The problems with taking an agile approach to outsourcing your COTS projects. Among the problems:
“In agile projects, it is more difficult to define risk sharing between the company and vendor. Contracts for large-scale programs tend to be waterfall or deliverable-based, with penalties or incentives driving cost and schedule performance which enables companies to hold vendors accountable for delivering full scope. On the contrary, Agile assumes cost and time is fixed when scope is variable. This situation flies in the face of the standard belief that much of the scope of ERP is not flexible. One area that this complicates is defining and resolving the concept of warranty support. This is another reason that everyone in the project, on both client and vendor sides, must have the same definition of “done” for each sprint… The lack of documentation makes benchmarking vendor performance a challenge. Overtime, the more traditional waterfall methods have provided opportunities for clients and vendors to establish measurable standards of performance and productivity. Agile is broadly assumed to provide productivity improvements but Agile at Scale still falls short in providing clients with a clear-cut way to quantify and measure the performance of vendors.”
Original source: 6 Challenges of Agile at Scale for ERP
The premise of this book, for most anyone, is painfully boring: planning out and project managing the installation of COTS software. This is mostly lumbering, on-premises ERP applications: those huge, multi-year installs of software that run the back office and systems of record for organizations. While this market is huge, touches almost every company, and has software that is directly or indirectly touched by almost everyone each day (anytime you buy something or interact with a company)…it’s no iPhone.
If you’re in the business of selling enterprise software and services, however, Beaubouef’s book is a rare look inside the buyer’s mind and their resulting work-streams when they’re dealing with big ol’ enterprise IT. As a software marketer, I read it for exactly that. I was hoping to find some ROI models (a scourge of my research). It doesn’t really cover that at all, which is fine.
There’s a core cycle of ideas and advice flitting in and bout of the book that I like:
- COTS software will do, you know, 80% of what you like. The rest is customizing it through configuration, your own code layered on-top, or getting the vendor to add in new features.
- The more you customize the software, the harder it will be to change. But, the less you customize it, the less it creates differentiation for your business processes.
- Most of the problems and challenges you’ll encounter, though, will be human based.
- Much of these human problems are about managing the requirements process to make sure the software is matching the needs of the business.
- Process-wise, to do this we like to take on a waterfall approach (try to specify everything up front, implement it all, then verify if it works). This results in a lot or risk of waiting for that final verification to see if it works and you were right about matching the COTS implementation to business needs.
- Instead, and iterative approach that focuses on learning and honing the COTS/business match-up seems like a good idea.
- Role-wise, getting someone(s) who have a tops-down view of the business process and enough technical understanding to map that to the COTS project is a really good idea, though hard to put in place.
While the book focuses on on-premises software, the overall thinking could easily apply to any implementation of a large IT-driven, vendor provided system: SaaS would work, and to an extent the kind of infrastructure software we sell at Pivotal. As the points above go over, the core thrust of the book is about managing how you make sure your IT is actually helping the business, not bogging down in its self.
If you’re pretty vague on what you should do in these large IT initiatives, you could do a lot worse than read this book.
Check out the book: *Maximize Your Investment: 10 Key Strategies for Effective Packaged Software Implementations *