How the Planning Phase Can Help You Create a Better Product

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07 Jun 2019
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7 min
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Vitaly K.
Copywriter

It’s barely possible to roll out a successful app or website without thorough planning. There are two reasons for this: software development becomes more complex over the years, and expectations towards the final product tend to be high.

With this in mind, we’ve been polishing the planning phase at our company for years. With its help, we're able to fully transfer client visions, create software that helps them compete, and deliver quality products in a short time.

This article covers the planning phase in general and tells how this works at Cleveroad.

What Is the Project Planning Phase?

The project planning phase is an essential step in most companies offering software engineering services. This phase serves for identifying and documenting all the requirements. Though, the main objective of the phase is to plan out time, risks, and expenditures to guide you through the milestones.

Why Is This Phase Obligatory for Most Projects?

The point is that vendors have to clearly understand every aspect of the software they’re going to develop. The planning phase is the only way to gather and analyze all the project requirements before the development, which saves a ton of time.

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The company’s business analyst will hold a series of meetings with you to collect and document the required information. The entire team will be using this document throughout all development stages (more on that later).

The Main Objectives of the Planning Phase:

  1. Identify project requirements.
  2. Document project requirements.
  3. Allow an opportunity to revise the project and make changes.
  4. Get approval from you to move on with development.
The main objectives of the planning phase

The main objectives of the project planning phase

When Can You Skip This Phase?

Before we go into details, let’s determine in what cases you certainly don’t need the planning phase:

  • You already have all the required documents. It’s often the case that clients come to us with ready documentation (from another vendor or in-house specialist).
  • You want to make minor improvements to your product. The planning phase isn’t required if you want to minor changes or tech improvements to the existing product.

In other cases, it’s impossible to start working on a product without going through the planning phase.

The Planning Phase at Cleveroad

First, we perform a rough project estimation, which is free of charge. Developers and business analysts calculate the approximate amount of time and money required to fulfill the requirements. The result is a table with min and max values for each feature.

Once done, we pass that file to you and you decide whether to initiate the work on the project or not.

If your decision is favorable, the project will go through the planning phase, which is also called Sprint Zero and involves a dedicated business analyst from our side. That’s where our cooperation as vendor and client begins.

For the planning phase, you pay a fixed price if the requirements are clear. The Time & Material model is applied if there are a lot of unknowns requiring in-depth investigation from our side.

The duration of this phase entirely depends on the initial requirements and the scope of work. Typically it lasts one month or longer and requires your participation in 2-3 meetings a week.

Besides meetings, you’ll need to review and verify the milestones of the stage. Your involvement is very important for the overall success of the planning phase.

The planning is needed not only to plan everything out but also to provide you with a detailed estimation. It’s based on the specification our business analysts write for the project.

By the end of this phase, you’ll have an accurate price and the number of hours required to complete the project. After that, you either prolong our cooperation and we start the development or reject.

What we do during this phase:

  • Identify, collect, and analyze requirements
  • Research the market to identify and analyze competitors
  • Write specification
  • Craft wireframes
  • Create a detailed estimation
What kind of work our specialists perform during this stage

The scope of work we do during the planning phase

Now, let’s consider every component of the planning phase.

1. Requirement List

We ask you a plethora of general questions concerning:

  • Platform (mobile, desktop, cloud-based);
  • Target audience (who they are, what problems they are trying to solve);
  • Target countries.

Additionally, we research the market and analyze similar products for better decision-making throughout the development process.

Then, we specify the list of features you’d like to implement in the final product. Our business analyst might consult you concerning the functionality that you could add to the product to compete better (based on market research). The same with minor functionality that's better to postpone for reducing time to market.

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Note: This part has the most significant impact on the planning phase. Any changes made after the creation of a requirement list will lead to the enlargement of the planning phase. The deadline is also postponed in this case. To avoid this, you can think through the list of requirements you have and jot down every feature you’d like to see in the final product.

2. Specification

A specification is a document gathering every piece of information about the project. Except for the information above it also includes user stories, the list of requirements (technical, functional, and usability), and the possible risks.

Once the specification is ready, we pass it to you for review. You should either approve it or propose changes. In the latter case, we consider your remarks, edit the document, and resend it to you for revision.

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Note: We can’t move on to wireframing and prototyping phase without approved user stories. Your feedback is vital at this stage and it has a direct impact on the final product’s quality. Don’t be afraid of a significant volume of documentation. We’ll split it into pieces so it’d be easier for you to review it and leave feedback.

3. Wireframes

A wireframe is a blueprint of the screens of application. UI/UX designers craft wireframes based on specification and user stories.

We create wireframes to settle any questions related to design. Our team works with Invision that enables you to comment on the design and keep track of changes. In turn, we can see your feedback in real-time and eliminate issues as soon as possible.

Wireframes look like this

This is how the wireframe looks like

After all three steps are completed, our QA engineers check the specification and wireframes for logical issues that might suspend the project development.

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Note: Wireframes have to be approved before we move any further.

4. Changes

Following agile methodologies, Cleveroad is as flexible and open to changes as possible. But it’s better to make sure you’re out of changes by the end of the planning phase.

Changes made at the end of the planning phase lead to increased deadlines, the emergence of logical gaps, and enlargement of numbers you’ll see in a detailed estimate (time and cost).

5. Detailed Estimation

That’s the final step of the planning phase. Software engineers, designers, and other involved specialists study the specification and wireframes to estimate the time they need to implement each feature.

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Then, we send you the estimation and you either decide to proceed to the next phase or stop the development.

What Do You Get by the End of the Phase?

  • Specification
  • Wireframes
  • Detailed project estimation

We pass to you all the documents and wireframes that our specialists have worked on during this stage. Now you have a full pack of documents any vendor requires to start developing software.

Even if you decide to stop working with Cleveroad, you won’t have to pay other vendors once more for planning.

So even if you decide to stop cooperating with Cleveroad after the planning phase, you’ll have a full pack of documents any other vendor will require to develop software.

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I hope this article was useful. Anyway, if you can’t find the answer to your questions here, don’t be shy to contact our managers. They’ll contact back to you and answer any question regarding the project or cooperation with Cleveroad.

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