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The key to successful software development begins with well defined requirements. Changing requirements are a very common cause of problems that can create buggy software which winds up in the hands of end users. While it's impossible to never make changes, the need to alter requirements usually arises from poor product definition in the first place. The more accurate the original requirements, the less need there will be for change later on. There are many good ways to develop accurate requirements, such as prototyping, usability studies or running workshops or development camps where stakeholders get together to help define the product.
Good project planning must be followed up by good project management. Goals should be precisely and clearly set. It also helps to have a clear vision statement that sets out priorities and exactly what the product is intended to do. Start with a feasibility study before budgeting the whole project. This prevents overshooting or undershooting the mark and developing a product no one wants or has unnecessary functions that drive up cost, development and testing time.
Management must also go beyond the technical to encompass other areas of expertise, such as project tracking, risk assessment and accounting. Data collection from software testers, UX testing and the other areas involved in the project must be carefully collated and understood. Corporate should not pressure project managers with unrealistic expectations. Managers should also make sure that each link in the development chain meets its goals and that no problems are passed down the chain. Each link must be responsible for its own area.
Expectations should be realistic. There will be different and sometimes conflicting requirements when multiple stakeholders are involved. So, there should be a pragmatic consensus on what release 1.0 will do and what will be added to later releases. Otherwise, you run the risk of trying to create an application that's supposed to sing, dance, play the harp and do the laundry, all at the same time.
And finally, do whatever you can to ensure that software testing is as thorough as possible. Quality testing is your ultimate guarantee of a successful product.
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