What is Software Planning?
At Endertech, Planning is the first phase in our methodology for custom software development. The goal of this phase is to produce clear technical documentation that tells the development team exactly what they’re supposed to build, and how.
Through a series of consultations, we will interview you, discuss the features and goals of your project, share options for satisfying your goals, and help suggest specific solutions.
Together we’ll make decisions about which solutions to implement. Then, we will document details to the technical requirements for those solutions. This can include database design maps, business logic, and visualizations as needed.
All this gets recorded in our project management system, Jira, which is specific to managing software development. The final result is an actionable, organized, prioritized, and estimated development plan, an engineered blueprint if you will, that the development team can work from.
Why do I need Software Planning?
You may be thinking, “I know what I need! I’ve already documented my business needs. I even have visuals of the system flow and various screens!”. Well, if you do, fabulous! You may already be ahead of many project requests we receive. On the other hand, you may only have the idea in your head… and perhaps that idea is grand in scope, but fuzzy on the details.
Either way, the idea has to move from your head into ours… in fact, into several developer’s heads! It has to be crystal clear and in sync between all of our minds. Chances are, unless you are an experienced software developer, your current documentation is probably not at the level of detail needed to develop with mutual clarity. The mutual clarity between your ideas and the developer’s specific coding instructions.
So, how do we arrive at our shared crystal clear vision? That’s right, you guessed it! Through a planning! This includes consultations, discussions, meetings of the minds, with the documentation style that occurs throughout our Planning Phase.
Completing this before estimating and beginning development on your project has plenty of benefits for your project!
Make Clear the Scope
We meticulously document and estimate detailed technical requirements for every feature of the system, perhaps some not yet considered or even took for granted. The outward facing admin interface is one example. A usual oversight is a custom dashboard interface dictated by the software type is a more common one.
We describe the data tables needed for your database, the fields needed within the tables, and what their data types are. We write out the rules of all the custom logic. We also wireframe screens and create flow charts as needed for better visualization.
The exercise is similar to an architecture creating blueprints for a contractor about to build your home. There is a clear guide to follow and the potential for major misunderstandings is eliminated.
Without a solid software development plan, you risk out of control costs, or possibly worse… spending the money with no satisfactory working software.
There are many variables involved in custom software development, and the planning phase provides the forum to identify and flush unwanted variables out. To reduce or eliminate variables, we perform research, pre-think how we will architect solutions, and confirm with you. This reduces the chance that costs differ from initial estimates, and reduces the chance that features are built incorrectly or with unforeseen consequences.
Increased Success & Satisfaction
The primary ingredient of our mutual success and satisfaction at the end is setting the desired expectations. When one side’s expectations are out of alignment with the other, and do not get realigned, this is a recipe for lost time and budget.
The meeting of the minds and its resulting documentation produced through a Planning Phase create clear agreements on details before either party has spent too much time or money. The plan gives us accurate time and cost estimates, and shows us what the end result should look like before any coding begins.
The result means higher chances of success and satisfaction since we’ve developed mutual goals that are clear, documented, and already visualized.
How Software Planning Works
We have engaged in a potential partnership. The first step is to schedule a series of consultation meetings. Project Managers, System Architects, Analysts, and Designers will lead these meetings. Analysts will interview the subject matter experts to obtain valuable information about key features and potential end users of the system. This collaborative process guides the written documentation and technical blueprints of the project plan and possible software maintenance. Together, we will illustrate and flush out any visuals that need detailed analyst.
Developing Detailed Backlog
During the meeting sessions, all key features will be documented in our Project Management system Jira. We arrange large features into buckets we call Epics. Epics contain smaller details that we refer to as User Stories. All User Stories are categorized into Versions. Versions are typically related to specific business objective. (To read more about how we setup project plans in Jira, please read here. https://endertech.com/blog/setup-jira-project-success). All visuals derived from white board sessions, and wireframes will be attached to specific user stories.
Certain features will require creative solutions and visualizations. Designers will help assist in whiteboard sessions to illustrate a rough example of how the page will look and logically function. Workflows that span multiple end users can be illustrated effectively with wireframes. Business processes can have multiple steps, alerts, notifications, emails, functions, calculations, that require detailed analysis. Interviewing the subject matter experts is key to assist these visualizations. Example, if we are working in a financial area of the system, we will want input from accounting CFO’s as an example.
Endertech Project Managers, Architects, and Designers will have concluded a series of consultation meetings. We have arranged all project requirements into written documentation. Technical blueprints for the design and development of the system are ready to handoff to developers immediately. We have completed all white board illustrations, wireframes, sketches, and annotated screenshots with detailed notes. Endertech and Stakeholders have a comprehensive understanding of the entire projects scope, timeline, and cost.
At this stage, we are prepared to deliver an accurate proposal and all visual assets. The proposal will have multiple cost options per Version. Versions illustrate potential timelines for the project with specific objectives of scope.