst?
Disaster can strike, even on the most well-thought out project. And when it does, there’s not just your project at stake – but user experience, customer retention, not to mention your time and effort. Your reputation is also at stake if a large software development issue is likely to affect other areas.
There are two types of catastrophes you can prepare for: those that can be predicted, and unforeseen events. The first kind is better described as a “worst-case scenario”, which you do everything to avoid, but which must be prepared for nonetheless. The second kind is an act of God, which no one could see coming.
When it comes to predicting worst case scenarios, software developers try and address issues early on in the consultation process to stop them growing larger later on. These issues include:
- Starting with an unclear business problem and not knowing what the project is trying to solve.
- Having no clear, transparent definition of what would constitute success.
- Poor leadership due to lack of an effective executive sponsor, or no clear leadership because of too many competing voices.
- Underestimating the scope and size of project, particularly when later functions are dependent on the robustness or success of a foundational piece of architecture.
Left unattended, these factors can result in software that simply doesn’t work, or isn’t what the client had in mind. In either case, sometimes the project has to be scrapped and recoded from scratch.
How To Mitigate For Predictable Risks
It’s hardly ever the software itself that goes wrong. Once it enters the development process, problems are usually the result of bugs – which are fixed in a thorough testing process – or undiagnosed problems early on.
Bigger problems are hidden in the project planning and initiation phases. Not a single line of code should be written before a clear road map has been agreed upon, enshrining the details of scope, time, cost and risk.
Thoroughly reviewing all milestones, expectations, and stages of production, as well as outlining what is and isn’t expected from both parties, allows the risk of predictable disasters to be significantly reduced.
Scope creep occurs when functions or features are added to a project beyond the initial agreement, typically without taking into consideration their impact on cost, time and resources.
Scope creep is a very predictable risk, as it happens often. It’s caused by these issues:
- Project managers who take a hands-off approach, forcing software developers to fill in the gaps in an anarchic fashion.
- Clients, either when caught up in the excitement of a new tool or service, or when frantically trying to realign a software project to shifting business goals. If the client has direct contact with software developers, the risk increases dramatically.
- Project teams who overpromise in order to exceed expectations, without a realistic understanding of what those changes will cost.
When time is eaten up by scope creep, this leaves less time for testing and eliminating bugs. This leads to a less secure product, and can snowball into other issues.
How to plan in Advance for Unpredictable Risks
Anything can – and often does – happen in the world of software development. Unpredictable events include everything you can imagine, from staff sickness, all the way up to fire and flood.
The enemy of unpreparedness is open communication. Open dialogue doesn’t solve many problems in and of itself, but when you are confident talking to your team this will help you brainstorm solutions more quickly and lessen the risk of problems getting bigger while everyone stays silent.
Open communication requires hands-on participation from everyone involved. Clients can forgive running over time, so long as the online or offline paper trail leading to this decision is clear and readable.
You never know what’s going to happen. But when working with a software developer, it helps to expect the unexpected, and be ready to tackle all challenges. The difference is, you’ve got someone on your side to help you.
that there was a clear vision and strategy underpinning delivery.
For the software vendor, planning protects long-term relationships with both clients and software development teams. Whichever side of the equation, one rule applies to all: In software development, there’s no such thing as a good surprise.
HST can help you mitigate all of these risks. Our team of experts have years of experience, and we promise no nasty surprises. From predictable pitfalls of the development process to unpredictable disasters, we’ve seen it all, and are the best choice to help make your project a reality.