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A Scrum guide for outsourcing your software development: Part 2

In part one we explored the roles and product backlog of the scrum process. In this part we will examine how scrum cycles work, what tools you need, and how to use those tools. Pay close attention to both parts as the information provided will give you a good overview of how you can use scrum with your outsourced software development.

Scrum cycles

Now that you understand the scrum team and their structure we will examine the scrum cycles. This is the process where the team gets their hands dirty with a goal oriented mindset. The team members already expect to complete all the tasks in the sprint on time. As mentioned in part 1, the scrum team holds daily stand up meeting often first thing in the morning. These meetings are short 15 to 20 minute blocks of time in which each team member explains what they have done and what they still have left to do. The daily meetings discuss information from yesterday, today, and any impediments they come across. Through a burn down chart the team has control over the progress of the sprint whenever needed. Collectively these daily interactions contribute to the overall output. Sometimes this is a product that gets shipped or shared online with the client. This product is verified with the client and focuses on providing input for decision making. The product owner ultimately decides if the product is ready for release.

To recap this process scrum cycles involve the product backlog, sprint backlog, scrum cycles, and end product. These provide the main framework that enables efficient and effective project management as long as you know how to use the proper tools explained in the next section.

Necessary tools

Burn down chart

I mentioned a burn down chart in the previous section, so what is it? This is a chart used for tracking progress within the sprint that is updated daily for everyone to view the progress in a graph that represents how much work is left in the amount of time left. This visual helps the team’s efforts and helps people estimate the accuracy of their work. You may also create another burn down chart that shows the progress and time of the entire project. 

Artifacts

Within artifacts you have the agile wall which is a basic solution to visualize the current status. This might be a virtual or real tool such as sticky notes or web reminders. These are managed by everyone on the team. Tasks can be jotted down on notes on a whiteboard and moved along to the right as they are worked on and completed. All tasks can start on the left under a “to do” column and move on to “in progress” and then “done” as they are completed. This lets the team members know what the status is of every task and if they see something has been sitting in “in progress” for longer than expected they can reach out to that team member to offer assistance in getting it completed. This is also useful in instances where a team member may be out and their tasks are either left to be started or in progress so that someone else can pick up on it and move it forward.

Completed tasks

So while this is not a tool it is important to understand the meaning of a completed task. Completed tasks are those that have been completely implemented, documented, and tested and can be sent forward to the customer. Once completed these tasks never need to be revisited.

Tags: outsourcing scrum software-development-outsourcing

6 Reasons Software Development Projects Fail

With technology changing the face of business the need for streamlined software projects continues to grow. However, as projects become more complex it can be hard to find the main reasons why projects fail. By studying reports on failed IT project patterns it is easy to find common reasons for failure.

Budget Shortfalls

Failing to forecast a proper budget for software development commonly causes projects to fail. Regardless of how much experience entrepreneurs have with finances they can find themselves unable to accurately budget for software development projects. Startups with limited budgets have the hardest time funding a complete development project so they often turn to outsourcing with companies that already have processes in place. 

Short Deadlines

Project timelines are often written before the project begins and don’t offer much wiggle room for delays. This means project managers often rush the development process and may not schedule enough time for testing, security, or may have to leave out certain features. It is important to schedule adequate time for each step in the software development process to allow for changes and delays that may occur. 

Lack of Communication

There is truth in the saying “trust but verify” which is true for software development projects. Project managers must communicate often with software developers to ensure projects are on time and within budget. It is also important that all milestones are tested and verified for compliance. Having a great team that works fine together and has proven trustworthy is great but everyone makes mistakes once in a while so all work must be verified and communication must flow from developers to managers and managers to customers.

Insufficient Project Reviews 

Similar to a lack of communication, it is important for managers to periodically review the progress of a project. Changes in software development as a project progresses must be documented, tracked, and monitored. Once this happens, challenges can be met early in development and all stakeholders involved will be aware so they can expect delays. Milestones should be set throughout development so they can be reviewed and adjusted accordingly.
Insufficient testing or testing in production

When projects fall behind schedule or become rushed the testing phase often suffers. Either all testing is crammed into a short amount of time or is put off until the software goes live. Some testing after a product goes live is ok as long as it is minor. If a product is not completely tested until it is delivered it may be filled with bugs, holes in security, or may fail to meet the customer’s requirements. Regardless of the outcome, testing needs to occur throughout the software development lifecycle in iterations and as a whole once completed.

Lack of a Proven Methodology

Whether you use waterfall, agile, or some other software development methodology a project needs to follow a proven process to become successful. If you outsource your software development projects it is essential to understand what methodology you want to use. This way software developers that follow a proven process are more likely to deliver products that meet goals and expectations.

The reasons mentioned in this article for why software development projects fail can all be avoided. Proper testing, having a proven methodology, having an appropriate budget, and constant communication among team members can all ensure the success of a software development project.

Tags: project-management software-development

Collaboration tools for software developers

Software development projects depend on multiple team members to accomplish the goal and meet the client’s expectations. Issue tracker tools are great for tracking software but what about tools for collaboration? Management, designers, and clients must all collaborate and provide feedback about complex software development projects. Like issue trackers, collaboration tools help keep people on task and on track. Some of the tools highlighted below can help keep development teams on task.

These tools are an excellent way to keep teams connected with their clients. Collaboration tools are great for outsourced software development projects as most of them are web-based and don’t cost very much to use.

Basecamp

Basecamp is a free or monthly subscription based collaboration tool. Of course, with a paid subscription you receive more features and capability. This is a web-based system that is easy to use and easy to get started with a free account before you have to begin paying for the subscription every month. Users can be internal or external to a company since it is web-based. Each user has an individual login credential, profile, and dashboard. With this tool project managers can create a project and manage everything associated with it. This tool is great for having a centralized location for discussions, schedules, assignments, and project related information. 

Basecamp’s dashboard has evolved into a social media-like site where everyone on the team can access a discussion feed. This is where the collaboration comes in as users can share files, check in, give feedback, etc. about everything going on with a project.

Wrike

Wrike is another collaboration tool designed with the idea that everything should revolve around individual tasks. With this tool task management is fast and effective with email integration and file management features. Wrike has a feature that enables users to submit new ideas for a project. Other team members can cast a vote. In this social media-like design teams can actively voice their opinions.

The pricing for Wrike is reasonably set at around $99 a month ($1200 annual prepayment available) you can have up to 15 team members set up with an unlimited amount of projects. This tool is scalable with 5GB of storage space to start off with you can add more if necessary. Wrike has a desktop notification feature which alerts users with small pop up messages on their desktop toolbar whenever a comment, task, or new task occurs in the system.

Freedcamp

Freedcamp is another popular collaboration tool among project teams. This is a project management automation tool that uses project templates. Group Wall is the feature where team collaboration begins. This feature is where all project related information is stored. This tool is useful for small and large businesses as well as individuals.

This tool has limited collaboration features however it promotes teamwork among individuals. This tool has a built in social network to promote sharing and feedback within a team. Unlike the other tools mentioned, Freedcamp offers mobile notifications. This is excellent for remote users who aren’t always at the office and travel quite often so that everyone is notified of the events occurring within a project. This tool is not customizable and you cannot set user permissions. Ideally this tool would be best for smaller teams where user permissions aren’t as much of an issue.

Like the other tools mentioned, Freedcamp has a dashboard and offers on-site, email, and live chat features for users. You can track project hours and assign tasks in a calendar. This tool ranks along the lower spectrum of tools because although its mobile notifications feature is great it lacks in other features. Freedbamp does offer 256 bit encryption so project data is secure.

Tags: collaboration issue-tracking software-development tools

The Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC)

The software development lifecycle (SDLC) has been around for many years. The SDLC is composed of clearly defined work phases used by systems engineers and developers in order to plan, design, build, test, and deliver software projects. The SDLC is focused on delivering quality systems that meet or exceed a customer’s expectations based on their initial requirements. Software developers use this as the standard by which they develop and deliver software.

Benefits of using the SDLC

The SDLC is designed to help produce quality software at a cost effective rate. Once a software application is developed, the SDLC connects the proper lifecycle of it from the time it is deployed to the time it is no longer needed. The SLC methodology has several phase including analysis, construction, testing, release, and maintenance. You should include security testing as part of this lifecycle. Businesses benefit from this lifecycle as it organizes all phases software goes through and offers a finite date for which the project needs to be refreshed or updated. Other benefits include the fact that applications are easier to change if they have a phased lifecycle. Businesses are not tied down to a specific infrastructure and can benefit from a customized system in less time than it would take to deploy packaged software. Segments of code can be reused which also saves time and money.

Phases

  • Phase 1 of the SDLC is the requirements phase. In this phase the customer defines their requirements for the software project. All the goals and requirements are developed in this stage. 
  • Phase 2 is the software design phase. In this phase software developers begin to design some of the code for the project based on the customer’s requirements from phase 1. The project begins to take shape as all the goals and objectives are planed out.
  • Phase 3 is the software development phase. In this phase the developers begin to engineer the project and write the segments of code needed to fulfill the objectives of the requirements set out from phase 2.
  • Phase 4 is the testing and deployment phase. In this phase the software has already been developed and completed and is now being tested to see if it works as initially planned. These tests should include static and dynamic analysis and should be security tested to discover any vulnerabilities. The security testing should include a penetration test. A penetration test will discover any vulnerabilities a hacker may use to exploit the system. Once the software works as planned and has the proper security it can be delivered to the client to implement and move onto the next phase.
  • Phase 5 is the final phase in the SDLC which is the maintenance phase. This is the most expensive phase of the SDLC depending on the life of the software. Security always needs to be updated, new features can be added, and any issues need to be resolved. This is ongoing throughout the life of the software and is more expensive than the events in the previous phases.

Tags: sdlc

A Scrum guide for outsourcing your software development: Part 1

There are four essential things you need to understand about Scrum: Who makes up the process? How do scrum cycles work? What tools do you need? Why is Agile the way forward? This part examines who makes up the process and the product backlogs as they pertain to sprints. Part 2 will dive deeper into this process by examining the scrum cycles, tools you need, and the agile method.

Roles

You are the product owner who expresses your needs for the project and represents your client to the software development team. You’re responsible for the business value, and organizing, prioritizing, and managing the product backlog. Your main job is to ensure the project makes sense to your business and translates your client’s ideas into a set of goals that is organized and prioritized. You are the focal point between your clients and your team.

The scrum master ensures the team functions like a well-oiled machine and produces the products they promise to deliver. This person acts as the facilitator to help ensure everyone follows the scrum rules and helps the team overcome any difficulties they may encounter.

The team often consists of a cross-functional group of well qualified candidates with specialized lanes of expertise in their field. The team should already be self-organized and capable of taking on all the responsibilities of the projects they are given. The team has one goal which is completing their projects.

Product Backlog

So how is all of these efforts coordinated and achieved? The product backlog holds the answer to this. The product backlog begins with a list of features you prioritize from your client. You have to prioritize and manage this list and sort out the lower priority items from the higher priority ones. This is known as your product backlog and items in that backlog can be added or subtracted on the fly. The lower priority items can be loosely defined, so this backlog is more than just a stationary list.

The scrum methodology uses sprints so your job and your team’s job is to use the product backlog to choose the high priority items from the list with clearly laid out goals. These items are time boxed to fit within a two to four week period. Items are broken down into smaller tasks that are built as vertical slides which consist of your sprint. These tasks need a measureable goal. Sprints are a joint effort by the entire team and are set out to deliver specific function sets within an agreed upon deadline. This process is facilitated by the scrum master. It is not uncommon for teams to hold daily standup meetings that are short, quick, and do the point but are designed so that each team member reports on their progress every day.

Now that you have a general understanding about backlog lists and roles we move forward in examining scrum cycles in the next part. Remember, during the sprints you may choose to track progress or designate an individual to ensure everything is flowing smoothly throughout the sprint and any issues are immediately addressed, noted, and mitigated as necessary.

Tags: agile outsourcing product-backlog scrum

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