Why Thorough Scoping Leads to Successful Software Projects
Contrary to popular belief in the world of software development, accurate scoping is one of the most difficult tasks for every new engineer. The margin of error, which can appear due to the smallest miscalculations and false predictions, can throw an entire project off the track and push the deadline back severely. So, what are some ways to scope for success and stay ahead of the schedule?
1. The Beginning Stage
Before any goals can be achieved, they must be properly defined. This means breaking down every portion of the desired outcome to quantifiable metrics. For example, instead of vaguely saying that the main focus is better performance, one should know exactly what unit tests need to be completed, the specific speed improvements, and so on. Properly planning the project should involve a stage where every team member will get familiar with the wanted outcome. This reduces the room for error as people will be on the same page.
Next, the engineers should target the hardest tasks first. This is known as the de-risking stage where the most complicated parts will be completed primarily. It is important to employ this practice because projects consume a lot of time and wasting it before realizing that the hard things cannot be done is not fruitful.
Upon completion of the difficult tasks, one should move on to parts that give the greatest yield. Meaning, those assignments that will impact the overall project the most should be addressed prior to any tedious tasks or follow-ups. Ultimately, due to the unavoidable nature of people that often causes human errors, one might have to do some rewriting. Although this is not the end of the world, engineers should generally stay away from complete rewrites because they will compromise meeting the predetermined deadlines. This is because any developers who get a chance to re-do their work will try to add more features or overcomplicate the new system.
2. Ready, Set, Scope!
When some of the main planning considerations have been addressed, one should get ready to do some heavy-duty scoping. First, developers must rely on the principle that micromanaging is good. Diving a complicated engagement into many small sections that take no longer than 2 days each will facilitate easy goal tracking. Also, all of the parts of the project should have clear-cut deadlines defined by an actual date and time. Resorting to terms like “towards the end of the month” or “in about two weeks” welcomes multiple interpretations that are never good.
Next, the project should always achieve a few goals during the week. This means that there should be minor milestones that serve as checkpoints for staying on track. Managers can be the ones to hold people accountable for these achievements as they will be crucial to meeting the deadlines. To avoid any potential communication issues, developers should never try to predict the date of completion based on anything but real data. This means that one should only share the percentage-wise fulfillment up to the date and try to estimate the remaining time based on current speed. Ultimately, managers should beware of the most dangerous enemy known as the“underscoping”. Yes, it is normal to believe in team abilities to an extent. Nevertheless, one should always account for dozens of unpredicted issues that are bound to arise.
3. Turning Talk Into Action
Lastly, all that remains is to actually perform up to par. That includes making progress on an on-going basis, re-scoping often to ensure that the final deadline is achievable based on current pace, and taking advantage of minor milestones. The best way to report status is to see how inaccurate was the scoping for some part of the project and quantify the remaining time based on that miscalculation. Meaning, if someone underscoped their first three stages by 20 percent, there is a good chance that the next three stages will also be 20 percent off. Ultimately if there was a realistic plan of action, achieving goals is just a matter of time. If not, the developers should revise the plan and keep moving forward.