Software is an indispensable part of the business. New software applications and products are being launched in the market every day to cope up with changing business requirements. Enterprises that use advanced technologies to step up their services for meeting changing customer demands are likely to lead the race. This means that they would need to obtain software solutions, which help meet growing customer and business challenges, up and running in shorter time durations.
Therefore, it is imperative that software companies bring down their development life cycles. A number of innovative strategies, such as agile and iterative Software Development Life Cycle models, are now emerging. At the same time, the dominance of traditional software applications is increasingly disrupted by new-age solutions such as cloud, SaaS, mobile apps, service-based apps. These apps are rewriting the rules on ideation and development of applications.
Irrespective of the strategy adopted or the product design, careful scrutiny of the Software Development Life Cycle process itself reveals major bottlenecks that can cause adverse delays in the development cycle. If addressed proactively, these delays can be minimized and the Software Development Life Cycle cycle be significantly shortened, thereby increasing efficiency and reducing cost, while getting the product ready in lesser time. Taking the help of an expert software application development outsourcing service would help smoothen this process.
The delays in the Software Development Life Cycle are commonly termed as waste. Primarily, waste arises from the following features:
This is a result of having excessively interdependent multiple teams. A delay at one end can lead to the dependent side wasting a lot of time. At times, the teams are waiting for the infrastructure – hardware and software that is needed to begin their work has to be set up. The application needed by the specialist team may take a long time for deployment, especially if done manually.
At other times, the teams are waiting for other teams to complete their work, which includes the very important aspect of timely reviews for the various artifacts in the Software Development Life Cycle. This often includes deliverables such as requirements, design documents, code, test plans, and test reports. In case the teams or members are scattered geographically, it becomes increasingly difficult to coordinate and control the pace of information flow.
Solution: Automation can help reduce the waiting time. Cloud technologies have made it possible to fast-track development, where the infrastructure is available well in advance, reducing the initial wait-time. Automated deployment tools and tools for Software Lifecycle Management can help coordinate and track the availability of applications, information, documents, review comments, and other artifacts that need to be shared smoothly across all locations of a scattered team. By providing dependency on a single timeline visible to all the sub-teams, these tools can help the sub-teams to self-organize their work, to reduce the waiting time.
Whenever there is a handoff - a piece of work is passed from one team member to another- or a task switch -a team member moving from one task to another- precious time is lost in realigning key information, familiarization, and rework. At times, these changes may not be documented well enough for the new personnel to understand. Whenever a developed application is handed over to another team or department, for purposes like validation or testing, or deployment, there could be a significant delay. During upgrades, the original documents of existing functionality are often unavailable or outdated, hence increasing time delay and reducing reliability.
Solution: Handoff and task-switch waste can be reduced by using tools for automatic deployment. This way copies could manage large releases in an organized manner and use internal applications between multiple environments. When a team member can view changes done by other teams/members, time can be saved as all information and status are readily visible.
For artifact management, tools that help to save context-based documents grouped and linked along with their relevant metadata should be used. This makes it easier to retrieve the requisite information and share re-usable information from other teams as well. Relating people and business processes to documents for requirements such as design, code, plans, and test reports, ensures smoother and faster task switches and minimizes dependency on a particular individual.
This type of waste happens when personnel moves physically from one place to another in order to share, discuss and interact with other team members and business heads. Time is lost in travel and long meetings. This further reduces productivity as it causes additional fatigue during face-to-face discussions and travel.
Solution: This waste could be reduced by using tools that allow smooth information sharing especially context-based. They should ensure that artifacts, business cases, and documents are visible to all stakeholders at their place of work and reduce the need for meetings or clarifications. Automated review and discussion boards allow a person to multitask and hold a conversation with another remote team member while working at his/her desk. This is especially beneficial in remotely distributed development teams.
There are often, a number of overhead processes within the development lifecycle, that place an extra ‘burden’ on the team without adding much value to the product or the customer. Typically, unnecessary documents that have no audience, legacy outdated internal processes, useless metric collation, and reviews that no one responds to, are reasons for ‘extra’ processes.
Solution: Each step in the Software Development Life Cycle must be carefully evaluated before being blindly followed. Any step that has little value to the customer, and causes slowing down of the overall Software Development Life Cycle, should be evaluated and if needed, eliminated or paced up. Automation can really help in enabling continuous and frequent shorter releases that can be quickly integrated, validated, tested in an automated manner.
At times, extra functionality is built into the software that offers little or no value to the business goals or to the customer, hence contributes to wasted time and effort.
Solution: By using tools that trace and align each feature to business ideas along with prioritizing and seeking documented approval before kicking off development, can help. Tools should also provide means to share and make visible the software features under development, to business stakeholders. This way it can be ensured that only the useful features are focused upon. By making the entire process traceable, the agility of responding to changing business dynamics is achieved.
Often partially completed work leads to waste due to incomplete features that cannot be implemented yet. This is disastrous in the waterfall model approach since development begins only after previous stages have been completed. In the agile model as well, partially completed work could lead to waste. If the team is working on multiple iterations, missed out or incomplete functionality might be tested much later when the cost of fixing may be too high.
Solution: In an iterative approach, it is of utmost importance to complete all dependency chains, especially incomplete stories. They should be brought to a logical closure, as soon as possible, within the iteration itself. This shall minimize partially completed works. Automated agile dashboards and a collaborative approaches to development are key factors used to identify partially completed areas. Appropriate measures would be then applied to complete them.
Defect reporting, at later stages, is very expensive to repair and hence, causes waste. The time wasted in defects reporting and fixing leads to heavy time and cost penalties. The fix might not even work correctly. At times, testing depends upon the readiness of dependent services, especially during integration testing which is normally conducted at a later stage in the development.
Solution: It is imperative to test the bugs as early as possible in system development. Agile helps address these issues to a certain extent. Test virtualization tools can help check partially developed systems in simulated integration environments, thus moving up testing in the Software Development Life Cycle.
Additional Techniques: Listed below are some other strategies that focus on the overall product development process in order to assist in reducing waste and increasing efficiency in the system.
In a global company, various parts of a complete software system may be done by various teams or third parties, each using their own tools and Software Development Life Cycle methods. In order to align such varied portions, collaborate and share dependent information, as well as provide a unified platform to connect business leads, system analysts, project managers, developers, and testers, a unified ALM is needed. It can help reduce the gap between agile and non-agile methods and create visibility and traceability across the entire lifecycle, reducing waste and avoiding duplication of efforts.
Using the tools and techniques of DevOps, smooth communication and collaboration between software developers and other stakeholders such as testers, business leads, can be achieved. This leads to better integration, automation, and gives a complete picture to all stakeholders to measure and monitor the entire Software Development Life Cycle, thereby improving efficiency.
A unified platform leads to smooth communication within the team. There is a need to inculcate processes and attitudes that can help react quickly to changing business scenarios. This is even more important for those decisions that are based on risk identification. Developers and testers should map functionality to business goals to incorporate the change in the software. When testers can predict changing or new functionality under development, they would be better equipped with test setups and plans to thoroughly test the change.
Companies need to be conscious of the inadvertent delays in their SDLC and adapt technologies and methodologies that help to reduce them. The initial investment in deploying these tools or processes will be well offset by the huge time savings during multiple software product developments where the tools can be reused. This way, enterprise scan hope to remain profitable and be ahead of the competition.