Feel like you're chasing your tail instead of a profitable software product? Here's why your software development team needs help...
Software development is hard.
But not just because coding itself is complex or because finding great coders can be even harder. Software development is hard because, to efficiently develop a great software product, there is simply a huge amount of stuff to manage.
Any software development project is fraught with points at which it can go south (and some where is can go south really fast). For example, one (or all) of the following things might be nipping at the heels of your success story:
the ideas that originally catalyzed your project change (and will likely continue changing as development goes forward)
the hardware your developers work with may be insufficient
your developers may not have the proper skill-set to produce necessary features or to keep up with the evolving ideas of a young software project
heck! your dev team might not even be big enough to manage the project (...one person can only do so much, guys!)
-- or --
maybe your managers don't have the ability to manage your project
perhaps your team has failed to properly prioritize tasks or set progress milestones
maybe you’ve hired only freelancers or help from overseas and you can’t effectively communicate with the people who are coding your destiny
-- or --
maybe all you have is an idea (and you still need hardware and a team to manage)
You see, there are a lot of delicate elements to software development, and that just names a few scenarios. Software projects can be a magnet for the proverbial wrench in your spokes.
But building a digital product isn’t all bad. The point is, you just have to stay on track.
Yes; I know that’s an obvious thing to say. But sometimes even the best of us are unable to see the forest for the trees.
In other words, it’s easy to become so involved in our product development that we can’t look at the product (or the process by which it’s created) as a whole.
To get on track and stay on track, you have to take a step backward and really look at your product, your team, and your progress for what it is. Sometimes this reflection can be encouraging. Other times, it can indicate that your strategy or your dev team needs some real help to go forward.
Here are the top 4 reasons your software development team needs help
1) Your Dev Team isn’t Deep Enough to Sustain the Project
This issue has two parts: one of experience and one of actual man-power. Although the cause is slightly different, both issues result in code that is too slow or too rushed, and almost always underperforming. If your code isn’t going anywhere, it's possible that…
Your Developers Don’t Have the Proper Experience
Whatever the size of your team, if you consistently get buggy, sloppy, or unfinished software, your team may not yet have the chops to handle your software product.
This isn’t to say that your coders are bad. But it is to say that they are not yet equipped with the knowledge or stamina necessary to produce software from scratch.
If you suspect that your dev team is a little “green” or too novice to handle your project alone, bring on a mentor or hire a dev company with senior level experience to help get your code up to speed.
If you’re seeing sloppy code from developers that you know should be producing better work, it may be that they’re overloaded and…
You Don’t Have Enough Developers on Your Team
No man is an island. Even if you take the world’s most skilled software developer, no amount of experience will enable him to complete an insurmountable task.
The same is true of two or four great developers. If there is more work than can feasibly be done, but the expectation of completing that work remains constant, even highly experienced coders will have to cut corners. And that’s not good.
If the weight of your project is too much for your existing team to bear alone, you need to give your coder/s some reprieve. Reprieve can come in the form of longer deadlines, ones that allow that team to produce solid code, or in the form of an augmented team that will help your team carry the load.
Long story short, if you need to progress faster, you need a deeper dev team; chances are, you probably need more developers.
If your team is producing great code, but it's lacking direction...
2) Your Project is Off Track
Getting off track is tragically easy to do. And when you’re stuck, it’s often not until you’re really stuck that you realize you need a life preserver.
Whether it’s happened because...
your momentum has come to a halt
your dev team is missing critical deliveries
the venture is going in too many different directions
-- or --
your product simply isn’t moving forward
...when you’re stuck, infuse some type of new energy into your project.
That might mean that you and your team regroup and revisit goals that brought you where you are today; it could mean that you create a new roadmap or follow an existing roadmap; it could mean that you restructure your process. O, it might even mean that you look for help outside of your current development team.
The point is, you’re not going to get anywhere treading water. If your project needs rescuing, then sound the alarm! Shake-up your strategy or seek help.
Here are some other reasons your software development team needs help...
3) Communication Barriers or Non-Transparency Issues with Outsourced Teams
In all things, communication is key. So what happens when you can’t talk to your dev team? Whether the issue stems from geographical or language differences, elusive on-shore coders, or unaccountable agencies, communication issues are a regular struggle in the tech world.
There are a lot of reasons product developers will choose to work with freelancers or off-shore software engineers. Many of those reasons are good ones, but there is always a give-and-take. In this case, the “take” is often profound miscommunication, blurred expectations, and software that isn’t always exactly what you expected (nor when you expected it).
No matter the reason, if your coders are unreachable or they’re not up-front about your product development, the product will suffer.
If your dev team is not available to discuss stumbling points, strategize future work, or clarify any number of the headscratchers you’ll encounter along the road, you might as well shoot yourself in the foot.
In other words, if you can’t get satisfactory interaction from your dev team (no matter where they’re located in the world), you are not likely to get satisfactory software either.
4) You’re Over-Budget
This is another two-parter. There are two basic causes for overspending on software. The first is an issue of estimation, and the second is one of outsourcing too expensively.
You Misjudged the Complexity of Work
It is impossible to overstate the importance of good estimation.
The best way to keep a project on track and within budget is to properly plan your work. Properly estimate the size of tasks and build-in the time required to get that work done.
Whether expectations of your product are set by paying customers, generous investors, or simply among your team members, failing to meet goals or blundering to meet deadlines is bad. It's bad for morale, bad for your reputation, and bad for product development.
If your team struggles to accurately anticipate the effort required to fulfill deadlines, allow me to suggest an Agile sizing technique called planning poker. This sizing trick can help you set more reasonable goals, plan for future work, and complete your digital product more efficiently.
It's also possible that...
You Overpaid a Team That’s Not Producing
You get what you pay for, right? So you want to hire the best possible people to build the best possible product. But if you’ve allocated a bunch of money to a product that can’t bring any money back in, you’re going to be in big trouble.
That’s a sticky position to find yourself in but, if you’re going to hire an outside development team (one who doesn’t work in your office), the best way to avoid getting stuck paying for uncooked code, is working with dev shops that offer a subscription payment structure.
This means, you pay a dev team monthly. And if they consistently underproduce, you can get out before you’re bled dry. This gives you greater control over what you pay, what you get, and what you do with your own budget.
The process of building a digital product is intense, yes. A lot of things can go wrong, yes. But there is a way to do it right.
If you can take a step away from your project to look at your progress as a whole, you’ll give yourself and your team the perspective necessary to grow. Evaluate your process, evaluate your people, align your project goals, and the result will be terrific software.