Software projects, whether built in-house or by a development partner, often run long. Not only does this usually equate to a more expensive product, a delayed project can mean being beaten to market by a competitor. Poor planning that prolongs software development timelines is costly and can be a reason for software or app failure. It’s sometimes difficult to see when the software development timeline is off-track until it’s too late.

We hear about software founders who are frustrated by the slowness of software development. Sometimes that’s because the software timeline is behind schedule. In other instances, the project feels slow, because their development partner hasn’t set up a structure that allows for progress transparency.

Founders and other business leaders want a better way to measure development progress and to know when a software project is getting behind or failing to meet milestones. At ENO8, have built a reputation of delivering on-time software that users love. We’re able to stay on track because we set up parameters and a clear roadmap from the start and then consistently measure against it. Keep reading to learn about our secret sauce for building software on-time and within budget!

Do You Want to Go Fast, or Do You Want to Finish?

Executing an on-time software project depends on one main thing: preparation.

Product failure during development is almost always the result of poor upfront planning that leads to problems like

  • Lack of accountability
  • Loose timelines
  • Unclear or poorly delegated role responsibilities
  • Chasing unvalidated ideas
  • Loose or nonexistent milestones

It’s not difficult to set up a software development timeline that can be monitored, measured, and steered toward success. And once the systems are in place, the project can move down a straight path toward success. We often tell our clients that we go slow so we can go fast. First, we carefully plan. Then, we hit the gas and fly. 

Setting Up a Software Development Timeline

In the beginning, the following questions need to be asked, answered, put into writing, and communicated to the entire team.

  1. What is our definition of what we’re trying to accomplish with this software? 
    • What are we expecting it to do, deliver, and change in our users’ lives?
  2. How thoroughly have we broken down the project that is to be completed? 
    • It’s not enough to have a Point B but no pathway there. The work items that go along with it should be identified. For example, have high level features been broken out into deliverables?
    • Development is a time for doing. In the planning stage it should be determined what needs to be done to realize the features, functionality, and final product.
    • This important job may be performed by a technical lead, project manager, or a business analyst.
  3. Each steps should be attached to a due date. A completed step is known as a milestone. Milestones make it very easy to see if a project is on time.
  4. Who is doing what?
    • This goes hand-in-hand with the work items. Make sure everyone is aware of their responsibilities.
  5. Has it been estimated?
    • There should be an overall estimate for the whole project scope. There should also be estimates for time to reach important project milestones. Estimates may be made in story points or in man hours.

Checking in During the Project

With the aforementioned structure in place, it’s now easier to check in on the progress of a project, determine how much is left, and estimate if the software development timeline is off-track or not.

Questions we would ask to measure progress:

  1. Do we have a grip on current team velocity? Do we have data from development sprints that tell us what the team’s velocity is?  Team velocity is how much work in any given work sprint can be/has been completed? If you don’t have this data, you’ll have to find a way to estimate this.
    • At ENO8, we measure estimates in story points. E.g. senior developers should deliver 15 story points per week.
    • If the speed doesn’t match the timeline, then the only way to get it done on time is to add more resources.
  2. How much time to finish? To calculate, divide the total body of work yet to be done by velocity. This will equate to the total number of sprints left to finish.
  3. Is work actually getting done during each sprint? If the team is off, find out why.
    • Oftentimes this can be a result of the backlog not being groomed and planned well enough. So then developers can’t pick up the assignment and run with it. They have to wait on further clarity and details instead of doing (remember when we said development is for doing). 
    • Better planning, design, and product management processes enable a better package going into a sprint because developers can jump in and work.
    • Developers hate waiting for mid-project planning that could have been done up front. Continued issues like that will repel quality developers.
  4. When do you review the results of sprints
    • PRO TIP: Make recurring calendar events of planned sprint reviews that coincide with the end of a sprint. Review the reports with the whole team, and do a retrospective of how it went. 
    • Don’t be afraid to talk about what went wrong. It’s an opportunity to learn.

After Software Launch

Just in case you thought the software development ends once the program or app is launched – it doesn’t. In fact, once you have your MVP, congratulations, you are now in the software business!

Planning isn’t over once the product is launched either. Post-launch planning is about continued developments and improvements (e.g. utilize user behavior and feedback to prioritize next steps on the roadmap).

Failing to continue planning is a leading reason for product development failure. 

We’ll talk more in a future blog about the keys to post-launch software development success.

If you want to ensure the perfect plan for your software project in less than 6 weeks, reach out to talk about the Innovation Lab. It’s planning on steroids – a hyper distilled workshop led by development experts to get the exact information you need to build a world class digital product.

Contact us to learn more.



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Read more by

Jeff Francis

Jeff Francis is a veteran entrepreneur and co-founder of Dallas-based digital product studio ENO8. Jeff and his business partner, Rishi Khanna, created ENO8 to empower companies of all sizes to design, develop and deliver innovative, impactful digital products. With more than 18 years working with early-stage startups, Jeff has a passion for creating and growing new businesses from the ground up, and has honed a unique ability to assist companies with aligning their technology product initiatives with real business outcomes.

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