How to Speed Up Software Development: Key Things To Consider
Are you dissatisfied with the speed of your software development team? Tell me about it.
Throughout my almost 20-year career in software engineering, I’ve been on the side of customers, and right now, alongside my role as the CEO of a software development company, I also have my own startup.
Across this industry, speed of development has always been a hot topic. It is especially true for startups that strive to release their product ASAP and often lack financial resources for that.
In this article, I am going to point out some of the common issues that slow projects down, and offer you tips on how to speed up software development.
What impacts your software development speed: Obvious and not-so-obvious things
First off, I’d like to say that there can be several reasons that can explain why your project is moving at a snail’s pace. And they are much more wide-ranging than simply the project’s technical composition. In fact, most of the root causes emerge at the very beginning of your project if it doesn’t have a solid basis, and during development, such problems end up growing like a snowball and the project gets slower and slower.
Let’s take a look at the most common causes of slow software development, considering them all from the perspective of developing high-quality software.
Software development team
Your team’s size, skills, and composition is the first thing that defines your speed of development. Modern projects are built by complex teams of skilled technical specialists, and if some of your team members are not qualified enough or are completely missing, then problems are unavoidable. In any software development team you will need to have these roles in place for almost any project:
- Project manager
- Business analyst
- UI/UX designer
- Back-end developer
- Front-end developer
- QA engineer
- DevOps engineer
- And others
This list represents the core of a team, and you should be mindful that when working on larger projects, you will need to add more roles.
Your team’s skill level can also impact your project’s development speed. When software engineers deal with challenging tasks, they can google them if they don’t know the solution and then implement it. Googling is totally fine, and doesn’t mean that an engineer lacks skill. I’ve been in a programmer’s shoes myself, and I did it too. But it’s one thing when you work with a senior developer who knows how to deal with 90% of tasks, and another if you work with a junior dev who knows how to solve only 10% of issues, and googles the rest. That junior makes more mistakes, and the project can be slowed down substantially.
Here the mantra “the earlier mistakes are made, the more expensive they eventually turn out to be” is worth bearing in mind. If you decide not to add some of these team members, or to change them during development, it can slow the project down and new problems will keep on presenting themselves.
Project management approach
Even if your team is extremely motivated and experienced, lousy management and unachievable deadlines can hinder their productivity.
Most projects are built using Scrum and Kanban, and compared to linear development, these iterative methodologies incorporate user feedback in early project stages and allow your team to go back and make changes at any time. Hence, you can reduce development time even if the project changes on the go.
That said, insufficient planning and poor management can have the opposite effect because the team will end up having to rework project parts all over again.
So how can you reap the benefits of Agile by using this methodology correctly and properly planning your project from the very beginning?
Let me illustrate with a personal example. I’ve been the CEO of a web development company for over 15 years, and on one occasion, we came up with the idea of developing our own product. So our team went ahead and started work on a travel service. We normally use Scrum while working with clients since it’s more convenient to report on results and deal with finances when there are two-week sprints, but for this project we opted for Kanban because we had no external client to report and send invoices to. When we started building our MVP, we decided not to give estimates for tasks, but after a few months, I realized that a task with no estimate takes much longer to complete. Therefore, we returned to estimates and found that the process went faster.
Each project is unique and what works for one, won’t always work for another. No one uses pure Scrum or Kanban, and you will always have to make some changes while keeping the basis of the methodology in question.
And the key thing? Remember that the methodology itself doesn’t show you how to speed up development. Any mistakes made in project management can be difficult to spot, and so can be extremely costly as the project moves forward with fundamental issues causing constant delays. Therefore, the experienced, nuanced hand of a talented Project Manager (PM) is absolutely essential to success.
Let’s have a closer look at some tech-related things that can impact the speed of project development:
There are three options for building your software: you can code in a programming language, framework, or use a CMS. If you choose a pure language, you will need more time to write everything from scratch, but it is the most flexible solution.
For projects with uncomplicated functionality, CMS is the optimal choice since everything there is already set up. If you have had the idea to build a large project using a CMS, we advise that you don’t do that, as you will have to spend lots of time customizing and tailoring it to your project. If your project is a bit more complex, you can opt for a framework because it already has some basic practices while remaining flexible.
In any case, be diligent in ensuring that you don’t make any mistakes in your technology choice, because making changes to it later will be very difficult. You can start by avoiding these common mistakes when using these three technology options.
- If you start coding in pure language, building your product will take lots of time. Pure languages are mostly used by enterprises that prioritize making their app even a few seconds or even fractions of seconds faster, even if it means spending a couple more months on building it.
- If you develop using a framework, you have a high chance of picking the wrong one. Each framework has its specifics and you choose it based on your project needs; not vice versa. For example, do you know the differences between Django and Laravel? And I could easily name more than 10 key differences, and recommend frameworks for certain project types. If you are choosing a framework, I strongly advise you to turn to several development teams and ask them to justify their framework choice.
- Using a CMS can lead to several problems. Sometimes a team hasn’t chosen a CMS for a small project and it causes delays because going for a CMS was unquestionably the best solution. Some choose it for complex projects and end up wasting excessive amounts of customization. Of course, a team may also pick the wrong CMS, since they are all different.
While working with legacy code, you can face many problems and you need to know how to deal with them. The more code you have, the harder it will be to navigate your way through its structure. Some parts of it can be left unused for a long time, and other parts of your code can become outdated, lacking support or documentation.
If you think that tighter deadlines for your devs will help you reduce development time, the quality of your code is the thing you’ll sacrifice. If you give developers a choice between deadlines and quality, they are most likely to choose the first option and make some “kludges” in your code. Then, developers will wind up spending more time fixing issues and rewriting if there are too many “kludges”. Seems like a vicious circle, doesn’t it? The same principle applies if your developers lack experience.
Lack of documentation
This is more critical if you transfer your project from one vendor to another, but even when your initial team is still working on it, not all of the devs can keep everything about your code in their mind. Always write documentation and keep it up to date.
This is a big chunk of work on a project. If you want to learn more about it, we wrote an article about unit testing. This approach doesn’t let the project drown in the tsunami of bugs in its final stages.
If you have developed a web service, you will know precisely what I’m talking about. The back office is often an overlooked part of project development. If you don’t think through it and plan it in the very beginning, it can lead to unpredictable expenses and a slow down in development.
Have you ever been in a situation where it seems that the volume of bugs in your code are endless? I’ve seen many such projects. But what has been the reason for the prevalence of so many bugs: inexperienced devs, legacy code, poor testing? Often, low-quality code is the root of the problem, and you can solve this problem by performing audits and code refactoring. Besides, you can run three stages of testing: unit tests (in your code), manual testing (GUI bugs), and Selenium automation tests (project logics). Maintaining a 3-level approach like this will help speed up software development and won’t allow bugs to pile up.
This is one more potential time consumer on any project. On the one hand, you can’t predict every single thing and avoid changes at all, but on the other, proper planning and implementation should minimize alterations, ensuring that changes will be needed only based on user feedback. The project can be made ready when planned, but poor testing and planning can lead to logical errors. This, in turn, will delay your public launch.
Business analytics, design, and content
It’s crystal clear that a designer is a must in your project team. However, it’s not always like that with business analysts. They plan your project and help minimize the need to rework it in the future. Only based on your analysts’ work, can your designers create interfaces. A designer should also create the design for all pages and elements so that a front-end engineer doesn’t have to think them out for themselves. Design should also include real-life content, not test ones, otherwise, alterations will be unavoidable.
If you decide not to add a business analyst to your team, you can save some money at first. But costs will begin to mount as you find yourself having to rework many things. Of course, you wouldn’t have overlooked this role if you had anticipated such outcomes at the beginning.
Pay attention to the real size of your content while working on your interface. Your admin panel should include content management functionality and automate this process for you. Otherwise, it will be very hard to launch the website for real-life use.
Search engine optimization is an important aspect of your marketing strategy and should be thought out from the moment you begin website development. Separately, you also need to define your monetization strategies — by the way, we have another article about monetization — map out user journeys, and the ways in which you intend to engage users into taking action. You can only build a product attractive for real users, if the marketing picture has been integrated into development. If you haven’t thought about marketing beforehand and try to integrate it at the end, you will face the need to make significant alterations in the final stages.
What else can help if you are thinking about how to speed up software development?
Now that you know about potential bottlenecks in your project, let’s take a look at the ways in which to solve them and reduce development time. Here are a few ways to speed up software development:
- Scale up your project team
Adding more team members will help you reduce the workload of each member and cover more tasks in less time. This will also help your team members stay more focused and productive. You can outsource software development and hire external team members from abroad. If you do decide to expand your team, be sure to consider point number 2.
- Split your team into smaller ones
Micromanagement and overcommunication are the main time killers for large-scale projects. Try to divide your team into smaller and more adaptable ones. This will increase your team’s productivity and simplify their management.
- Test as early/often as possible
Shift-left testing means integrating testing into the early SDLC stages. This testing approach helps find and fix bugs and errors quickly, and reduces app software development time.
- Make use of Agile methodologies
Frequent changes are often stumbling blocks for project speed. A team that works using iterative methodologies (no matter which one) works in short development lifecycles and can adapt to them faster.
Automation saves loads of your team’s time to concentrate on prioritized areas of development. For instance, automated testing lets you test and verify every developer commit. CI/CD helps make tests and deploys more frequently and with minimum manual effort.
Each software development project is unique, and if its speed leaves much to be desired, the best way is to turn to a consultant to understand its current state and highlight any opportunities for improvement. An experienced developer can find the root cause of project delays and offer solutions on how to speed up software development in your particular case.
There are many ways to speed up your project. Some people have more areas for improvement in play, whereas some already have well-organized processes but are missing some key details. I have never seen a project that doesn’t require any improvement at all.
In this article, we’ve covered lots of “improvement areas”, so if you are not satisfied with the speed of your project’s development, get in touch with us to receive a free consultation in which we will find out whether it’s possible to speed up your particular project. A detached, unbiased view of your project is always helpful.