Strong business begins with strong resource management - the ability to plan, track and optimize the utilization of resources such as human resources, time, money, equipment. When it comes to managing projects in the software development field, managers should consider the software development life cycle that includes multiple rounds of investigation, analysis, design, building, testing, implementing and maintenance. So what do you need to keep in mind when managing resources in software projects?
Software resource management is about forecasting, allocating, scheduling, tracking and optimizing your team, their time and budgets to deliver software and web projects with maximum efficiency. Other benefits of resource planning include accurate planning and prediction of resource availability, improving job satisfaction and retention in your team, preventing your staff from burning out and improving your relationships with clients.
What makes resource management in software projects stand out is that unlike any other projects, software projects have their own development cycles that you need to consider to make the most of available resources. Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC) is a process for planning, creating, testing, and deploying software. SDLC usually includes the following stages.
To distribute resources successfully and manage software projects effectively, you need to be aware of software development stages. The process of software development hardly ever reaches the final point, because new bugs and feature requests constantly appear, bringing the progress a few steps back. The stages may depend on the chosen paradigm and methodology, but the key stages are the following.
The first stage of SDLS where development teams, customers, stakeholders, sales, subject matter experts (SMEs) collaborate. During this phase, all the relevant information is collected from the customer to develop a product that meets their expectations: what software to build, what’s its purpose, who is the end-user. Requirements analysis also helps identify the risks at the very start so that risk mitigation strategies can be worked out from the very beginning.
The outputs of this phase include project plans, Software Requirement Specifications (SRS) document, schedules and cost estimations that ensure better cooperation and understanding for both the development team and clients.
Once the requirement gathering is done, you need to check the feasibility of the product development. Feasibility analysis displays technical, economical, legal, operational and schedule aspects impacting the software development process: time, resources, tasks, estimates from the team members, which help calculate ROI and determine project cost and profit. In case of any ambiguity, further discussions with clients are required.
At this stage, the team uses the software requirement specification document to design the optimal architecture for the product. The requirements in the SRS dictate the design approaches that are included in a Detailed Design Specification (DDS) document. These aspects include:
- Software architecture: the blueprint of the software including programming languages, software design, industry-specific practices.
- User Interface (UI): product interface that is clear and simple-to-use for the customer or the end-users.
- Platforms: the computing platforms on which the software will run.
- Communications: how software will communicate with servers or other parts of the software.
- Security: security measures that may include data encryption, password protection, and more.
The development phase is usually the longest of the SDLC process. At this stage, developers build the product and write the code that matches the DDS and conforms to the client’s requirements. Each development module is divided into tasks and assigned to developers for coding, unit testing and finding logical errors. Depending on the methodology, software development may be conducted in “sprints” (Agile) or may proceed as a single block of effort (Waterfall). The output of this phase is testable, functional software.
Testing may take place during the development stage, but there can be no testing if there’s no code, right? That’s why testing is number 5 on this list.
At this stage, the Quality Assurance (QA) team runs a series of tests including functional testing, system testing, load testing, performance testing and others. If they find any bugs, they usually report them to the developers, bringing the development process one step back each time until all bugs are fixed. The goal of this stage is to conduct tests until the software meets the SRS standards.
Now that most of the bugs are fixed, it’s time to put the product into production and release it in the business environment. At this stage, the software is moved to production and User Acceptance Testing (UAT) takes place. During UAT, the limited group of the end-users verifies that the software is easy to interact with and everything works as it should.
To help users interact with the software, technical writers create user documentation that gives step-by-step instructions of how to use the software, its features, tips and tricks, and describes how to resolve common problems with your software.
Finally, the last stage of the software development life cycle - the maintenance phase. No software is meant to last forever and requires updates, new features and bug fixes. Moreover, at this stage, you receive real-world feedback that often calls for more fine-tuning and polishing. With more features and new changes in the interface comes the need for documenting. The cycle goes back and forth and is never over.
Resource management in software projects requires an understanding of the whole software development process. Software Development Life Cycle is a process that varies from company to company and aims at delivery of the best quality software. SDLC can be adjusted to the needs of each particular project, so can resource distribution inside the team or the project. If you’d like to learn more about SDLS and project management activities in software projects, you might enjoy SDLC Life Cycle Document (PDF) by the University of Illinois.