Every company wants to deliver the best product to its customers, and this theme is woven into the product development process at all successful companies. Product development in the SaaS domain comes with a unique set of software developer problems.
Software developer problems can range from poorly defined customer expectations to a greater need for complexity and rapid technological advancement. These problems are all part of software development being a highly dynamic and complex process. Let’s look at eight common problems that confront all software development teams, along with solutions for each issue.
1. Prerequisite Volatility
Project requirement volatility is often based on poorly defined requirements by the client, changes in the business environment (Government regulations, market dynamics) or changes in the development environment (new technology, requirement errors).
Problem: Perhaps the biggest issue facing software developers is poorly defined project expectations and requirements. In fact, according to a Stack Overflow Developer Survey, over 33% of software developers rank developing software without specific requirements as their biggest challenge.
Solution: To ensure that project outcomes align with expectations and requirements, we need to start with clear prerequisites on requirements and objectives. User centricity is not an option in software development; it’s a priority. Clearly defined user expectations are half the battle won.
2. Backward Compatibility
Backward compatibility refers to the ability of a software compiler for one version of the language to accept programs or data that worked for the previous version. It is critical when you’re updating an existing product or developing an add-on for the same product.
Problem: The new upgrade is glitchy with the existing system, or the updated software introduces a breaking change.
Solution: A breaking change is a software upgrade that requires the existing system to be upgraded. This kind of update can create problems, especially if the upgrade needs to work with systems or services from different companies.
If, however, you can ensure that your update works with both the new and the old way of making/accepting calls, then your upgrade is backward compatible. Maintaining breaking changes while maintaining backward compatibility is a three-step process.
Start by updating a system to state that it will work with the new and old ways of making and taking calls.
Next, wait for system B to be upgraded to take calls the new way.
Once system B has switched to the new way of accepting calls, you can drop the old way.
If you’re designing and upgrading a legacy system, try and avoid breaking changes as far as possible. Whenever possible, reuse your existing code to guide you through the old way of taking calls, then switch to the new way.
3. Threats to Security
In a perfect world, all software would be flawless and free of any weakness. However, we live in an imperfect world, and software security weaknesses are common.
Problem: Data is a valuable commodity, and its security should be a prime driver in software development. You’ll need the customer data for your product development, enhancements and when developing your SaaS marketing plan.
Put simply, customer data is critical for the success of your software. Your customers will give you that data, but they’ll count on you to keep their information safe. For example, companies using sales software will need to secure critical information about their clients.
As a new programmer, you often end up overlooking security loopholes while focusing on delivering error-free code. Hackers know this weakness and are always on the lookout to exploit security loopholes in software. Hackers aren’t the only issue. We also have to consider issues like broken authentication, malicious code injection vulnerabilities and broken access control. These issues can compromise the security of the software.
Solution: To prevent someone from hacking your code or limiting the impact of other security issues, you can take the following precautions.
- Add parameterized queries to your code to fight the hacker’s SQL injections
- Ensure adequate access control and restrictions to prevent broken access control
- Proper configuration of user and session authentication
- Secure your workstation by logging off from all software once you’re done for the day
- Develop software using high-level programming languages like Python, Java, and C++ with built-in security features
- Mandate security assurance activities like penetration testing and code review as part of your development process
Security is the joint responsibility of all project stakeholders, including the coder, the management, project managers and quality assurance managers.
4. Constant Technological Advancements
Technology is continually evolving, and programmers and project managers need to update their knowledge and skillset to keep pace. This in itself can pose a problem.
Problem: Accelerated technological advances mean that frameworks, tools and libraries have a short shelf life before becoming obsolete. For instance, front-end frameworks don’t last for more than a year or two before a new and updated version is launched.
Solution: Take 20 – 30 minutes a day to learn how the upgraded tool works till you are comfortable including it in your workflow. Also, read and keep up with the latest programming trends and coding practices.
5. Quality Assurance and Debugging
You have worked for days to perfect a program, and you are confident that it will work. Till your QA team hands you a long list of bugs that need to be fixed, the cancel button isn’t clickable, the grammar on default messages needs fixing, and 15 other bugs that detract from the user experience. This is a constant issue that all software developers have to face.
Problem: A big part of software development is to ensure that the actual outcome meets the project’s intended outcome. The program and code have to go through multiple rounds of testing and debugging to achieve this.
Solution: There is a common adage that says that offense is the best form of defense. A robust debugging strategy is the best offense and defense for all software developers.
- Reproduce the error to identify why it happens
- Get help. Having a second set of eyes on the code would help resolve the bug quicker
- Automate the test procedure. Test automation will ensure that your tests are consistent, which allows you to detect error sources more effectively
Software teams are often under time and cost pressure and may not devote sufficient time and resources to the debugging stage. This is something they need to avoid to ensure a successful product launch.
6. Time Constraints and Technical Debt
Software development often occurs under severe time pressure, and this results in accumulating technical debt. Technical debt is simply coding and corrections that you need to do tomorrow because you took a shortcut today.
Problem: Time constraints and technical debt are often intertwined. When a development team encounters time constraints, they sometimes use a quick solution that is either poorly documented, unscalable or limited compatibility.
Point-to-point integration shortcuts will create a project architecture that looks like this spaghetti code.
Solution: Work with your team to identify the source of technical debt. In most cases, it is a time constraint. You can also adopt a new technology approach to reduce technical debt. This approach will give your team a long-term vision of coding that can be used for future projects. Lastly, minimize point-to-point integration shortcuts.
7. Managing Project Timelines
Time constraint stems from a poor initial time estimate. It results in cost overruns and creates a trust deficit with the client.
Problem: A faulty initial time estimate is causing the project to incur cost overruns and erodes organizational credibility with the client.
Solution: Observing a few basic steps across different project stages can help you deliver the project effectively and on time.
- Ensure an accurate time estimate by breaking down tasks into subtasks and giving each subtask a solid time estimate. Draw estimates from past program development experience. Don’t forget to add a little buffer to account for unforeseen delays (typically 10% of the budgeted time)
- Keep your project architecture as linear and straightforward as possible
- Minimize the use of third-party outsourcing for development work
While setting project timelines, consult everyone involved, from stakeholders and project owners to your development team. This ensures everyone is on the same page regarding timelines, prerequisites and deliverables.
8. Ignoring Coding Best Practices
Developers resort to suppressing errors and skip reviewing code to meet tight timelines. This can often be the difference between a successful product launch and a failed one.
Problem: Programmers take shortcuts due to time pressures.
Solution: Build quality awareness into the project scope to prevent developers from taking costly shortcuts. Using best code development practices like testing the code, limiting line length, and avoiding hard-coding are critical to meeting project requirements and ensuring a successful launch.
As a software developer, you should be aware of these common software developer problems and the solutions for each potential pitfall. Plan ahead and then execute smoothly. Keep in mind that a software developer’s success depends on all the projects teams and team members succeeding. Good luck with your next software development project!