5 Tips to Avoid Unclear Software Development Project Specs

You’ve just read through the specs for your team’s newest project, but you are completely and utterly befuddled because the scope is so incredibly vague and potentially nebulous. To say there’s room for interpretation is putting it mildly, as Nostradamus quatrains are more clear-cut and straightforward than these specifications. You’re left with far more questions than answers and that’s a bad place to be, especially since those specs are intended to serve as a precise roadmap for this software development project.

But unfortunately, this scenario isn’t isolated or even uncommon. Unclear project specifications are a primary cause of scope creep, which, in turn, leads to budget overruns, longer-than-projected timeframes, and loads of stress. It’s actually surprisingly easy to get sucked into a project that lacks precise, exacting specs, particularly in cases where the client is indecisive or uncertain.

So where do you go from here? And how do you ensure that your specs are clear and well-defined? The key to a successful project is to develop an outline that is specific and complete, leaving no questions or room for interpretation.

Tip #1: Avoid Overly Simplistic or Overly Complex Specs

Poor development project specs are too simplistic, leaving lots of unknowns that leave the door open to scope creep. In an effort to avoid this well-known pitfall, many project leaders will go in the opposite direction, packing in loads of detail. The end result is a complex and convoluted set of specifications that makes it impossible for developers to accurately envision the project as a whole. This can be especially problematic if the project planners lacked a firm understanding of what is—and what is not—achievable from a development standpoint.

Therefore, it’s important to strike a solid balance, with specs that are precise and leave no questions unanswered. But resist the urge to go overboard, including large volumes of unnecessary detail.

Tip #2: Build Specs with Design and Development in Mind

A theoretical vision for a project can differ quite significantly from that which is practical and doable in terms of scope, form, and functionality. Therefore, it’s vital that you work with designers and developers as you’re outlining the specifications for a project.

Working with lead developers and designers gives you an opportunity to get a more accurate feel for precisely what’s possible from an architectural and design standpoint and what’s viable in terms of function and feature development. You’ll also gain insight into what the target user will view as desirable in the specific app or software that you’re creating.

By considering design and development elements of the project, you’ll reduce the chances of seeing major (and potentially costly) mid-stream spec alterations.

Tip #3: Craft Specs With a Phased Approach in Mind

It’s challenging and impractical to tackle a large development project (or other tech and IT projects, for that matter) in one fell swoop. Instead, break the project into phases and echo this staged approach in your specs. Make note of logical phase division points as you craft the specifications and be sure to pass this information to your project managers.

A bite-sized approach offers greater clarity by turning a huge, overwhelming project into something that’s far more digestible. This allows developers to focus on a narrow segment of the project scope as they work toward achieving specific, short-term objectives.

A phased development strategy allows you to accommodate a milestone-based invoicing structure. You can also provide the client with periodic deliverables, thereby increasing their level of satisfaction.

Tip #4: Implement Defined Change Protocols

It’s unrealistic to expect every project to proceed exactly as planned. It’s not uncommon for the project to evolve and change as it progresses through the various phases while en route to completion. This can be a positive thing, as long as the evolution in scope and specs is also reflected in the project’s budget, timeline, and expectations…lest you stray into the realm of scope creep.

It’s vital that you take a precise, systematic approach to handling spec-related changes. You must establish a set protocol for requesting changes, approving and documenting alterations, then finally, updating the project timeline and budget accordingly. Development project software systems like Jira provide an environment that’s well-suited to processing changes in a manner that’s both orderly and effective.

Tip #5: Bring in a Team to Handle Your Project (and its Specs)

The most challenging specs are those that fall outside your tech team’s comfort zone. You’re essentially tasked with creating a detailed and accurate map for a region of uncharted waters. These projects carry a very high risk of seeing longer-than-expected development timeframes, budget overruns, and even catastrophic failure.

One option is to proceed with the project in-house, as you fly by the seat of your pants and hope for the best. You could also outsource the project, but this can be costly and the finished result may be less than ideal. A third choice is to insource the project, which involves calling in a team of tech professionals who will work hand-in-hand with your staff to complete the project. The latter option can be a suitable choice for a wide range of company and project types.

iTech is one of the few companies to offer the unique tech and IT staffing solution known as insourcing. We hire an elite group of developers and other tech professionals who are assembled into a team that operates like a well-oiled machine. Then, our team is dispatched and embedded within your company’s staff, where they’ll actively work to achieve their set objective. Our tech staffing firm is headquartered in Texas and we serve the Texas Triangle (Dallas, Houston, and Austin) along with clients throughout the United States and beyond. Contact iTech today to learn more about this unique service offering.

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