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Project Management for App Development 101: Agile vs Waterfall Methods

One of the biggest mistakes companies make when they're outsourcing project management for app development projects? Not realizing how much involvement is needed from them. Managing app development projects is down to your developers, but there are a LOT of things that you can do to not only make the project less costly and time-consuming, but generally less painful too. I sit down with Puff to discuss what you should be looking out for while working with an app development company.

3 min read


How to manage your app development project

Questions to ask your app development project managers:

What are the most important questions to ask app developers? In this series, we explore what great answers should sound like. When it comes to project management, Puff discusses the various stages to app development projects:

The stages of managing an app development project:

While working on any mobile app development project, you’ll go through a series of stages no matter who you’re working with or what you’re working on:

  • Research and briefing
  • Design and development
  • Staging/deployment
  • Continuous improvement
  • Ongoing support

During these stages, your app developers will need input from you, your organisation, your team and your users. The extent of which will vary between projects and companies.

What to look out for:

App developers talk about Agile. The more traditional project management method is known as Waterfall, which is outdated and although still useful in some scenarios, should never be solely used by your app development company.

Traditional vs Agile app development project management methods

Waterfall project management is a sequential and linear process, meaning that stages in the project cannot be started until the previous step is complete.

Agile on the other hand?

Is iterative, which means that throughout the development process, you will be constantly testing and adapting your designs based on feedback from real users.

The important part here is that app development companies use a mix of both methods to build your relationship and make sure the project plan and communications suit both of you.

This typically happens in ‘sprints’.

Which can be any amount of time but usually only take a week or two. These sprints are used to build specific components and test them with real users, at the end of each sprint the feedback informs decision making on which elements impact your end users, are worth building, need adapting and best help you achieve your end goals.

Waterfall is the more traditional way of working where a client would come in and brief, and then come in to see the final result.

Puff, Chief-Changemaker, 3 SIDED CUBE

What level of involvement will your developers need from you?

The most common mistake? Believing that the brief and the final design are the two main touch-points throughout your project. The most detrimental mistake? Thinking that you’ll only be communicating with the project manager from your app development company.

Make sure you’re not ONLY communicating with Project Managers!

For a more collaborative approach to project management for app development, you and your developers should be communicating regularly throughout each individual stage in the process.

This could be providing design feedback, putting ideas forward, contributing to the digital strategy or answering vital questions about your organisation. Make sure that your project is implemented by a few key people including:

A technical lead: Providing a technical understanding of what is and isn’t possible, as well as the difficulty, time and cost of developing more technical requirements.

A design lead: Who can really push the creative boundaries and make the app look, feel and be used in the best way possible to achieve your end goals.

A facilitator: The coordinator who can bring the best of both worlds together and map out a project plan with cost, time and requirement estimates.

The more collaborative the relationship the better... A good relationship looks like your developers getting you involved from get-go.

Puff, Chief-Changemaker, 3 SIDED CUBE

What is the best communication tool for app development projects?

Basecamp describes itself as a ‘central source of truth’ and set out to solve the issue that many project managers have; which boils down to having stuff scattered in too many places.

The tool combines things like message boards, group chats, document sharing, personal calendars… Basically everything that different members of the development team need to manage your project in an Agile way.

This saves you from having to download, install and learn to use a bunch of different software, tools or apps to do everything you need to do throughout your project. Making the entire process more convenient, efficient and effective.

Questions to ask your app development company:

  1. How much does an app cost?
  2. How long does it take to build an app?
  3. Should I get an Android or iOS app?
  4. How will the project be managed?
  5. How often should I update my app?
  6. How should I test my app?
  7. How will my app be submitted to the Stores?
  8. How should I measure the success of my app?

Published on May 6, 2021, last updated on September 19, 2023

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