How to Create a Software Development Plan

Creating a software development plan is an essential step in building a new product. By documenting goals, budget, methodology, deliverables, and timelines, development teams ensure open communication and transparency throughout the project. 

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What is a software development project plan? 

Software development planning encompasses all of the organization and management needed to bring a project from conception to launch. 

This requires teams to document everything needed to complete their project. From developing a broad understanding of what their final deliverable will be to organizing sprints, assigning tasks, budgeting, and more, a software development plan should communicate exactly what the project entails. 

As the first step of the software development lifecycle (SDLC), it’s the most important part of a project. A solid plan will provide structure and guidance throughout the project. Done properly, and a project can be completed on time, on budget, and meet its primary goals. 

Follow these steps and download our template to plan your next software development project. 

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Software Development Planning Steps 

  1. Set goals and determine requirements
  2. Build your team 
  3. Budget 
  4. Create a timeline and outline sprints 
  5. Methodology and progress 

1. Set Goals & Determine Requirements

Explicitly outlining the goals of a software development project plan helps teams outline the scope of the project. Rather than having a general idea of what they’re trying to accomplish, development teams can create objective-driven plans that are realistic and attainable. 

Once they have defined their goals, they can define the scope of the project — the deliverables, features, and tasks that are needed to deliver a successful project. 

At this point, each team should have: 

  • An understanding of the software’s function or purpose 
  • A list of priorities for features
  • Know what resources they will need to meet their goals 
  • Outline team requirements

With these in mind, companies can build a team, look for partners, budget, and create a timeline to reach their goals. 

2. Build Your Team

To create a great product, companies need reliable development teams with the experience and resources they need. 

Companies that have an existing development team are in luck. With an established team ready to go, they can get a jump on the project and should understand what tasks should be allocated to who. 

Others who don’t have an in-house team either have to hire several people or need to bring in an outside partner. Determining which route is right for your project depends on your budget, timeline, and the ongoing support your software might need. 

Outsource development teams are often cheaper than in-house teams and — because companies don’t have to deal with hiring — can turn around projects faster. They’re also scalable and can upsize or downsize as needed.  

Read, ‘Is Outsourcing to a Dedicated Development Team Right for Your Business?’ and ‘How to Choose a Development Team for Outsourced Projects.’

Either way, a well-rounded development team should include a: 

  • Project manager
  • Team lead
  • Full-stack developer
  • frontend developer
  • Backend developer
  • QA Lead
  • QA Engineer
  • Tester 
  • UI/UX designer

With the right team in place, companies will have everything they need to deliver a high-quality product. 

Looking to outsource your software development work? Check out our shortlist of top software development companies

3. Budget 

By outlining a budget ahead of time ensures transparency and smooth workflow through the project. The average software development project costs between $50,000–$250,000.  However, the cost of a software development project varies depending on the scope, team size, turnaround time, and type of software. 

Since the average hourly rate for developers is $50/hour, simpler projects can cost less to develop. 

Software development budgeting tips: 

  1. Remember that the project may change slightly during development, so leave a little room in your budget to cover unexpected costs. 
  2. Create an MVP first
  3. Follow a lean development methodology 
  4. Prioritize features to determine where you can cut costs as needed

To get an accurate estimation of how much your project should cost, talk to your development team about your goals and what features you want to include. 

Additional Reading, ‘Custom Software Development Costs: How to Estimate Your Budget in 2021.

4. Create a timeline and outline sprints

Estimating the amount of time it takes to complete a software development project can be challenging. Software development planners should understand how long it takes to get through each phase of the software development lifecycle. 

What are the 7 Phases of SDLC? And how long do they take? 

  1. Planning: 2–4 weeks
  2. Analysis: 2 weeks
  3. Design: 2–4 weeks
  4. Development: 4–12 weeks 
  5. Testing: 2–4 weeks 
  6. Implementation: 1–2 weeks 
  7. Maintenance: ongoing

If the development team follows a Scrum or Agile methodology, they will break the project down into sprints. Each sprint is a set amount of time in which the team tries to accomplish their development tasks. 

What is sprint planning? 

Sprint planning is when the development team determines what will be accomplished over a certain amount of time. At this point, they outline how they will accomplish each task and the project planner will assign responsibilities to each team member. 

During project planning, dev teams simply need to outline the number of sprints they plan to go through to complete all of their tasks. At the end of each sprint, they will meet to plan for the next one. 

By determining the inputs and outputs of each sprint and creating a logical order to the development process, teams can ensure the process will run smoothly and prevent major delays. 

5. Monitor Progress

Even once dev teams have established a plan and begun development, they need to keep track of how the project is going. 

Occasionally, dev teams will miss a milestone, be unhappy with the quality of what they had worked on during a sprint, or simply need to make adjustments based on the results of QA testing. 

When this happens, teams have to adjust their plan and be flexible to stay on track. It’s important that companies remember the bigger picture and prioritize quality over speed of delivery. 

If it becomes common for teams to miss their sprint goals, they may need to reevaluate how they’re planning each sprint and identify what problems keep coming up. In doing so, they will be able to resolve the issues and become more productive. 

6. QA Testing

As one of the most important steps in the development process, development teams need to account for quality assurance (QA) testing. 

The development plan should include process plans for testing. Whether companies plan to test the product at the end of development or between sprints, establishing testing protocols are key for ensuring quality. 

Software Development Plan Template 

Use this template to outline your project plans and communicate with the rest of your team. Be sure to include important documents and links as needed. 

Table of Contents 

Document Overview

  • Project goal
  • abbreviations and glossary 
  • Conventions
    • Colors
    • Fonts
    • Branding materials
Page Numbers

Mock-up

  • Rough sketches/designs
  • Requirements
  • Descriptions
 

Development Timeline

  • Overview of process phases
  • Deliverables at the end of each phase
  • Technical documentation 
  • Deadlines
 

Software Development Tools 

  • Design 
  • Development
  • Project management
  • Testing 
  • Documentation
 

Assignments

  • Activities
  • Who is responsible
 

Reporting

  • Communication guidelines
  • Workflows
 
Acceptance Criteria  

Document Overview

Project goal 
Outline objectives and why the project is necessary. 

Abbreviations and glossary 
Add chart for quick reference 

Conventions
Keep information like colors, fonts, and branding materials in one place for easy access. 
Mock-ups 
Rough sketches/designs 
Attach documents or links 

Requirements 
Bullet points 
User guides and UX workflow
Administrative requirements 

Descriptions

Development Timeline

Overview of process phases
Outline methodologies (waterfall, Scrum, etc.)

Deliverables at the end of each phase
Cover the entirety of the software development life cycle (SDLC)

Technical documentation
Include specifications, coding languages, and test phases

Deadlines 
Outline milestones and sprints 

Software Development Tools

Design 
Ex: Adobe Illustrator vs. Procreate 

Development
Ex: coding languages, rules and standards, data modeling, etc. 

Project management
Ex: Jira 

Testing
Ex: Selenium 

Documentation
Ex: GitHub 

Assignments and Documentation

Activity Who is Responsible Document Name Department Comments Approved? Y/N
Ex: Project management Project manager Software development project plan Dev team Completed Y
           
           
           

Reporting

Outline communication guidelines and workflows. 

Acceptance Criteria

Review software specifications and testability. 

Plan Your Software Development Project for Optimal Success 

As the first step of the SDLC, creating a thorough project development plan can help companies get their project started on the right foot. By outlining guidelines for the project, they increase transparency and improve teamwide communication. 

It’s important that they outline their goals and determine requirements so they can carefully assess options before making decisions that impact the success of the project. 

By recording budgetary restrictions, priorities, expected deliverables, and deadlines, they ensure that everybody involved in the project understands what is expected. 

Use these guidelines when beginning your project to keep your project organized and on-track. 

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Additional Reading

Need help selecting a company?

Based on your budget, timeline, and specifications we can help you build a shortlist of companies that perfectly matches your project needs. Schedule a free consultation with an analyst.

Free Consultation