Picture this. You've spent thousands of dollars to build your first mobile app. You think you've found the perfect developer. The first weeks of your project are seamless and everything goes perfectly. And then suddenly, out of nowhere, your project is totally derailed.
Though sometimes projects run swimmingly and software is delivered on time and within budget, other projects languish thanks to development problems. It’s often hard to tell if something has gone wrong. Things might feel weird, but how do you know that your development is off track? Here are the clues:
You're no longer getting clear explanations
No matter where things are in your app development project, you should always know where the project is at the moment, and where it is heading. A good developer knows where the software is at every time, where the architecture is leading, and how to explain both. Remember: an important part of the app development process is taking complex things and breaking them down into simple tasks. So, if your developer is having a hard time clearly explaining what they’re doing, it may be an indication that something has gone awry.
A key person leaves your project
Sometimes software companies change developers or program managers on projects. This doesn’t happen all the time, but it does happen occasionally. There are plenty of legitimate reasons that a company changes who is working on your project, but this is a good time to start paying special attention to the details. Start by making sure that the person they’re bringing in is at least as competent as the person who signed on initially.
Don't forget: with new developers, there’s going to be a ramp up period. So when there’s only one developer working on your project and they need days or weeks to get familiar with your project, you can expect significant delays to the development schedule. If there's a change of the guard, find out what your developer or project manager is doing to make sure your project is finished by your original deadline.
You're told “it can't be done”
There is very little that can’t be done in software. It can make your coffee in the morning, transport you across country, even take you to the moon or Mars! When your developer starts telling you things like “it can’t be done”, it's not a good sign. It may be true that it can’t be done within your budget, but the developer should be able to tell you that instead of dismissing your requests out of hand. A simple declaration that a feature simply can’t be implemented may be a sign that your developer or development firm is having trouble with the architecture.
If you were building a bridge, you wouldn’t want any trouble with the architecture. The same goes for software. Good architecture is essential to the success of a project, so if your developer has problems with it, you must get involved.
Your developer stops communicating
Generally, after the first week or two of a project, you’ll start seeing some quick progress, but you can expect that to slow a little as the developer gets past the common setup and into the unique part of your development. The key here is not that something is taking a long time, but that it’s taking longer than expected, with little explanation or no communication.
It isn’t unheard of for a one week task to end up taking two weeks or more, but there should always be a clear explanation to accompany the delay. When the developer isn’t talking, or starts talking in circles, it’s definitely time to start paying attention to the reasons why.
Solving the problem quickly and easily
Should you fall into the unfortunate situation of having your project derailed, you must act quickly. The biggest downfall of business owners is waiting too long to do something about a developer who is lost in the weeds. When you see these telltale signs, take decisive action and get control of the reigns quickly. Like anyone working on a big project, developers sometimes get in over their heads.
So when you confront a lost developer, they will initially want to try to keep pushing through, but eventually, if you press hard enough, they will admit that things have gone wrong along the way. If this happens, you have to decide whether to get another developer, or see if your current developer can find a way to make things right. Let your developer make a proposal. If they’re completely out of their league, they’ll usually just recommend a friend or colleague to help bail them out.
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Brian is a life-long software developer who loves to help others succeed. A frequent source for media outlets, such as BBC, Entrepreneur and Bloomberg, Brian also frequently speaks at universities, conferences and the like. His new book, "Unravelling the Internet of Things" will be available soon on Amazon.com.