How To Handle Risk Management in Software Development Projects

When you’re looking to take on a new software development project, having a clear idea of its scope before you begin can be very reassuring. A fixed-scope project implies total budgeting control and a reasonable timeline to bring a new concept to life.

However, scope can—and all too often does—change over the course of your project. Sometimes, the changes are expected and understandable, but they can also seem to come out of nowhere. When that happens, you feel like you’ve been misled or that the project has been mishandled in some way.

The truth is that sudden development changes usually happen because minor details weren’t considered during the initial scoping phase; these small details can turn into major roadblocks.

Mitigating these issues comes down to improving your process of risk management in software development. Read on to learn how you can do that throughout your project’s development and stay on the same page as your development team.

Defining project risks

Development risks of all types stem from uncertainty. The details your team doesn’t know have the potential to derail your project in unanticipated ways. However, some risks are more likely to crop up than others. These risks may be tricky to foresee in every project, but they’re relatively easy to define.

Your project’s potential risks could include:

  • Security holes
  • 3rd party integrations
  • Unnecessary core functionality
  • Poor performance benchmarks

Dealing with risks like these involves adopting helpful practices not only throughout your project, but before it even begins.

What to do before your project starts

Generally, creating a risk management plan is recommended to ensure you can complete a new software development project.

Describe protocol surrounding status updates, including ideal regularity of updates and what details ought to be included.

If your team is faced with an unforeseen risk, then the way they handle it should prioritize minimizing its potential impact as efficiently as possible. This could mean altering the overall scope of the project to completely bypass the problem. For example, if a given feature presents a significant complication to the rest of the project’s design, and isn’t entirely essential, it might be best to drop it.

In cases where it’s not possible to completely remove the problematic aspect of your project without negatively impacting other parts of it, outsourcing can prove an effective approach. An example of this is the use of a third-party solution for certain tasks as opposed to handling their development in-house.

Rabbit holes and how to avoid them

Once your project is underway, a set timeframe has likely been established for milestones to be met and completion to be reached. Dodging unproductive tangents and time-sucks is critical to staying on schedule and staying on budget. To keep the most common kinds of developmental rabbit holes from distracting your team and compromising your project, watch out for the following potential issues:

Design issues

Not drilling down into deeper design details to sort them out early on can bring on disastrous results for a project down the line.

As development progresses, changes to certain features can have a ripple effect on the rest of your project. Opting to simplify your project’s design instead of further complicating it can work wonders for its ultimate success.

Integration issues

Incorporating the processes and limitations of existing software into your own project’s design poses challenges that can be difficult to fully understand until the project is well underway.

Our VeryCreatives team has solved similar integration issues in the past.

For example, we were recently integrating a specific payment provider into a client’s application when we found that some essential features were unavailable. The result? We ended up developing the features ourselves, which ultimately added hours to the development plan.

Whenever an integration is decided on, it’s crucial to make room for unexpected adjustments from the beginning to ensure everything (third-party solutions, application-specific triggers, etc.) is handled appropriately.

Successfully integrating third-party tools, connecting important resources, etc. involves accounting for the ways these solutions function and the technology they use to interact with other tools. Developing a consistent testing schedule that regularly assesses each integration’s effects on your project can go a very long way in minimizing associated risks.

To further solidify your team’s third-party integration efforts and stave off related risks, it’s important to maintain a source for pertinent information about each integration’s API, user interface, and dependencies.

Technical assumptions

Risk management in software development becomes increasingly difficult to handle if your team makes too many assumptions about technical details that could affect your project. This is especially important for assessing new technology to include in your development plan.

Assumptions about functionality, standards, and capabilities can wreak havoc on your team’s ability to stay on target. As your project matures, the technology chosen at earlier stages becomes more challenging to replace, leading to technological lock-in and functional dependency. Delving into details early on and at intervals throughout the development process can help reveal potential paint points before they become a more serious limitation.

Risk management is a journey—not a destination

For the best results with any ongoing or planned software development project, you should treat risk management as an ongoing process instead of a goal.

Needs can change with subsequent iterations of your product and the approach your development team must take to meet them could deviate significantly from what you’d initially planned. Approaching new risks consistently is key to keeping your project moving in the right direction.

To learn more about the software development process and how VeryCreatives can help you succeed, reach out to us!

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Máté Várkonyi

Máté Várkonyi

Co-founder of VeryCreatives



Digital Product Agency

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