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How to Keep Your Projects On Time and Under Budget

by Greg Cargopoulos

How to Keep Your Projects On Time and Under Budget

Development projects rarely go as planned, especially when they're centered around evolving digital landscapes. Whether intending to design an original program or craft software updates for existing platforms, developers have the unique and challenging responsibility of managing complex products used by any number of people worldwide.

This reality makes the work of most software development teams open to experiencing specific roadblocks or detours during long-term projects. However, while many programming teams regularly experience delays and budget overruns, mitigating these issues is key to ensuring successful and meaningful project execution.

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The importance of keeping software development projects on schedule and under budget?

Besides the apparent benefits of sticking to a plan, creating innovative products, and saving money while doing it, these overarching goals are shockingly difficult to achieve across many industries. Time and budget overruns occur so frequently that they are anticipated in many companies' operating procedures. Over two-thirds of enterprise IT projects run over budget by as much as 100 percent. Typically, only a quarter manage to reach release within 25 percent of their original project budget.

Given the complexity of general software development, as it includes conceptualizing, specifying, designing, programming, documenting, testing, and refining–it's clear as to why these overruns occur in the first place. When developing programs while following company and industry protocols, engineers are bound to experience delays and encounter unexpected costs to deliver intuitive products.

When a team is equipped with the following best practices, one can only imagine the potential for productivity and creation in software development. While employing project management, detailed planning, and effective communication, programmers can significantly advance individual projects, companies, and the industry as a whole.

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The secrets of effective time-management and budgeting discipline

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1. Call in project management teams

There's virtually nothing better for sustainable productivity than investing in a project management team for your software development project. As specialists in initiating, planning, monitoring, and controlling activities required to fulfill project commitments, project managers are equipped with tools to transform the efficacy of workflows, documentation, and results. While project management is applicable in nearly any field, it has been used extensively amongst engineering teams. Given the multifaceted nature of software development, there's no doubt that a portion of your team should include seasoned project managers to keep you on schedule and budget.

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2. Set project goals well in advance

A significant prerequisite to beginning work on software development is understanding the project requirements or what users expect the software to be capable of. These needs are then met with solutions, designs, and building plans to construct programs that execute the necessary tasks. Without these requirements or overarching project goals, the actual programming can't begin.

With that said, it's best to offer this information to the development team as soon as possible to allow for feedback, questions, or initial problems with the project's direction. As soon as these requirements are approved and solidified by the developers, it's best to let them begin writing code. Clear and thorough requirements should provide them with as much information as possible, providing more uninterrupted working time.

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3. Map out project scope in detail

Especially when planning rather lengthy and intensive software development projects, it can be much easier to generalize some aspects of the timeline, budget, and other constraints. However, it's essential to provide an estimate of these details, seeing as they will ultimately affect how your team even begins to approach the project. Completing extensive planning when setting out on a new software project minimizes the likelihood of "scope creep," or the addition of desired features beyond what is defined in the original project requirements.

With the help of project managers and focused developers, deadlines and milestones can be set with complete transparency and a greater possibility that they will be met.

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4. Build in time buffers

It's never ideal to start planning for delays, but it can be risky for project timelines to go without any pre-established buffers in place. Simply put, project buffers offer a designated amount of additional time to an individual task. These cushions allow developers to breathe more easily amid tight timelines, as a delayed task will not affect the overall project schedule. Better yet, breaking up project tasks into smaller, more flexible sections offers team members some leeway should they encounter unexpected issues or have to prioritize another task.

When in doubt, project buffers make work processes and timelines much more comfortable for all those involved. Not only do they ensure that the most critical deadlines are met, but they take the inherent challenges of software development into account.

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5. Delegate tasks appropriately

An important part of keeping your projects on time is by delegating assignments early in the process to the right teams who can help drive accountability in scheduling and budgeting discipline.

With a detailed project scope–including a timeline, budget, and other constraints–be sure to recruit talent within your development team with their skill sets in mind. Depending on the project needs, assess each programmer's professional and personal attributes and determine who might be best suited for specific tasks and objectives. Setting team members up for success by allowing them to focus on their strengths will ensure an efficient and enjoyable working process for everyone on board.

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6. Prioritize regular and effective communication

In virtually any context, effective communication can make all the difference. But when it comes to software development, many moving parts of a project can become perfectly aligned when all team members are transparent about their progress, challenges, and successes. While more formal meetings may regularly allow for structured discussions, more informal check-ins can let developers ask lingering questions, consult team members, and build better working relationships.

Of course, effective communication is only valuable when it happens frequently. Additionally, regular and productive discussions about projects can introduce accountability to the working environment, instilling motivation to complete individual tasks efficiently.

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Final Thoughts

There is no surefire way to keep a project from breaking the planning constraints, but there are certainly ways to mitigate the risks. With the many project management tools available and a suitable working environment to support them, software development teams can be better equipped to navigate projects precisely as planned.


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