How Robust Are Your Software Development Processes?
When it comes to development for a digital product, a ‘process’ is more than just a buzzword. Processes are integral to a development team’s productivity and without strict processes, a CTO or dev team leader will struggle to produce results.
Effective processes are the most effective way of keeping your team on track and minimising common development issues such as downtime, human error and technical debt.
However, not all processes are created equally, and to make sure your developers are working effectively, whatever the project, you’ve got to invest in robust processes.
The Power of SOPs
SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) are a clear and concise guide that documents how to carry out a routine operation. Within technical teams, it’s common for developers to create a standardised approach for common activities, but the actual documentation of said processes are missing. Typically, processes are created in response to a specific circumstance and then evolve, becoming something of a ‘patchwork’ process; passed down from one team member to another without being recorded. SOPs are a direct solution to this.
The act of creating SOPs can be time-consuming but tends to be worthwhile, as it allows you to assess exactly what is required from each operation, who is involved and what best practice looks like. From here, you can create a guide that is accessible to every team member.
Generating SOPs doesn’t mean that processes can never change - it just means that your development team can make efficient and effective work of the day-to-date operations and focus their attention on creative problem-solving. It also means that any outsourcing or co-creation tasks can be made more effective by sharing SOPs with your agency/external development team.
If you find that all of the process information exists only in one or more of your team’s minds - and there’s no explicit standard procedure in writing, then it’s time to create your SOPs.
Signs of Ineffective Development Processes
We’ve already touched upon the importance of having a set of clear and concise SOPs for the day-to-day activities of your development team, but what else constitutes a robust development process? And how to know if your processes and strategies are becoming ineffective?
A CTO is responsible for both leading the development team as well as bridging the gap between technical departments and the wider business goals. With the employment of software developers expected to grow 22% by 2029, we know that development teams are growing fast and, often, it’s hard to keep up with the wave of new recruits, promotions and new projects while also taking the time to carefully and accurately document and execute processes.
In order to see the success of robust processes (and dodge the failures of ineffective ones), they must be all-encompassing - and not just come into play when it’s time to deliver the work. From ensuring every brief is watertight to cross-departmental communications, managing technical debt and QA, robust processes might be the difference between success and failure for your project.
If you are regularly finding that your team misses deadlines, surpasses budget and delivers sub-par work, the chances are you don’t lack the skills or talent - just the processes required to get it right every time.
Creating a Robust Development Process: QA
To get started with robust processing, you need to take a step back and look at each of your operating procedures in isolation, as well as how they interact with other activities and departments. For this article, let’s take a closer look at how to build a robust QA (Quality Assurance) process.
QA is not a nice-to-have, it’s a vital component of a successful development process.
As with any SOP, an effective QA process can be carried out by any member of your development team and isn’t open to interpretation. It’s a clearly defined process that can be easily shared and scaled, depending on the individual requirements of the project.
When building a QA process, here are some key questions to consider:
Is there currently a QA process in place? Is it documented?
Where does QA sit within the project timeline?
Who is responsible for documenting the process?
What format will the documentation take and how easily accessible will it be to teams?
What does ‘best practice’ look like for you?
Of course, a QA process can only be effectively implemented when it is part of a wider strategy. For example, running pull requests for buggy code is great but if your client discovery process isn’t up to scratch, there’s only so much QA can do to marry up the brief with the output.
All in all, your development team is only as good as its processes. Introducing robust processes including SOPs, effective team communication, accurate documentation, proper induction periods and ongoing training will all contribute to a successful project and, most importantly, a happy and effective development team.
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