Damien Tanner, Co-Founder of New Bamboo said, “Traditional development methods work really well when the outcome of a project can be defined precisely. It is often not possible – or desirable – to set these kinds of requirements when developing sophisticated, user focussed applications. In these cases, traditional methods are simply not fit for purpose and a more flexible, iterative approach to software development is called for.”
New Bamboo’s five tips to web application development success are as follows:
- Have a clear mission statement, not a set of requirements, from the outset.
By defining a mission statement for the web project, agreed by all stakeholders, the project will have the flexibility to evolve successfully towards its completion. At the outset, project teams should be asking questions such as ‘What is the end goal of this project?’ and ‘What results are we looking for?’, as opposed to ‘What are the functional requirements of this project?’ The end goal is to deliver business value, not deliver against a set of requirements.
Defining all of the requirements up front makes it very difficult to react to the changes that inevitably occur as knowledge and environments evolve. The inflexibility of traditional approaches also mean that requirements that have been omitted are generally picked up late in the process, and are therefore awkward and costly to implement. By rigidly defining schedule, budget and scope at the outset, the only variable left is quality – and sacrificing quality is never the sensible option.
- Involve key business stakeholders throughout the whole process.
Development should take a collaborative approach; by sharing ownership of the project, the expectations of the business and the final product will be aligned.
Traditionally, the business is only involved in initial meetings and at the testing and acceptance phase. Web applications are developed by project teams working as part of a functional silo dedicated to a single part of a highly phased development process. This disconnect between the developers and the business means that applications are developed out of context with the overall business goals of the project which, at best means that time is wasted developing applications that are unsuitable or at worst, nothing gets built at all as the teams are trying to deliver against rigid requirements.
- Understand that the best ideas will appear during development.
This principle is further enhanced by involving key business stakeholders in the project as the cross-functional teams are able to brainstorm new ideas and functionality throughout the development process.
The process should therefore be interactive and enable the best ideas to be incorporated, be they from internal teams, business stakeholders or external specialist developers. If rigid requirements are defined at the outset, development teams are denied this opportunity to introduce new possibilities and ideas into a project.
- Release working software throughout development and conduct regular user testing.
By adopting a dynamic, iterative approach that involves regular meetings with key stakeholders and end user testing of working software, the project is constantly kept on course for success. In each meeting a certain level of quality assurance is carried out by the people that will ultimately be using the application, and mistakes can be rectified early on.
- Review the completed project.
When the project has gone live, development teams should schedule a review, with a view to optimisation. Technology moves so fast that new functionality may be available that was not anticipated during the early phases, that would enhance the project yet further. Even where the project has exceeded all expectations, there may still be ways to improve the speed or user experience.
By following these five tips, New Bamboo believes that it is possible to reduce time to market, increase quality and save money while delivering a product that is exactly what the business requires. New Bamboo has several industry-leading clients in market segments that include business consultancy, global publishing and international not-for-profit organisations.
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