By Volodymyr Kostanda, CEO, Adoriasoft. Today understanding the way a full cycle software development company operates may be of an utmost importance to companies seeking a nearshore development partner. The providers of such full cycle software development services are thus empowered to share their thoughts and experience, which may ultimately help IT vendors be better prepared for evaluations and negotiations with their software development partners. In three subsequent parts of the article I tried to provide some deep insights into ‘behind-the-scenes’ software development processes, key factors to keep in mind when choosing a nearshore software development partner and main recommendations on effective communication with them.
5 Essentials of a full cycle software development company
First of all, let’s outline main features of a full-cycle software development company. Full cycle software development embraces all stages of a project implementation and ensures good software built on a turn-key basis. Unlike individual freelancers a full cycle development company takes full responsibility for project implementation starting from requirements gathering/specification analysis up to deployment and delivery of a tailored-made solution with additional short-term or long-term support.
The agile software development approach is generally recognised as one of the fundamentals behind a full cycle software development firm.
There’s a number of compelling reasons to favor agile methods of software development over the other, which include:
- Client’s deep project engagement. Stakeholders are welcomed to share their thoughts and vision on an ongoing basis. They may easily collaborate with the project team at any stage of project implementation, influence the project flow. As an outcome the team benefits from understanding the requirements better and delivers outperforming results.
- Predictable project duration and costs. A defined timeline together with confirmed early estimates allow a client to make a well-considered decision and set out the priorities, depending on the budget planned.
- Transparency. Agile software development enables a client to be involved throughout the whole project, which is a unique, however challenging prerogative.Meanwhile a client should keep in mind that the work being viewed is an intermediary result.
- Early delivery. Project features in agile software development are delivered fast and frequently. With each new iteration (sprint) planned a delivery of certain project features is also a subject to a high level of predictability.
- Easily implemented changes. While having a core set of tasks to be fulfilled across all project iterations an agile approach to software development allows constant new refinements and reprioritization of the backlog issues.
- Business focus. With high involvement of a client in tasks prioritization the team better understands the client’s business and its value.
- Focus on end customers. Early users feedback at each iteration is one of the great advantages of agile software development, while it makes a project delivery user-focused, refined and aligned with real users’ needs.
- High quality. Improved software quality is easily achieved within development, testing and client-team collaborations thanks to iterative, manageable parts of the project.
Effective scrum framework is also among key prerequisites to a successfully operating nearshore development business. An efficient work scheme implies a proactive and competent collaboration between Product Owner, Scrum Master and the Team on the Project. In an effective scrum framework there are no barriers in work, but only clear teamwork goals that are defined, scheduled and achieved.
Without easy workflow in a full cycle outsourcing development company neither a project can be executed well, nor all its deadlines can be met.
Based on the majority of cases occurring in outsourcing companies the easiest workflow may be defined as the one, which normally includes the following stages:
- Sales manager gathers primary information about the project;
- Often initiated by sales manager a second stage of initial project estimation then takes place; At this stage of the project the company involves business analysts, architects, graphic designers and a project manager, who work together on requirements elicitation, design and other project related matters.
- Afterwards a client receives their dedicated manager that serves as a Product Owner (PO) in the project workflow. The manager’s role is to maintain integrity for project/product implementation by the team in regards to its conceptual and technical specification. The dedicated person already has initial project information from sales team and works further with the client on setting up a final project requirements and specification document;
- PO puts all project requirements into a digestible form known as Product Backlog for a dedicated development team to work on it further;
- PO together with developers plans concrete steps of project implementation based on the priorities ranked in the Product Backlog; during this stage developers together with the product owner set up tasks with realistic deadlines and expected deliverables that are split in iterations known as sprints (usually 2 weeks each);
- Team of developers executes the actual development according to the current sprint; a dedicated Scrum Master works as a facilitator in this process and makes sure every committed employee does his tasks assigned in the current Sprint;
- High quality is a must. Depending on a project a team can choose TDD technique and create unit tests. Along with that QA engineers conduct specific tests to ensure security, code architecture and readability etc. in the course of development;
- Meanwhile the team of developers together with Scrum Master check what was completed at the end of each sprint in Sprint Review;
- In subsequent Sprint Retrospective members of a team committed to a certain project discuss together the areas for improvement;
- After all conclusions have been made about the work done a new Sprint starts filled with new tasks of the project implementation; the cycle is repeated until the whole project is finished.
Central figures in any agile development project typically appear in the following hierarchy:
- Product Owner
- Scrum Master
- The Team Committed to a Project
All of the mentioned roles play an indispensable part in clear project structuring, as well as effective project implementation when client’s goals are reached within set deadlines.
The last, but not the least crucial matter is clear project hierarchy. A midsize agency that provides full cycle outsourcing software development services normally has multiple projects running simultaneously. What is imperative for a full cycle IT service provider is having all project managers working side-by-side as one coordination team, which in turn is able to manage all cross-functional development teams, allocate manpower resources where needed and thus ensure steady workflow for all company projects.
6 Key points to evaluate an IT service provider before you jump into co-operation
Now that you know the essential parts, figures and processes inside a typical full cycle development company it is time to identify major factors for selecting a company to partner with. Have you ever thought about the way your competitors choose their partnering nearshore software development company? Do you conduct any in-depth research prior to reaching out to a certain company or you rely on expert recommendations?
To fasten decision-making process here is the list of 6 compelling factors to evaluate:
- Industry knowledge. If an outsourcing software development firm has a good knowledge of your company industry or even has already conducted several development projects in the same field it is an advantage for your business, because the risks then are mitigated.
- Expertise. Solid hands-on experience in technologies, languages and frameworks you seek is a must-have for any potential software development partner.
- Cost-effective rates. The cost of a project to be fulfilled must meet your business expectations. The rates suggested by an IT service provider must be worthwhile.
- Background. Check your potential partner’s background and company overall longevity. If it is an established, well-known company that operates mainly due to long-term cooperations that is a sign of a potentially reliable, effective software development partner to work with.
- Clients. If an outsourcing software development company has a similar clientele as your business, as well the size of clients is more or less similar to the one of your company that also speaks in favor of this or that IT service provider.
- Communication. Possibly being the top factor on the list an effective communication is simply mandatory for a partnering software development firm to provide. No barriers in negotiating and overall communication should stand in the way of successful project implementation.
Specifics of negotiating or why effective communication matters
Negotiations and communication can make any software development project either a success or a complete disaster. This depends only on readiness of both a client and a service provider to hear and understand each other. Eventually both have the same goals to achieve, so setting up a great communication practice is vital for successful delivery of a software development project.
One of the specific things that helps establishing a clear communication within the run of the project is for the client to be involved in shaping an initial requirements document together with the service provider. Even if the client doesn’t have a clear idea on technologies, languages or functionality to be used in a software project that doesn’t have to be an obstacle. An effective full cycle development company fully understands the complexity of such rawness of a project idea and assists in establishing a requirements document by providing a dedicated manager. A typical full cycle software development company also provides a profound consultation on the methods, technologies, languages and frameworks that suit the client’s project best. It is the most fascinating task for any IT service provider to be able to both reveal all the cutting-edge tech possibilities of the company on project being discussed and at the same be able to choose the most cost-effective options, which will suit the client’s needs.
Another crucial specific in achieving great communication within the project realm is for the client to assign a dedicated manager on their side upfront. This person normally should have an authority to coordinate the service provider team on behalf of the client. Having mediators on both sides (a product owner from an IT service provider and a dedicated manager from the client) usually ensures a perfect coincidence of client’s expectations of the project with the end results provided by an outsourcing development partner. Also providing a dedicated manager from the client’s side usually helps to accelerate project implementation and speeds up decision-making.