The Ultimate Time Management Plan for Software Developers

  • Raghu Naidu 08-16-2020 Read time (5 min)

The Ultimate Time Management Plan for Software Developers

“How did it get so late so soon?”
― Dr. Seuss

Forget Dr. Seuss! We’re pretty sure that one of your developers has used a similar statement when they missed their deadline.

It is an undeniable fact that poor time management has always been a developer’s biggest vice.

Your team might be super talented but the unstoppable ticking clock makes it impossible for them to prove this.

That’s because your customer will always look at the submission date when they give their final verdict.

So what should you do? Should you order your team to speed things up?

This is one way to go but it might prove hazardous for the project. That’s because rushed projects only lead to half-baked outcomes and technical errors.

We know that you can’t possibly want that. So you end up tarnishing your quality just to get the job done on time.

Who’s to Blame?

Our experience tells us that missed deadlines are casualties of inaccurate planning. You see, even if you stuck to the Agile Manifesto (aka the twelve commandments of software development) you might have miscalculated the time estimates. That’s because more often than not your developer wouldn’t have informed you about the complexities of the project. Additionally, commercial trends, your customer’s revisions and power failures might have also caused delays.

Ultimately, your strategic planning might have set the bar too high for developers. Inevitably, this sort of misalignment leads to delays, incomplete projects and lots of rehashing after submission. Come to think about it, you’re actually setting yourself up for failure as you sanction a schedule filled with holes. Now, as a team leader, you’re supposed to take charge and be on top of everything. This becomes a tough task to pull if your team is cooped up in their cubicles.

So how do you navigate this problem? The answer lays in good old teamwork and coordination. This can only be achieved if everyone pulls in and does their part in our time management plan.

The key features of our plan are:

  • Charting tangible outcomes
  • Optimizing productivity
  • Regular reports
  • Self-motivated developers
  • Detailed Discussions

On the whole, we want you and your team to figure out a game plan that helps them manage their time easily.

The Manager’s Role: Setting up the Perfect Schedule

Like we mentioned before, business executives fail to create accurate timelines because they don’t know what’s really happening in the operational phase.

To help you build an accurate timeline, we’ve formulated a time management plan. These strategies highlight all the areas you’re required to cover during the planning process.

Ultimately, this strategy helps business executives to map out a highly accurate timeline for their development projects. It also ensures that they don’t end up biting off more than they can chew. Thus, this makes way for a win-win situation for everyone involved. Without further ado, let’s look at what you’ve got to do:

1. Build Collaborated Projection Charts

As soon as you’ve got a new project at hand, you must create a focused strategy to deal with it. You’ve got to round up your team and brainstorm a clear-cut action plan. The basic idea here is to formulate a tentative trajectory of your project. Let them know where you expect them to be in the coming week/month and then ask them if your plan is possible.

One way to divide this chart is by setting a time stamp to the six phases of your SDLC (System Development Life Cycle)

That is:

  1. Planning
  2. Analysis
  3. Design
  4. Implementation
  5. Testing
  6. Maintenance

Moreover, during this initial phase it is important for team leaders to know the answer to these questions:

  • What problems does the particular project solve?
  • What tangible outcomes can be expected from them?
  • How will their success be measured?
  • What major user stories will they be focusing on?

In a nutshell, developers should be briefed from the get-go about the work they will be handling during the project. Knowing what’s coming helps them to adjust and accommodate their work rate accordingly once the development process begins.

Additionally, they’d appreciate the involvement in the planning. As it won’t feel like you’re bombarding them with multiple tasks throughout the project.

2. Delegation and Ownership

Do you know what your team is capable of?

Most executives have a rough idea about the strengths and weakness of the team. You use this knowledge to your advantage by appointing tasks accordingly. Then if they come up and say that the job is too big for them, then you must pair them off with more developers. Doing so helps you prevent a scenario where the mismanagement of one team member drags the whole team down.

3. Redefine the Definition of Done

Cross conventional boundaries by finalizing the age-old debate of hours vs. points.

Instead of asking your team to get the job done within 12 hours tell them to get at least 7-10 points done during the workday.

What are we talking about? This is in reference to the all essential point system introduced in the Agile methodology. Experts say that measuring the work rate in regards to its complexity is better than counting down hours taken to complete the project.

The key here is to factor in all the variables surrounding the particular task like the coding, dependencies and required upgrades. This helps you figure out how difficult a particular task can be for the developer working on the project. You can then adjust their workload according to the points.

4. Regular Reports and Calculating Velocities

Your job doesn’t get done after the planning phase. A good development leader is always involved in the operational process. They are supposed to keep an eye out for discrepancies and hurdles that come along the way.

So, whilst the developers work on their tasks, it’s your responsibility to get timely status updates. Try to keep an eye out for problems and resolve them before they escalate.

In addition to this, keeping tabs on the team also means noting down the amount of work being done. Tally their productivity with the point values you’ve assigned to each task. You might modify the point system if you feel that it doesn’t equate to the amount of work being done.

How to calculate their speed?
Give your developers a week to work on their project, then start calculating the team’s velocity.

What’s velocity?

In Agile terms, it is the amount of work done during a specific sprint (developmental cycle).

You can calculate your team’s velocity by adding up the completed tasks in reference to their points system. Then equate your total with the list of tasks assigned in that sprint. The result will give you an accurate depiction of the possible completion date for your project.

For instance, let’s say that you have a 200 point project. If your team has completed 20 points during the first week then they will probably complete the project within eight weeks.

That is unless some unpredictable external factor hinders the progress (e.g. power failures, system breakdowns or difficult weather conditions). With that being said, executives are requested to keep tallying in their velocity after short intervals. This ensures that they know how far the work has progressed. More importantly, they’ll know if the velocity needs some modification so that they deliver on time.

Counter Balance: What If the Velocity Doesn’t Match the Deadlines?

This is one of the worst case scenarios for any developer’s team. It is a thing that can put you in a frenzy if the deadline is edging really close. The best way to dodge a missed deadline is by adjusting the velocity as soon as you see a problem.

Here are a number of countermeasures you can take optimize the productivity:

  • Recruit more developers for the project
  • Boost employee’s productivity through incentives
  • Scrap off features that are irrelevant or less important

In short, the team has to be flexible and accommodating enough to accept changes made mid-way during the project. Or else their performance and quality might suffer due to the new additions to the schedule/team.

On the whole, a manager’s job is to make sure that everything is running smoothly during the process.

The Developer’s Role: Keeping Up with the Workload

Here are three effective ways software developers can maintain their schedules:

1. Learn to Prioritize
What do you do if you’ve got a ton of work to do?

Prioritize the tasks in the order of their urgency and dependency. Your primary aim here is to create an orderly timeline that optimizes the pace and doesn’t miss out on anything important.

You might even create a spreadsheet to help track your progress. This ensures that you don’t miss out on anything just because you discarded it in the beginning.

2. Divide and Rule
What if some tasks take up too much time?

This is an extension of the first strategy. The best way to tackle through the tedious tasks is by dividing them into smaller sections. This is done to provide you with digestible and attainable tasks. Otherwise, you’ll be left working on what appears to be a single task throughout the day. Use the previous rule to arrange these smaller chunks according to relevancy and dependency

3. Always Coordinate
Developing a software program isn’t a one-man job. That’s why it is important to take a break and regroup with the team. This will help you assess your own progress and seek advice from the team leader. Their guidance might help you solve a problem that you couldn’t get your head around when you were working on it alone.

4. Stay Motivated
The best tactic is to create milestones and treat yourself as you cross them. Doing so helps you recollect energy and pick up enough momentum to continue the work. You won’t believe it but incentives do help you keep up a steady pace.

In short , a developers role in our time management plan is to keep their head down and stay focused on the task at hand. Albeit, with a little bit of help from other team members and managers.

Let’s Sum It Up…

On the whole, managers need to understand that no amount of time management tips will work if the team isn’t on the same page. They need a level of synchronization and organization to help optimize their work rate. The failure to do so will lead to missed deadlines.

At the same time, developers need to learn how to manage time by prioritizing projects, dividing tasks and eliminating distractions. This ensures that they keep up with the ongoing demands of their customers.

In the end, we suggest that you follow this guide to the T. Since, it’s a highly effective and super reliable way to measure your team’s velocity. The assessments will then help you realize what needs to be done for future projects. Soon enough you won’t be drowning in backlog or requesting extensions for your deadlines. Sounds great, right?

So what are you waiting for? It’s time to deliver those projects right on time!

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