We cannot overstate the value you provide as a project manager working within the software development life cycle. You are the lynchpin between customers and your team and can help make sure standards remain high throughout the life cycle.
Whether you use agile, lean, a waterfall model, or a hybrid of methodologies, every project manager wants to be productive at all stages of the software development life cycle.
When you’re efficient at each of the SDLC stages, you’re able to act on new information and enable your team to deliver to their full potential.
Here are 17 tips to make your SDLC project management more efficient.
In any software development project, planning comes first. Before getting started, it is essential to make sure the project has enough people and financial backing.
Planning takes a lot of project management; there are lots of people to speak to and outputs to consider. Here are two tips for planning in the most effective way possible.
1. Brainstorm With Your Team
Having a high-level brainstorm with your team can guide later planning and reduce the need to revisit work.
Involving your team early helps get buy-in for the project, which helps with every task you need to perform. A project with an engaged team runs a lot smoother.
2. Use Good Project Planning Software
There are hundreds of SDLC project management tools, each with their strengths and weaknesses. For example, some make it hard to capture a quick idea and see how it could impact the entire project. These ideas often come during meetings. If your project planning tool is too complicated, storing the note cannot happen without stopping the flow of conversation.
To avoid this predicament, look for a tool like OmniPlan, which makes it easy to put together a dynamic project outline. The flexibility lets you move fast and adjust to any changing requirements.
Requirements Analysis Tips
In requirements analysis, your team ensures that the project requirements help the end-user of the system.
Your team needs context to help analyze the requirements. You can’t afford for every single member of your team to attend every sales meeting or know the elements as well as you, some balance is required.
Once you write the requirement documents, they will give your team focus and context as they deliver the project.
As a project manager, you can help your team by thinking of the following.
3. Organize Your End-User Information
Documenting how people should communicate with user groups will empower your team to contact users as needed.
For example, having your user personas in an easy-to-manage place, such as in a shared Google Drive folder helps your team refresh their memory when they are jumping between tasks.
4. Have Consistent Feedback Channels
The best way to know a project is going to help your users is to understand what your users want.
But creating a full view of your user can be difficult when their feedback is coming from multiple sources such as social media, contact forms, surveys, review websites, etc.
Your feedback channels should be consistent, and all feed into one repository. Having feedback in one place will save you a ton of time.
Using tools like Zapier can glue a lot of different services together. For example, you can set up Zapier to copy tweets or Facebook posts that mention your product into one spreadsheet for review.
5. Break Requirements Into Chunks
During your planning sessions, it is likely someone changed or added to the requirements. While expected, it can make requirements analysis cumbersome.
By breaking your requirements down into smaller pieces, you can focus your team’s attention and move through this phase faster.
Prototyping Stage Tips
During the prototyping stage, developers and designers prototype a feature or map out a solution. Prototyping is useful for getting early feedback and informing technical decisions.
From a project management point of view, prototyping can be a bit of a black hole. If left unchecked, prototypes can take up a lot of time. Their entire purpose is to test an idea, learn and move forward.
By implementing these tips, you can help your team prototype with confidence.
6. Use a Design System
Using a design system can help your team move fast when designing and testing solutions.
A core purpose of design systems is introducing a common language for talking about the project. Common language allows your team to prototype more efficiently and work together well.
7. Pick an Appropriate Fidelity
A common issue with prototyping is not knowing how far to take it.
Different features require different levels of prototyping. Typically something with lots of moving parts will require a higher fidelity of the prototype.
You can draw some wireframes on a post-it note, or you can create the entire system and everything in between.
Taking time to decide on an appropriate fidelity, by asking “what is good enough to test and move forward” helps you plan time better and stay lean.
Software Development Tips
Software development turns your project’s requirements and prototypes into working code. It’s the earliest phase in which you start to see something that resembles the final product. In many projects, this is the hardest phase and often requires the most amount of project management.
Use these tips to help your development team focus on the most critical parts of your project.
8. Create Consistent Tickets
A good ticket can keep your developers focused, reduce back and forth and provide a calming sense of clarity.
When a sprint consists of great tickets, you can estimate easier and feel more in control.
Using templates saves time and reduces questions during the development phase.
Making the templates initially takes time, but it is worth the investment. The benefits of consistency and the speed increase when making new tickets outweigh the initial setup costs.
9. Review Work Early and Often
Even with great tickets, developers make assumptions, and things can go astray. Schedule time to review so that you can course-correct as needed.
By scheduling in time, you set expectations with your team. By doing it regularly, you will reduce the time needed for each one.
During the software testing phase, testers put the project through its paces. Testers make sure that the new features work as described, and that old features haven’t stopped working.
The testing phase can be stressful for a project manager. If things go well, the project is nearly ready to go. If they don’t go well, you might need to find an unknown amount of time to fix things.
These tips will reduce stress and help your testers work at their best.
10. Automate Tests
Encourage your developers and testers to automate tests where possible. Automated tests run as the developers write the code. These tests spot issues early and can help reduce the time it takes to test manually.
Manual testing takes time and the less repetitive manual process, the more time testers can spend on improving their testing setup, further streamlining operations.
Anytime a tester spots something during a review, try to convert the manual test into an automated one.
11. Share the Requirements Documentation
The planning, prototyping, and development phases make heavy use of the requirements documents. For testers to have the context to be able to know if a change meets the requirements, they also need access to the requirements document.
Unlike other roles in your team, testers often aren’t brought into early meetings. As a result, they can sometimes lack the context required to make them useful when testing.
This is why you should share requirements somewhere everyone has access to, and you should write them in a way that everyone can understand.
12. Plan Time For Rework
Some amount of rework off the back of testing is inevitable.
By planning rework into this phase, you avoid having to change timescales late in the project. Using past projects or sprints as a guide, you should have an idea of how often rework happens.
Planning from the start will help you better communicate intent with the broader team.
You might want to consider a different development methodology if your team can’t cope with the strain of rework.
Sometimes called ‘implementation’, the deployment phase takes code and puts it somewhere people can use.
Deployments contain many moving parts and integration between different systems is standard.
You can’t plan the deployment stage too early. Integrations and hardware requirements can change during any of the above SDLC phases. There are some things you can do that will improve team performance during this phase.
13. Share Strategies Between Projects
Your developers are probably using the same languages, and your ops team usually is building similar types of servers. You should push the team to re-use deployment strategies between projects when it makes sense.
By doing this, you reduce the need to manage during this phase. Your development team can build on previous knowledge gained from past deployments.
Re-using strategies helps you when budgeting time and planning communication with clients. You will be able to make a timeline and cost estimates based on your previous knowledge.
14. Document Early
To avoid surprises and manage your time well, document issues and meeting notes early.
Having documents that detail client and vendor meetings allow your team to draw on everything when integrating.
Getting into the habit of documenting this information as it comes up — well before it becomes relevant — will help you stay efficient.
Operations and Maintenance Tips
In the operations and maintenance phase, developers watch software for bugs or defects. When they find one, they create a bug report.
Project managers tend not to get involved in this stage; however, being efficient during the maintenance phase can add value to a project. Here are some suggestions for how you can use your project management background to help during this phase.
15. Automate Ticket Creation
Ask your developers or ops team to log errors into the team’s ticketing system automatically. By doing this, you never need to review bug reports in a different tool. Having them come into a system everyone understands lets you reason about their priority by comparing it to other issues.
You need to see everything in one place to have a complete picture. It is incredibly hard to plan support work without this view.
16. Review the System
While operations and maintenance may be the last section on our list, it is often the start of a new body of work.
Your users’ needs will change over time. Being proactive by reviewing the system with these new needs in mind can help you plan your next body of work.
17. Make It Easy for Users to Talk to You
As we talked about in our fourth tip, having consistent feedback channels is essential. Your users want to tell you how they’re feeling and what they want. Make it easy for them by sharing plenty of ways to offer feedback.
Make sure that these all feed into one place you can review.
Gathering feedback helps prioritize the next body of work, especially if the feedback aligns with business goals.
What Tips Do You Want to Share?
We’ve outlined some of our top tips that will make your life as a project manager a little bit easier, but we want to hear from you! What advice have you picked up to help make your SDLC project management more efficient? Let us know in the comments below.