Time management is an essential aspect of productivity in both one’s personal and professional lives. While the activities you’re engaging in when managing your time might differ, the concept can be applied interchangeably.
If you’re like many employed professionals throughout the world, you know that time management is a skill you must first understand to efficiently apply its concepts. Now, it’s time to apply it to your current employment situation as a software developer.
Time Management in Software Development
There are two main aspects of time management in software development. The first is on the coding itself, and the second is in terms of project management.
Time management in active coding is very much so a personal matter and responsibility, as nearly every developer’s habits and tendencies are different.
One tech-centered webcomic has two panels and shows a programmer sitting at the computer, elbows on the table, arms propped up, hands clasped, chin resting on hands, and text saying, “My code doesn’t work. I have no idea why.” The second and final panel has the exact same image, but the text now says, “My code works. I have no idea why.”
Despite all rationale, as computers are algorithmic and computational units, programming is not a pure science: it is also a bit of an art and generally has some occult mixed in. While the majority of responses to code changes are reasonable and can be anticipated, that is not always the case. So, a lack of proper work planning and time management can easily become a failed deadline.
Some common downfalls to poor time management include scope creep, setting and adhering to realistic deadlines, and even going over budget. Many projects within the workplace are communal, so developers and other professionals work hand in hand to deliver a quality product to the client. So, time management not only affects your performance, but it also impacts the operational procedures and accomplishments of other employees.
Three Forms of Time Management
In the project context, time management takes 3 forms: stakeholder expectations on schedule, the critical path, and the critical chain.
Stakeholder Expectations on Schedule
Managing stakeholder expectations is the most involved aspect of project management and carries the greatest cost for blunders. Time management in this sense involves not only the amount of time needed per item but also the relationships among all items.
Before we move into the second form of time management, scope change has to be taken into consideration. Managing time is not limited to known and planned tasks, but also requires an ability to anticipate and account for the most likely alternate realities which may come from untimely or wholly unexpected client requests ranging from additional feature development to modifying or retracting previously established clarifications.
The critical path is the backbone of any project.
Once all tasks are known and laid out, the project manager will map out the dependency relationship among them so the longest chain of finish-to-start dependencies among them is visually apparent. These tasks are done in stages, and the PM (or project manager) lets the developers know what to do and when.
This is the minimum amount of time that will be needed for successful completion of the project. It does not take into account any project timeline acceleration tactics (i.e. crashing and fast-tracking) because all items excluded on the critical path are ignored.
If only one developer will be performing all tasks, and there are additional tasks not on the critical path because they can be coded independently, then the project will take longer than the critical path would indicate.
Critical chain is a more complicated – and more realistic – improvement upon the critical path. It is best described as a “resource-leveled critical path,” because it is created by taking the critical path and applying resource availability and capacity constraints.
Let’s say there’s a developer who specializes in a specific technology needed in half of the project’s modules. If one of the critical-path modules the employee is assigned to work on (due to the need for their specialized skillset) comes up while they are on vacation, the project manager will have to add a lead time (read: delay) to that module for after they return. Similarly, fast-tracking (working multiple tasks in parallel) two of these modules is not possible if they are the only developer on the project able to complete them.
The critical chain is almost always longer than the critical path – they are at best equal – and is likely the best example in project management for the importance of time management on the macro scale.
Practical Time Management Tips for Software Developers
Time management is an important aspect of software development because it affects the outcome of the project you’re working on. By learning the following time management skills, you’ll become more productive and efficient at your job as a software developer.
In addition to the personal task of time management, finding the right tool for time tracking in software development is also key, ideally one with flexibility and precision when it comes to budgeting and reports
Understanding the process in which your project will be executed is important for software developers. A project manager should tell you what the process is for the project, and many times the course of development will be similar. Getting into a groove and finding your development routine can be beneficial in saving you time, as well as making the client happy because the project is on track.
Be careful not to get too fixated on a routine though. Every project is different, meaning there will be varying aspects of the assignment that differ from projects you’ve previously worked on. Flexibility is part of this time management skill.
Before beginning a project, the outline of the project should be laid out. Don’t try to remember it, write it down if you’ve not already been given paperwork with the rundown.
Documenting time per project – or aspect of the project if it is multifaceted – is a helpful way to determine whether a developer’s time is being well spent. Documentation allows the individual and executives to comprehend the amount of time one has been at work on a certain task with numerical data.
Documentation also helps with knowledge transfer for future developers who may potentially work on a project. In this scenario, you are able to save a significant amount of time by having written documentation and details on important aspects of the project that they would otherwise need to research or spend hours digging through code to understand.
Every employee is responsible for the construction and/or management of something or someone within the business. Whatever your role may be on the software development team, your productivity will affect other members of the project group.
Staying accountable for your successes and shortcomings helps yourself and the team understand how to go about projects in the future, which ultimately impacts the outlook of the company as a whole.
Falling in line with accountability, communication is key in any workplace because it keeps members of the team in the know. What you’re working on could very possibly impact the work that another professional will be engaging with.
Holding team meetings to see where other members are at in relationship to your progress throughout the project is an aspect of the communication time management skill. It allows others to know what needs to be focused on, if more people need to be placed on a project, and other pertinent information.
Software developers are encouraged to get core components of projects finished first. Rather than getting the small tasks done ahead of time, allocate time for completing the main element, that way your client sees that the progress is steady.
Prioritizing can save you time and trouble, leading to a more productive workday and an on-track project.
Time Management Skills for Software Developers
Every businessperson should remain conscious of time spent on specific business tasks. Staying informed about the time it takes to follow through on business assignments is not only beneficial to you, but also to the other members who are working on the same project.
Time management is a skill that is often learned at a young age, but it can always be improved upon. By understanding and utilizing the aforementioned tips, you and your team members can be more productive at work and deliver a project your client loves.
If you’re looking for a team of software developers for your business’ custom software development needs, choose a company like Code Authority that employs professionals with time management skills. Such skills impact the quality of your project, as well as the timeline it is completed in. Contact us today for information regarding custom software development, digital marketing services and more.