Chief Information Officers (CIOs) are under constant pressure to deliver substantial results that meet business goals. Planning a project and seeing it through to the end is a critical requirement of an effective development process. In the fast-paced world of software development, getting results is an essential key for businesses to flourish.
There is a certain pleasure you get from ticking off tasks from your to-do lists. However, this becomes a burden when you are drowning with a lot of tasks on your head. Signs of inefficient processes are prevalent in every business. Unhappy customers, stressed out colleagues, disappointing code reviews, missed deadlines, and increases in costs are just some of the examples that are the direct result of dysfunctional processes.
By streamlining your workflow you will be able to compete with modern technologies like Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence. Gaining access to such technologies will also help you to automate the workflow, making your daily processes even smoother. Listed below are 5 steps that can help you in streamlining your development process.
Step 1: Creating a Workflow
This is a preliminary step for companies who have not considered creating a better workflow.
A task is not just something you can write down, complete, and tick-off. Complex, software related tasks are not like the “do-the-dishes” type of tasks. Usually, there are many stages in software development tasks like planning, organizing, reviewing, and releasing.
Regardless of the niche of your tasks, the workflow should be clear. You can always use software tools such as Zapier, Nintex, and ProcessMaker, etc. to customize your workflow and assign levels-of-importance to particular tasks. This might appear as micro-management at first, but once it becomes a part of the daily routine, it starts to get easier.
Creating a workflow is probably the most important factor to consider when you are preparing to streamline your software development processes. There are several steps involved when creating a workflow:
Mapping the Process
Process mapping mainly focuses on the visualization of the current development process which allows a top-down view of how things are working. You can do process mapping via tools such as Draw.io, LucidCharts, and Microsoft Visio, etc.
Analyze the Process
Once you have a flowchart or a swim lane diagram setup, use it to investigate the problems within the process. The problems can range from costs, time, employee motivation, and other bottlenecks.
Redesign the Process
When you have identified the problems, you should try to solve them step by step. Working with people who are directly involved in the process (e.g Software Developers) and gaining an on-the-ground insight can prove very useful when redesigning the processes.
You now need to secure the resources that are required to implement the new processes. With regards to our topic, it can range from buying licensed software, faster computers, etc.
It is highly likely that your business processes change with existing systems, teams, and processes. Allocate your time to solving these problems, while keeping the regular operations in the process.
This phase might seem the easiest, but it is not. Once the changes are in place, you need to review them accordingly so that they do not rise up again
Once the workflow is set in place, all you have to do is to identify the bugs in your workflow plan. The bugs can range anywhere from slow tasks, re-opening of finished tasks, to dead tasks.
What we have observed about workflows is that you do not get it right the first time. You need to take your time to edit and review the workflow while still being in the loop of the workflow. The more transparent and active your process is, the easier it gets to spot problems and figure out solutions.
Step 2: Backlog Maintenance
Many times you assume all the tasks in your backlog to be important. They might have, however, this makes the backlog a little too jam-packed. Well, your backlog will not serve a purpose unless you are actively taking part in keeping it organized.
A backlog, while being a good place to store tasks, is also home to tasks that will never see the light of day. A good practice, therefore, would be to either clean up your backlog of dead tasks or combine them with tasks that have more importance in your overall workflow. If some of the tasks are relatively low-priority, we would recommend creating a separate backlog altogether.
Backlogs are meant to be a database of tasks but do not let that fact get over your head. You should not worry about deleting something important from your backlog, if the task is important, it will come back. You can use sites like Trello or Slack to create and maintain a backlog.
Step 3: Standardized Procedure for Tasks
You should have an accurate definition of “done”. With respect to software development, there are several things you need to consider before actually accomplishing a task. These include:
- Ensure all the features have been applied
- The unit tests are finished
- Software information is up-to-date
- Quality assurance tests have been carried out
- The code is in the master branch
- The code is deployed in the production
This is simply a template of what you can consider “done” with respect to a software development project. Like any template, it gets even better when you include your additions and subtractions to it. Having a standardized definition of “done” helps remove confusion from the project so that every employee has an understanding of every stage until they are finished.
and also gives you time to think about what you are trying to achieve. Lastly, it is always wise to spend a little extra time completing a task phase, so that you do not have to revisit it several times.
Step 4: Work in Progress (WIP) Control
The ultimate factor that kills workflow is multi-tasking. Overloading your employees with constant tasks results in an overall decline in output. Therefore, it is important that you do not exert your employees with multiple tasks, which only increases their work in progress.
In order to fight the problem of multitasking, you need to reduce your cycle times by having fewer tasks at one time. Consider setting a WIP limit inside your workflow by introducing limits for daily and weekly tasks. This helps to keep control of the employee tasks and reduces their burden.
Step 5: Progress Visualization
When you have everything set up in your workflow, it is time to represent that data to present and potential stakeholders. You need to make it clear that all of the features are completed and the ones you are currently working on. And if you will be releasing the product on time or no?
A good way to represent data to senior management is through visualizations. With visualizations, you can use tools like Jira or Trello to make your data shine even more. In terms of data representation, you can use various free online tools, or buy software like Microsoft PowerPoint or Excel.
Whatever tools you might use, your end-goal should be to make the information as simple as possible to the stakeholders. You need to avoid clutter and too much technical information. However, these are not the only methods you can use. Look around your company and see where you are lacking in your current processes. Take note of all of them, and research on how you can change them for the better.
Shawn Mike has been working with writing challenging clients for over five years. He provides ghostwriting, and copywriting services. His educational background in the technical field and business studies has given him the edge to write on many topics. He occasionally writes blogs for Dynamologic Solutions.