The IT industry has had tremendous growth in the last few years, growing by 11.6% in 2022, compared to 2021, reports Fortune Business Insights. However, it’s not resilient to the turmoil of the global financial market. And even though it’s currently going through a crisis, we believe it’s only a glitch in the continuous development of the IT sector.
That being said, let’s highlight that this profession and the related industry are no cakewalk in any way. It takes a lot of learning and practice to deliver top-notch, bug-free software. Bystanders might think that things simply happen in this branch, but the reality is completely different.
As a matter of fact, the business aspect of software development consists of complex stages that include planning, programming, design, testing, validation, maintenance, and tweaks.
Understanding what the business lifecycle of software development contains should make it easier for CEOs, stakeholders, and other decision-makers to choose software providers for their businesses.
Mapping the Product Development Plan
The product development plan is the first checkpoint of software building. This document needs to contain the following:
- Product purpose (in relation to market research/need)
- Product description
We’ll now delve into each of these features:
Why do you need a certain app or software solution? Is it going to be part of bigger software or a standalone tool? Have you researched the market to see if there’s a need for your particular business idea? What’s the final intent behind the software you’re planning to develop and who is going to use it?
Ideally, all these questions need one big YES to move to the next stage of software development.
If you don’t cover all the stages in advance, you might finish in a dead end, not knowing what to do next. What’s more, every mistake in the planning stage is paid twice when the implementation begins.
Product Features and Functions
Once you’ve supported the purpose of the product in question with some real-life data and stats, it’s time to define the product features and functions.
How will using that very product improve people’s lives? Even before that, is the product meant for common people or solely for businesses, or both? Specifying its application in advance will save a lot of time and assets in later stages. Repurposing or retargeting a product once it’s launched is the lane with the highest toll to pay.
Hence, trial and error in the initial stage is less painful than catching the train once it leaves the station.
If the product owner is not a software developer, but a sheer investor, they must speak with engineers to list the features and functions, at least the first, work version.
Budgeting – The Magic Word for Smooth Development
Here’s something that managers and business owners in need of software solutions must be aware of: there’s no smooth development without accurate budgeting.
When you’re searching for the right software provider or negotiating with the potential one(s), leave nothing to chance. Ask the following questions:
- What’s the approximate final cost of the entire solution?
- How many payment installments will the project include?
- When can you expect the first version, and the final implementation?
- Does the negotiated cost include fixing the post-launch bugs?
- What about the updates?
The software company, on the other hand, will most probably tell you that the software development budget depends on the project type. Roughly speaking, the four main factors influence the final costs:
- Brand new software. Building brand new software from scratch is the most expensive option for every business.
- Software integration. Adding new features – think plugins or security features – to an existing software solution typically costs less than a completely new product. Still, discuss all the nuts and bolts of the project beforehand.
- Software tweaking. A significant modification of an existing software solution.
- Web programming. Writing a web-based software app from scratch.
Each of these software development options includes a different number of engineers, project managers, and other relevant experts.
BM Insight: The company size also plays a major role in estimating a software development budget. Implementing a software solution for a startup usually incurs fewer expenses than deploying software for an international enterprise.
Last but not least: there’s no precise budgeting without calculating the engineers’ payments. In Western Europe, the USA/Canada, and Australia, an engineer’s working hour usually costs $100+. On the other hand, in Eastern Europe and Asia, the price per hour can be significantly lower, without compromising the quality of the final product. As a business owner, you should know these things when thinking about your new software development provider.
Bringing Design on Stage
Design in the context of software development has a broader meaning. Not only does it specify what the application will look like, but it also refers to its overall functionality.
The main elements of the design stage are, as follows:
- User interface. Specifies how users use the software, and how the solution in questions responds to commands.
- Selected platforms. In this stage, all the interested parties choose the platforms where the software will be used (think Linux, Windows, etc.).
- Architecture. Engineers, designers, (and stakeholders, in some cases) decide on the adequate programming languages, practical solutions, and design for the given product.
- Security. The phase in which we determine the protection measures that will keep the software product safe and sound (e.g., data encryption, password management, access credentials, multi-factor authentication, etc.).
- Technical communication. The technical aspects of communication with other software solutions related to the product in question.
Design and Prototyping: The Synergy of Engineers and UI/UX Designers
Preparing and presenting a prototype is typically included in the design stage, but it can be an entirely separate phase. Regardless of how and where we name it, it’s vital to do prototyping.
A prototype’s role in software development is to present the first version of a tool or application. It’s a rough version of the final product that shows what it looks like and how it functions. Software engineers, designers, and stakeholders should have a look at or try the prototype. It’s much easier and less expensive to rewire a new software solution while still a prototype than to wait for the lifecycle to end, only to realize that changes need to be made.
Start the Development Phase
Now comes the most exciting part for every passionate engineer: coding. However, writing code isn’t an isolated activity. If we want to fully optimize the software development lifecycle, it’s critical to form teams and clearly assign roles and tasks.
Specify the Stackholders (sic!)
We can’t stress enough how important it is to make everyone aware of their function within the software development lifecycle. A backend engineer without their frontend counterpart or designer makes for an incomplete development team. Remember what T-800 from the Terminator movie looked like when stripped off its skin? Well, that’s a rough equivalent of how software solutions would be without the frontenders and designers.
That’s why you must name the technical stack (the stackholders) for every software development project. In addition to the backend/frontend developers and designers, gather skillful QA engineers, copywriters, control groups, and any other professionals to draw a full development circle. Each of these experts should have ownership over their tasks and be fully responsible for their implementation.
BM Insight: Ownership is one of the core values of BrightMarbles’ work organization. We firmly believe that undivided commitment and responsibility lead to big results. That’s why we strive to do our job with passion and commitment, talk out loud about our mistakes, and communicate the issues in real time. When each of us owns our task to the fullest, we keep growing as individual professionals, business teams, and eventually as an organization. Our Svetlana Kosić has written more about ownership in her blog post Ownership – The Only Ship that Can Tame a Storm
Arrange the Sprints
As you divide the project into smaller tasks, you can arrange sprints and calculate the time for each sprint. It helps to create milestones, estimate the budget, and set delivery deadline(s). In other words: smaller tasks, easier to distribute assignments, smoother control, and faster work. Of course, there’s no need for a large development team for smaller projects. A single engineer can handle such a task.
As a rule of thumb, Agile methodology prevails in our software development projects. It has proven to be the most productive and least time-consuming method of completing a project with flying colors. In her article Scrum 101: Applying the Most Popular Agile Framework, Tamara Petrović, one of our scrum masters, has described it in greater detail.
Mind the Documentation
At this stage, the DevOps team needs to decide on the documentation procedure. Basically, there are two different schools of writing software documentation.
The first one advocates a formal approach, with strictly written and formatted inputs. The other one is an informal approach, with engineers’ comments and explanations for different coding practices.
Bear in mind that documentation doesn’t only refer to the materials written by and for engineers. It also includes all the descriptions and manuals for users, such as tutorials, frequently asked questions, troubleshooting, and any other relevant information that will help users make the best of the given product.
Notify the Stakeholders
The sprints we mentioned above aren’t beneficial only for the development side. They’re a perfect vehicle for arranging milestones with stakeholders and keeping them updated. Whenever you can showcase what you’ve done so far, summon the stakeholders and display the finished bits. It will give you time to negotiate the potential budget tweaks, announce the potential delays, and ensure that the client remains satisfied throughout the software development process.
BM Insight: With our people-first attitude, we at BrightMarbles have great respect for our clients and stakeholders. Our goal is to be transparent, honest, and sincere in every single project we accept. With us, everyone knows what to expect from day one to the moment we cross the finish line together. Our rewards speak in favor of BrightMarbles’ business approach. Learn more about them in the blog post BMGH Trophy Cabinet: Accolades and Certificates, ed. 2022
It’s Testing Time (Hallelujah!)
Testing, also known as Quality Assurance (QA), is the pivotal point of the software development lifecycle. It ensures that the entire previous effort is double-checked, validated, and prepared for users.
Its basic form is A/B testing. Typically used for simpler software solutions, it compares two versions of the same application, to check how users respond to each of them.
Quality assurance is another important aspect of software development, ensuring that the product in question meets the prescribed standards. These regulations might be some industry-specific rules, compliance legislative, or security requirements.
Moreover, software testing is either manual or automated. The former includes qualified testers, whose job is to check the application in progress after different milestones and discover bugs or any other issues. The latter refers to the use of special software tools for the same purpose. From a business point of view, automated testing costs less, but it’s not a panacea that can cover all the potential issues. Hence, the most reasonable option is to combine manual and automated testing features.
The more bugs and glitches you fix and heal before the launch, the happier and more satisfied the users will be. In turn, your business will get good reviews, further recommendations, and new projects. To top it all off, you won’t have to spend your money on additional improvements, but you’ll focus on advancements and updates.
BM Insight: We approach testing with the utmost professionalism. Nothing can go under the radar of our experienced and well-trained testers. They don’t only test software; they’re also quite good writers. Here are some blog posts that our in-house testers have written about QA:
- Why Does Your Project Need a QA Engineer? – a general take on the importance of QA; written by Miloš Milić, Quality and Delivery Directory
- Should Test Automation Be Left to Software Engineers? – a little bit more about automated testing; authored by Jovana Jerkov, QA Engineer
- Non-Functional Testing Explained – delves into the kind of testing that covers aspects not covered by functional testing, such as security, compatibility, productivity, and many other features; revealed by Tamara Petrović, Scrum Master
- Shift Left Testing: A Key for Improving Your QA Strategy – a blog post that discussed the benefits of the test-early-and-test-often strategy; conceived by our QA Engineers Bojana Šatara-Anić and Marina Vuković
When everything has been tested, fixed, and validated, the final product sees the light of the day and is ready for end users. In the case of issues/bugs/glitches unnoticed during the testing stage, the product goes back to engineers for a fix.
Regular Maintenance for a Longer Life
We can’t stress enough that software maintenance is equally important as planning, coding, and testing. Once the software solution in question has been launched, start preparing updates, add-ons, and all other features that will keep it competitive in the market.
Trial and Error in Software Development
Experienced developers know very well that trial and error is a common thing in software development. Oftentimes, there’s no ready-made formula for a task or bug along the way. Sometimes several teams of engineers need to work together and come up with the best possible solution.
Newbies and rookies in the world of software development need to accept this and go with the flow.
BM Insight: At BrightMarbles, we understand that each project is different, and there are no two identical engineers. That being said, it’s important to highlight that we advocate and promote diversity of all sorts to get things done. We’re convinced that a combination of various experts brings remarkable results; at least, that’s what works best for us. If you want to find out more about diversity within our holding, read Svetlana Kosic’s post, The Manifesto of BrightMarbles Company Culture: Uniform in Diversity.
Software development takes a lot of planning and tweaking, with many trials and errors along the way. If you don’t make a plan before the first code is written, you’ll easily slip into delays, higher costs, and client dissatisfaction.
The guide above will help business owners, middle managers, and any other interested parties understand the business aspect of software development. Based on the above, it should be easier for each of you to choose the right partner for your software needs. Once you do this, you can count on timely, affordable, and glitch-free delivery. To round off everything we said above: BrightMarbles is here to help you with everything tech-related, from scratch to full stack.
Pavle Bobic, BrightMarbles’ resident wordsmith extraordinaire. With a passion for wordplay and a keen eye for eye-grabbing marketing materials, Pavle has produced top-quality web content and copies for fintech, IT, and eCommerce since 2013. Now, he’s bringing his wealth of experience and expertise to the BrightMarbles team, making an impact by creating distinguished content across various online channels.