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Stages of Software Development at Azoft

by Alena Terentyeva

3 Aug 2020

When both the contractor and the client are on the same page about the software development process, it is easier to achieve project success. The client gets what he expected and the contractor fulfills the obligations and delivers a quality product within the deadline. Read this article to learn about the software development process at Azoft, and the value each stage of the development brings to our clients. 

At Azoft, we break down a project into six stages:

  • planning and estimation;
  • analytics;
  • design;
  • development;
  • testing;
  • support.

Not all steps are needed to be fully completed. For example, a customer can turn to us with elaborated requirements and completed design. In this case, we have not participated in the analytics and design stage.

Now let’s explore the purpose of each stage.

Planning and estimation

Planning and estimation

First, a client contacts us with an idea of a product. It can be a document of several pages with a detailed description of the project or a couple of paragraphs describing the general concept.

Then, the account manager contacts the client. He asks questions in person, by phone or by mail to understand the essence of the project. The key purpose here is to figure out how complete and clear the requirements for the project are.

Why are requirements so important? When you order a service or a product, requirements help you get what you expect, namely the features that are important to the customer. In our daily lives, we constantly formulate requirements. Imagine you need to buy a laptop. To select the most appropriate device, you need to determine how you will use it (e.g. to search for information on the Internet, to work with photo and video editors, to play video games), choose a convenient size, and consider various other factors that are important to you. In this simple case, documenting the requirements is unnecessary. It’s easy enough to remember them. But when it comes to creating complex software that must perform many actions, you can’t go without writing the requirements. If the developers do not get a complete and clear description of what the program should do, the result  will often leave the customer unhappy.

Based on the initial requirements, we at Azoft prepare a preliminary estimate of the development. If the customer is accepts it, then we agree to detail the requirements. This is when the analytics stage begins.

At this stage, the account manager clarifies the contract terms, approves the payment process, and other important details. Depending on the goals of the project, Azoft offers its clients one of the two principles of working on projects:

Fixed price. Suitable for projects with clear and detailed requirements, which are set down in the software requirements specification. In this case, the budget and deadlines are approved after analytics and re-estimation. We do analytics and re-estimation to understand the tasks better.

Time and material. The method is suitable for projects that require regular changes in the project's specifications, or to add new components in search of the desired solution. The client pays for the actual scope of work.

When both parties agree on how the work will be arranged, the account manager sends the contract signed by us. The project manager joins the project. He coordinates people and processes to ensure that projects are delivered on time and produce the desired results.

Thus, at this stage, together with the client, we determine the:

  • preliminary project evaluation and the scope of tasks
  • preliminary project budget

Analytics

Analysts help the client and the development get on the same page regarding the outcomes of the product, namely the result, purpose, and functions of the product. To achieve this, an analyst is included in the project.

The goal of this stage is to collect the client's requirements for the project and translate them into the language of developers. Tasks for the analyst vary depending on the scale of the project and the quality of the initial requirements. Generally, the work of analysts boils down to the following tasks:

  • define the client's business objectives
  • clarify, formalize and agree on requirements
  • define and agree on priorities based on requirements and constraints

There is a perception that the analyst's work ends after the preparation of documents and with the start of development. This might be true when there are no changes during development. In fact, the analytics stage doesn’t end after the start of development, it continues. Analysts take the role of liaisons between the development team and the customer. They help answer emerging questions from both sides.

Usually, everyone is certain that they understand what features are needed. However, when the analyst begins to describe the purpose of features, it turns out that different stakeholders see the same tasks differently. Moreover, the more specific the description of the product, the clearer it becomes that stakeholders also see it differently. Since in reality, the software will operate in a certain way, it is much more cost-efficient to figure out at the analytics stage exactly how this or that functionality has to operate. During the development stage, newly identified requirements can significantly increase the project timeline.

If there is no dedicated analyst on the project, it can lead to misunderstandings between the customer and the developers. And this often results in multiple undesirable changes in the project. It is important to note that the problem in such a case is not malice. The problem lies in perception, from the terms used to the concepts discussed. The issue with misunderstandings is that they can lead to delays, a bloated project budget, and a mismatch between the results and business goals. When there is an analyst on the project, the customer can control how the requirements are “translated” to developers.

To do their work, analysts often use the following artifacts:

1) Vision. It defines the boundaries of the project. Based on it, analysts define the whole set of artifacts needed for a particular project.

2) Scope of tasks. The scope is a part of Vision. It helps to determine tasks and assignees.

3) Description of entities. It describes logical relationships between entities.

4) Diagrams. They are used for a visual description of processes, algorithms, relationships between entities, and other important concepts.

5) Prototypes. They represent an implementation option for an interface. They help to understand the main functionality, to determine the user's path, and to avoid gross errors in usability.

6) Description of interface behavior. It is necessary for a clearer understanding of how the interface works, what rules exist and how alternative scenarios are processed.

7) Non-functional requirements. They define system attributes such as security, reliability, performance, maintainability, scalability, and usability

8) User documentation. It explains how the user can use the program.

Example of prototype on iFarm project

Here is an example of a prototype that we created while working on the iFarm information system

Thus, the result of the analyst's work is the predictable final outcome of the project that corresponds to the tasks set.

Design

The goal of the design phase is to make the product enjoyable, understandable, and user-friendly.

At this stage, the designer actively interacts with the analyst. Together, they create a design based on a prepared set of artifacts.

Sometimes clients turn to us with a ready-made design. If the client does not have a design, we create the UI/UX from scratch. After that, the analyst thinks out the logic and creates the basis of the graphical interface. Using this basis, the designer starts working on the visual part. The designer is responsible for creating and designing web elements that optimize user interactions and experiences. For this, a map of screens, graphic elements, and a detailed prototype are created, taking into account various use cases.

First, we approve the design concept with the client. The point of this step is to try on the corporate identity on a few “naked” prototypes. We show our version to the client, get feedback from them and, taking it into account, we refine the screens. Then, we work with the rest of the prototypes in the chosen direction.

We create interactive prototypes at the request of the client. With their help, the client can see how the product will look and how it will react to user actions, taking into account the planned functions.

Example of design layout on iFarm project

Above is an example of a design that we created while working on the iFarm information system. You can find other examples of our work on Behance.

As a result of this stage, the design layouts are approved with the client and handed over to developers.

Development

Devepment stage

After the design phase, the frontend developer works with the layout. The goal here is to "animate" the layouts of the designers so that a user can see and interact with them directly. To create the front end, engineers use a combination of HTML, CSS, programming languages, frameworks, and libraries.

The result of the work is static pages of the future site that match design layouts. We stick to the pixel-perfect approach. While working on the client side of the user interface, the front-end team prepares requirements for back-end developers.

The backend is a set of hardware and software that implements the logic of the application. In other words, this is what happens in the background, outside the user's browser and computer. The backend includes the administration panel, data management, the logic of their transfer at the front-end requests.

The purpose of back-end development is to ensure that the response from the server reaches the client and the designed blocks function as desired. Additionally, the backend is meant to create a convenient and safe environment for filling and updating content on the site for the customer.

As the code is written, our developers monitor its quality. High-quality code speeds up development as it reduces time spent on debugging. The main practices that we use are: 

  • linters - to find bugs and misspellings during development
  • CodeReview - to ensure code quality and share knowledge within the team. 

Depending on the specifics of the project as well as customer preferences, we can adhere to various design standards - CodeStyle. These standards keep your code consistent, making it easier to read.

Our Senior Developers have commercial experience in all of the most popular frameworks: Angular, React, Vue. Our backend Senior Developers have experience on Yii2, Laravel, and Symfony.

The result of this stage is software that is ready for testing.

Testing

Now that the code has been written, testing is used to ensure that all pieces of software perform as expected.

QA engineers check for compliance with design and technical specifications. In testing, they use test documentation, to conduct manual and automated testing. All this helps to check the work of different software parts of the project and to minimize bugs.

QA engineers get to work when the client sends the requirements for the project or its part for which we are responsible. Before testing a project, testers analyze the documentation, clarify requirements, and participate in discussions during development. For more information on how we do testing, check this article.

Thanks to the work of testers, customers:

  • save on budget. Bugs discovered after a product launch are more expensive than earlier bugs.
  • ensure business security. For example, if the software includes a payment system, it is important to check all possible cases so that, when transferring money, they will be credited to the correct account.
  • protect the reputation of the business. If you release a product with bugs and users are not happy about it, it will be difficult to convince them in the future to use the product again, as well as future products.

The result of this stage is a product that is ready for release on the market.

Support

When the product is tested, we hand over the finished project to the client.This could mean, for example, deploying the project on the server to the client. We also help to choose a server and its configuration.

After the release, Azoft does not stop participating in the life of the project. We provide free support for the project for a year from the date of launch. If you suddenly need to fix something, we will do it for free and it will be treated as a top priority.

If during the first months after the product’s release it becomes clear where and what needs to be finished or redone, then we offer the following options: conclude a maintenance agreement or start a new development phase taking into account new data.

Conclusion

Software development is a complex process with multiple stages. The stages can intersect with each other and others can be done in parallel. Development approaches can also be combined with each other. A lot depends on the specific goals and objectives of the project. Tell us about the idea of ​​your project, and we will help you choose the most suitable technical solution and organize the work to deliver high quality results on time.

 

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