How to Manage Challenges of Long-Term Projects

22 August 2022

Veronika Nedashkovskaya

Content Manager

Keeping everything under control in short-term tasks is relatively easy—everybody goes to a common and known goal. Long-term project management, on the other hand, requires experience and a lot of resources. Will your product still be relevant in half a year? How do you keep your team motivated and stakeholders focused? Can you save up money in the end? Long-term projects are as ambitious as they are challenging.

“Building a functioning system at the start helps you avoid most challenges in the future”.

Maksim Atiutskii, Business Development Office, Rocketech

However, challenging doesn’t mean impossible. The Rocketech Team created a software development project challenges checklist with seven crucial aspects of long-running products.

#1 Choose the Right Tech Stack

Saying that a tech stack dramatically affects any IT project is not an exaggeration. The choice of instruments can change the development time, quality and project cost. Moreover, it impacts product scalability in the future.

The term “technology stack” refers to a complex combination of programming languages, software and a range of frameworks used to develop an IT project.

Choosing the right tech stack shouldn’t equate to relying solely on the CTO’s competencies or the previous experience of available developers. Rather, it involves deliberate risk assessment and pros/cons evaluation for each option. The right in this context means a highly scalable, flexible and powerful tech stack yet well-known to the market. The latter matters the most as finding an emergency replacement (or team members change for any reason) for developers with “exotic” expertise (like Rust, Ruby or .NET) can pose many challenges to HR and significantly slow down the project (no matter how great the technology is).

#2 Don’t Hire Weak Developers

This seemingly obvious lifehack can turn into a real challenge for many young startups. Lacking experience in finding strong developers, some founders make wrong choices and provide the early-stage employees with stock options. It makes it hard to say goodbye to those weak specialists later and, in many cases, increase investments.

Here’s a common scenario. A fresh startup with no HR strategy creates the first minimal viable product (MVP). The team consists of any available developers regardless of their expertise and experience. At later stages, a badly written product needs a total redo. However, the founder disagrees that the project requires code refactoring. It increases the technical debt due to burning deadlines for feature releases. As a result, the project is crumbling.

There are two ways to avoid this scenario:

  1. Building an efficient HR process to hire the “right” professionals;
  2. Partnering with a software development company that also provides HR services and helps clients form an effective expert team from the project's day one.

When building a “somehow ok” MVP, founders must be ready to rewrite the entire code from scratch later to create a functional product. Starting off with clean code and a highly professional team, on the other hand, substantially saves time and budget for further development.

#3 Build the QA Process

Quality Assurance is not only about finding bugs. It's about preventing defects and, as the name suggests, creating a quality product. At Rocketech, we’ve developed the four golden rules:

  1. Hire strong QA engineers;
  2. Create the Community of Practice;
  3. Strictly monitor documentation;
  4. Keep the code clean.

In the long run, establishing an efficient QA process helps founders save money. Simply put, QA engineers find bugs and send reports to the developers responsible for the respective part of the code. It means the developers don’t have to spend extra time looking for the reasons why something went wrong. 

To create successful products, quality must become the first priority.

Maksim Atiutskii, Business Development Office, Rocketech

However, Quality Assurance is a broader term. It includes many aspects of product quality at all project stages— development, release and operation. It minimises the number of bugs and prevents them from appearing in published product versions. 

#4 Don’t Disregard Methodologies

Many startups fail because they cannot build an operational process. Some try to set up a system of their own by altering already existing approaches and frameworks. In reality, changing proven methods leads to partially functional processes like ScrumBut and rarely benefits the company.

It doesn’t matter which methodology you choose—Scrum, Kanban or even good old Waterfall—the point is to follow it properly. It's vital to base the internal processes on continuous feedback, retrospectives and prioritising. Hiring respective professionals (experienced Scrum Masters, for example) helps founders train the team, build the company's methodology and boost productivity by following guidelines and restrictions.

Neglecting this aspect typically leads to chaos, a toxic atmosphere and pointless arguments taking up to 90% of working time. The team's productivity and motivation inevitably decrease.

Strong developers don’t like wasting time on needless calls due to bad management.

Maksim Atiutskii, Business Development Office, Rocketech

#5 Prioritise Soft Skills

While focusing on technical challenges in project management, many founders overlook other aspects of a streamlined process. Today’s working environments often prioritise soft skills over exclusively technical competencies. The simplest example is avoiding hiring a “star” engineer with obvious toxic personality traits. If the entire team is uncomfortable working with one employee, it’s time to find a replacement for that person. Such people typically lack the most valuable soft skills—the ability to learn and the desire to work in a team.

#6 Stay Agile

The political and social events of the last few years have taught businesses to stay agile to survive in fast-changing conditions. Agility in this context refers to continuous hypothesis testing and stable release planning. Put simply, a long-term project planned for years in advance will most likely fail with the first market fluctuations and user behaviour changes.

Most long-term project outcomes become obsolete before they reach the end user. It often turns out that they are no longer needed for various reasons, from a changed company's strategy to simply not finding a product-market fit. 

Successful products start with minimal, simple functionality that gets more complex with each release. According to this approach, development takes place parallel to market testing. And each new feature corresponds to the user feedback and brings the customer what they really need.

#7 Plan Properly

Project estimation and planning can either set the right pace or kill the endeavour before it even starts. Knowing how to calculate risks and predict the team’s productivity helps executives make considerably more accurate timeframe and budget estimations.

It, however, requires experience and the data from previous sprints or records of the team’s speed and efficiency from past projects. Proper planning is not just assigning mythical eight-hour days required to develop a feature to each specialist. It’s about potential risks, task complexity, the developer’s seniority level and the team’s collaboration experience, among other factors.

At Rocketech, we use enhanced burn-down charts (EBCD) for monitoring the team’s productivity. The dashboards are based on the story point estimation method and the developers’ tracked time. It helps us show our clients how a requirements change affects deadlines in real-time. The plan and expectations should be adjusted to any changes. Otherwise, you may keep modifying the initially agreed elements just to realise that the budget is gone, but you have no product.

Maksim Atiutskii, Business Development Office, Rocketech

Final Thoughts

Some software project management challenges are universal regardless of the scope of work, deadlines or budgets. However, long-term project planning requires an advanced expertise level and hands-on experience with all aspects of project estimations and risk assessment.

First and foremost, there must be an established and efficient system of processes. At Rocketech, our goal is to become a trustworthy partner to all our clients by complementing and reinforcing their resources. We are equally proficient in providing a fully functional Dedicated Team and guiding startups with our business expertise and market experience. Interested in our approach to project management? Contact us for more details.

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