Five Easy Ways to Improve your Software Development Process

Regardless of the context of your workflow, it should be clear and explicit. Most tools allow you to customize your workflow so that, for example, If you want each new feature to be code reviewed, you can make it a mandatory step. It then becomes a habit, kind like brushing your teeth – you don’t need to force yourself (or someone else in your team) to do it every time.

Example workflow in a kanban board

Example workflow in a kanban board

But how do you know that your workflow is working for you? Once you’ve made your workflow explicit, you can start looking at inefficiencies and bottlenecks in your process. Here are few things you might want to start paying attention to if you feel that your work is not flowing optimally through your process:

  • Are some stages in your workflow painstakingly slow, or is work piling up for a certain user or activity?
  • Are some tasks repeatedly re-opened after they’ve been marked as done?
  • Are there lots of “dead tasks”, ie. tasks that were killed before reaching done?

You won’t get your workflow right first time, and that’s okay. Taking your process through the loop a few times can reveal insights that might help you to improve and streamline your workflow. For example, you might find out that the review step takes the majority of the time on a task’s journey to completion. Perhaps the Product Owner is not devoting enough time for the project and, as consequence, become a bottleneck without even knowing it? The more transparent your process is, the easier it is to spot these kinds of anomalies and actively deal with them.

“The more transparent your process is, the easier it is to spot anomalies and actively deal with them

2 – Clean up your backlog

Filling up your backlog is easy – it’s always easier to come up with new ideas than to actually implement them, but your backlog won’t serve a purpose unless you are actively shaping it. A well-refined product backlog helps you to focus on what’s most important right now, while not ignoring other, less critical ideas or pieces of work that have come from all manner of channels.

Chances are that your backlog contains a large amount of tasks that will never see daylight. A good practice is to split your backlog into the work that you have committed to doing in the near future, and work that you may do someday. If you use something like Trello for managing your backlog, keep these as separate lists. In fact, since you don’t want low priority work to keep you distracted, I recommend having them on separate board altogether!

The someday list consists of tasks that you may want to promote to your backlog at some point of future, if you get more detail or you start to explore a broader set of feature possibilities. It is a home for all those interesting ideas and low-priority features that you want to keep, but which do not require your immediate attention.

But don’t let it become a junk yard of tasks that never get implemented! Instead, prune it periodically by deleting the tasks that no longer seem relevant or feasible. Your someday list should be somewhat stable in size, not ever expanding. When properly maintained, it can be an invaluable resource to have when choosing what to do next for your product.

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