How to plan a software development project

Software development projects can be complex and nuanced matters. There is a lot that goes into any one development project and there are many different stages within the process. A stage that is commonly overlooked or deemed less necessary than it should be is that of planning. 

Planning is crucial in the lifecycle of a software development project. Without appropriate planning, it is very easy for projects to go over budget, to miss client expectations, and to accomplish generally much less than should be accomplished. With the right amount of planning, projects can much more accurately hit the goals, hopes and dreams of those involved. 

In this blog, we are going to tell you how a software development project can be planned in order for the project to reach its maximum potential. 

Let’s get started with a lot more on why this matters, first of all.

Why you need to plan a development project 

Software development projects are methodical and intricate. They follow a structure and pass through certain stages in order to ensure a project is as successful as possible. Without appropriate time spent in the planning stage of the software development life cycle, the rest of the project’s steps will be much less cohesive and efficient. 

Planning a development project helps a software development company to establish the five W’s of a project:


W – What are we doing?

W – Why are we doing it?

W – Who is involved?

W – What will it take to make it work?

W – When will it be finished?


Before any work begins, the answers to all of these questions need to be answered so that the work can take place with purpose and structure. Without such answers, it is much more likely that a project will fall short of expectations and fail overall. 

As we don’t want our projects to fail, we follow specific steps in planning a software development project. Let’s discuss those in more detail in the next section.

Steps of planning a software development project 

For maximum potential, planning a software development project should go as follows: 


Outline requirements, needs, and goals 

Before any design or development can begin, the development team needs to establish why they are making a certain product. Any tech product should be the solution to a certain client or user base’s problem, with a direct focus on how it solves that problem. 

At the very beginning of the planning stage, we need to outline the requirements of the desired end product, the needs of the client and their users, and the overall goals for the project. These aspects should then form the foundational pillars of any work that is done from this point going forward. 


Specify scope and budget

The size, scope, and budget of software development projects will vary. To ensure that any work done stays within the right parameters, we need to explicitly establish what those parameters are. Going outside of scope and budget can cause a range of problems for the development team, their client, and external stakeholders. Knowing the boundaries beforehand and stating them explicitly helps to avoid any pitfalls further down the line. 


Pick a methodology

There are different software development methodologies available for a software development company to choose from. Some teams will choose an Agile approach, others will have a DevOps foundation. What methodology is chosen will determine different factors and choices across the project, including timeframes, roles within the team, and how stages of the SDLC are handled. Before going any further, the chosen methodology needs to be outlined. 


Establish a collaborative timeline

To keep everyone on the same page, including the development team, client, and stakeholders, a collaborative timeline should be established. How this is done will depend on the methodology chosen. There could be a timeline for certain stages, iterations, or sprints, depending on the modus operandi of the team. The most important thing is that whatever way the timeline is established, everyone involved is equally aware of it.

Define roles and set responsibilities 

Once the timeline has been set, it is key that roles and responsibilities are clearly provided within the development team. Everyone should know what they are responsible for, who they report to, and how they will measure their progress. There are many moving parts within a development team and so all members must agree on whose responsibility each piece of work falls under. 

Different methodologies and approaches to development will have varying roles within software development, so it is important that this has been already decided upon in the previous steps.


Ensure contracts are in order

To prevent any legal issues, especially to do with intellectual property, copyright, and payment, full legal contracts should be established and signed by all parties involved in the development. Before any work gets started, the legal parameters should be defined.


Begin the design phase of the SDLC

Once all of these steps are completed, it is time to move on and begin the design phase of the software development life cycle. Design can include documentation, prototyping, and many other exciting aspects of the development process. This is where a project begins to take its form for the first time and the practical work can begin.

A brief overview 

Planning is essential for a software development project. It ensures that the entire development team is on the same page and headed in the same direction with any work that they do from this point forward. 

Planning helps to keep development structured, efficient, and with a strong sense of direction. Having such a foundation decreases the possibility that the project will fail and increases the chances that the project will flourish in the exact way that both the client and software development company involved want it to. 

Effective planning cuts down on potential inefficiency and important secondary problems such as legal contracting issues and stakeholder miscommunication. Overall, there are many benefits involved in engaging with planning, so much so that it is very clear why it is a stage that cannot be missed or overlooked in development. 

Fail to plan, prepare to fail. 

Isn’t that what they say?

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