Software development is a process that comprises several steps and requires input from people with different skills. Clearly, managing such a process is not an easy task. You need to constantly collaborate with team members, collect feedback, and follow the best practices at every step of the process.
Considering the implications, your best bet is to stay organized and follow a defined set of software development milestones. That way, not only will you be able to align your goals and track your progress, but you also have higher chances of success. In fact, PMI reports that “44% of projects fail due to a lack of alignment between business and project objective.”
Regardless of the nature or duration of your project, milestones improve project planning by helping teams with a breakdown of progress points. This software development milestones guide takes you through the steps to set up your milestones in the best way possible.
The Role of Software Development Milestones
Whether you are in the initial stages of ideation, or dealing with some major roadblocks during the deployment phase, software development milestones help you measure and track the progress of your project. You are able to identify potential hurdles that may come up during the development and how you can bypass such issues.
The purpose behind breaking up the development process into a series of steps is to set deadlines. When the team knows when each step must be completed, it becomes a milestone. You can deliver work while staying within the deadlines and also keep track of progress along each step of the way.
Defining Software Development Milestones
A well-planned software development project is associated with defined milestones. Software development milestones collectively create a project timeline and highlight your team’s achievements in each stage of the project. Whether you look at it from a manager’s perspective or consider the stakeholders, each milestone takes you a step closer to the project’s success.
Since software development is usually an iterative process, your milestones can be modified as the project moves forward. You need to have that flexibility to allow for continuous updates and improvements. At the same time, you need to stay in sync with your project’s real objectives.
Benefits of Setting Clear Milestones
The benefits of setting milestones in software development go far beyond improving productivity and overall results.
It eliminates a disorganized schedule and streamlines the process for everyone involved.
Each stakeholder knows what is happening at all times.
As the milestones are defined, team members do not have to ask around for updates that often.
Milestones are a way to make your progress measurable. You can choose what and how to measure at each stage,
Milestones also bring improvements in scheduling, monitoring, validating, and adjusting the development process.
Essential Milestones for Every Software Project
The first step of any software development project is the most important and unpredictable at the same time. This is where you can sometimes spend months defining your project’s scope and objectives, while some projects simply take a week to initiate.
Setting a milestone for project initiation helps you list down the stakeholders, their requirements, and their roles in the project. Moreover, you must also put together a feasibility study and get the necessary approvals from the concerned authorities. Within the team, the project’s goals must be distributed in an organized manner and every step taken must be documented right from the beginning.
Requirement Gathering and Analysis
Once you have established the project’s scope and your team has understood the core objectives, the next step is to break down and analyze the requirements one by one. Software requirements are further categorized into functional and non-functional requirements, but it's crucial to subdivide them and make them as comprehensive as possible.
Requirement gathering is usually a part of the kick-off phase of software development projects. It involves deciding:
What the client requires, including functional and non-functional requirements
How much time it will take to complete the project
Who will be working on each module
What risks may be involved in the project
Considering that your team is following the Agile methodology, this software development milestone must not be very difficult to achieve. You just need to lay the foundation of a documented approach for your team to follow. The objective of this milestone is for the designers and developers to fully grasp what needs to be done and how the software must perform. Another plus side of requirement gathering and analysis is that you are able to improve your project schedule as you have a clear view of each module to be developed.
After gathering the requirements, you need to make sure each developer is provided with the technical resources they need. The requirements must be carefully analyzed with special attention to the specifics and how they are going to be addressed.
To put it into perspective, if you start working on building a software with just a general requirement of creating an e-commerce store, you will never achieve the desired results. Therefore, your requirements must not be generic. They must be analyzed based on the feasibility and availability of resources.
The development team and other technical resources must be brought together to analyze and plan how to build the software. This includes the tools, platforms, and frameworks that will be required during the entire development process. Commonly used platforms for building e-stores include WooCommerce, Shopify, and Magento.
The key here is to plan ahead, and that is only possible when the tools and platforms are defined in the early stages. If this milestone is not defined and you skip out on requirements analysis, the interpretation will become much more difficult for developers down the road.
Planning and Scheduling
When it comes to solidifying the foundation of your project, you need to have clearly defined plans and schedules. Considering that the details matter most, your team will need to ask a lot of questions, starting with:
Where will we host the application?
Will we use any existing software or platform?
Will we need to buy product licenses?
Is our preferred programming language supported in the area?
How will our data be modelled?
The first task of the the project planning team is to identify the right project management model that would suit your project and your team. For instance, an Agile model does not require you to lay out a full plan up front. You get to plan for every two to three weeks and work your way through consecutive sprints. That being said, you do have to plan at the start of each iteration.
On the other hand, if you are using the Waterfall mode, you do need a comprehensive project plan right from the start. This software development milestone allows your technical resources to validate the proposed direction of the project. This is especially important because of the wide variety of approaches used by software development teams. If you discuss and analyze the specifics at this milestone, you won’t be snagging the project in its important stages later on.
Design and Architecture
This is where you need to bring in your software architects and designers. Design and architecture is the most important milestone for software development. Your team’s brightest minds sit together to define the technical details of the software to be built. Based on the scale of your project, the backend databases, number of screens and their respective interfaces, and are laid out.
A software’s architecture is a blueprint for how it will work. It helps the development team coordinate and smartly handle the complexity of bringing together different software components.
You need to define a structured solution that meets all the requirements laid out in the initial milestones, and also optimize the system for performance and security.
Software architects and designers collaborate to:
Select structural elements
Create their interfaces
Define the behavior of each element
Lay out the architecture that defines how structural and functional elements fit into the overall system
Define how these architectural elements align with requirements
However, this milestone is not achieved without input from the client side. After creating a complete prototype, designers are required to send the file, usually a Figma file, to the client for approval. In this file, the clients can see how the software will look and feel, including the placement of content, sliders, buttons, and CTAs.
Development and Implementation
Given that you have achieved the previous milestones, your developers now work their magic to translate comprehensive designs into functionalities and modules. Of course, the development process itself is also broken down into many iterations, each of which has its own deliverables at the end of the milestone. Here, project management software like Jira, Wrike, and Asana help your team divide the development tasks into sprints and keep track of the project from start to finish.
The development phase involves developers writing code to build the software according to the designs laid out in the planning stage. Ideally working in sprints of two to three weeks, the team works with the outlined specifications and holds reviews to test whether the sprint was successful.
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At this software development milestone, your quality assurance team brings out the big guns. Test scripts, test cases, and other best practices of software quality assurance are implemented to ensure that the finished product is up to the mark and stays true to the detailed requirements laid out earlier on.
In the field of software development, quality assurance is said to be a milestone that can be achieved in two days. However, it must not be rushed. Regardless of the area of development, quality assurance is always a tricky business. With that said, this software development milestone can be approached in two ways. One approach is to run quality checks when the software is developed. But this approach is not suitable for small projects. Instead, you can run quality assurance tests during the development iterations.
The QA process is a detailed one, and in some cases cannot be considered a single milestone. If you are running QA checks simultaneously with each sprint, you need to incorporate end-to-end testing in order to ensure that there is no quality compromise at any stage. Lastly, the quality assurance milestone also ensures that your software development process prioritizes compliance. You are able to figure out where you need to make improvements and make sure your software runs efficiently.
Deployment and Release
Now that you know your finished product runs well and has no significant quality issues, its time to deploy it for the world to use. Your teams set up an environment to upload the source code and then perform a rapid test run to ensure that the intended functions are working properly. Followed by that, you push the software to production, hence achieving this milestone.
In some cases, you might need to migrate an existing URL or site link to run your software on a new server. This, and other project requirements that are specific to the software in question, can shorten or delay the duration of deployment and release.
Training and Documentation
Using any new software requires a certain amount of training and documentation. So it’s important to include this milestone in your software development process. One of the crucial steps of validating software is user acceptance testing. This is where the end users, or those who are not part of your development team, see whether the software meets its intended purpose.
In simple terms, your development team gets to know how the software performs in real-life situations and also gets approval from the stakeholders.
Post-Deployment Support and Maintenance
Software development milestones usually end with deployment as the team responsible for building them simply does not want to go further. However, in order to differentiate your team from the rest, you need to have a post-deployment support plan in place.
This milestone must be set early on in the development stage as you need to support vendors and other end-users with the necessary guides and documentation. You also need to consider whether someone from your team needs to be trained or whether there is a need to hire someone permanently for this purpose.
Software Development Milestone Templates
Although most of the software development milestones discussed in this blog are common for the majority of projects, there are always some unique requirements and implications.
You need to consider the milestones that are most important for your specific project and work on your own goals. This helps eliminate the risks of halting the project halfway through and also enables you to meet deadlines.
With custom software development, you need tailored milestones that help you improve the project’s flow and ensure that you work according to the given requirements. Some of the best software development milestone templates include:
Kicking off a software development project without milestones is clearly an unsafe bet that leads you nowhere. Starting from the initial planning phase and all the way to post-deployment, you need a defined set of steps to follow in order to complete the project successfully.
Software development milestones allow teams to adopt a sequential approach where a project can be divided into a broader phase and then subcategorized into further phases. This improves scheduling, reporting, and task allocation.
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