Custom development of any software solution — from a web log analysis tool to a complex multi-component platform — consists of several steps, and proper implementation of each is essential for a successful result. Fortunately, these steps can be visualized in a valuable tool called a “work breakdown structure”, and adherence to that structure will guide the project through to a successful launch.
Work breakdown structures may look different from team to team and project to project, but each one has several elements and stages in common. Let’s take a closer look at these critical stages of custom software development, including why they’re important and what the main goals are in each stage.
Business Analysis and Discovery
The first stage of software development is the process by which the developer analyzes the client’s established requirements, business goals, and obstacles in order to begin conceptualizing a way to bring their software vision to life. The goal of this business analysis is to break down and document the key end goals and tasks required for completing the software. Within this stage, the client and the software development company must collaborate closely and effectively to discuss the specifics of the software, including components, dependencies between the elements, structure, and possible requirements for design, just to name but a few. The outcome of this collaboration is a document that will act as a guide for the engineering team, outlining the project’s technical requirements, describing the goals and high-level tasks, and summing up the client’s vision for the completed product.
Following the initial business analysis, discovery includes modelling the conceptual framework of the project. A thorough, quality analysis of the forthcoming work, its possible challenges, and its end-user functionality is a pillar of the software product’s successful development and implementation.
Let’s sum up some of the key tasks that the vendor carries out at this stage:
- Carefully select the technical tools that will be used during the development stage
- Evaluate the initial requirements and identify risks and constraints
- Form the final architecture of the finished product
- Identify development milestones
- Evaluate integrations of third-party solutions
- Work on user interface and user experience (UI/UX design)
- Evaluate and plan for any special requirements for the software, such as load, security, compliance, etc.
The next step is the actual work to develop the project using the selected programming language and technology stacks. We won’t get too deep in the weeds, here, describing the nuances of the most labor-intensive and complex stage of the software creation process, but it is worth noting that the success of the coding stage depends on the quality of the discovery and analysis stage. That’s because the correct approach to coding results in the success of the final product, and the approach is chosen based on the vendor and client’s conversations during discovery.
Often, coding is carried out simultaneously with testing, which is described in the next section. Testing allows the vendor to analyze the work being done and implement corrections where needed. At this stage, it’s important that all of the players involved in the software development process cooperate at a high level. The coordination among software engineers, quality assurance engineers, and design engineers directly effects the quality of the entire project.
The quality assurance (QA) tasks of testing and debugging are as important as the coding itself, and they often happen concurrently. Quality assurance helps achieve the goal of creating a fully functional end product by creating scenarios when the product might stop working properly and then working to correct the corresponding parts of the code. Conducting testing simultaneously with coding allows the QA team to find and fix bugs before they’re too deeply embedded in the project. Waiting until the product is nearly complete to begin QA testing means running the risk of having to undo (and then redo) days, weeks, or even months of work to find and fix a bug that was introduced early on.
QA steps should comprise no less than 30 percent of the total amount of work hours allocated for the project, as the future of the project depends on the correct implementation of this stage. The work is carried out most effectively when the tasks of coding and quality assurance are carried out by separate teams, which allows for more objective and efficient search for errors.
The last stage of software development process is deployment. This often goes hand-in-hand with continued bug fixing. Oftentimes, going live happens in three stages:
- Initial upload of data
- Progressive gathering of information and feedback
- Roll-out of the software to the planned capacity
The key goal of this step-by-step deployment approach is to gradually detect and fix any possible defects and imperfections. At this stage of software development, both the ordering client and the vendor might come across minor errors that might have to do with database inconsistencies, failures in operation when multiple users access the system, and other issues that are difficult to detect in development.
At this stage all parties involved finally get the full picture of how the user interacts with the end product and can make any necessary adjustments accordingly. If, after any relevant bug and minor defects are repaired, the rollout of the software product to its full capacity proceeds smoothly, this means that the preliminary work and all of the preceding stages of software development process were carried out correctly.
Development of any software — even if the project is not overly complex — requires proper execution of each stage of the process, as well as effective cooperation among the various teams involved. A precise outline of the whole process, including the timeline and clearly defined goals for each stage, is essential for success, and it all begins with the requirements specifications documentation the client and vendor create in the very first stage.