In this Exercise, let’s start by reviewing Exercise 4 and build on what you discovered about your application development project, that is:
the people and their capabilities as well as the software, hardware and other resources required; availability of all resources;
the application’s complexity and Kill points for time, budget and scope;
the maintenance and support costs over time;
the anticipated launch date as well as the costs and timelines multiplied by a factor of 2 or 3 times.
What were your responses to the above? Were you unsure or fairly confident about people’s skills, their availability and all the resources that might be needed? Were you unsure or fairly confident about the application’s complexity, the effort it would take to build it, and also how much it could cost to support it over time? Were you sure about the Kill points and would your key end user group agree with you? Were you aware of how common scope change and bugs are in the application development process and how significantly they could impact the cost of your application and even double or triple your cost and/or time estimates?
The more unsure you are of the information above, the more predictive it could be of a project at risk of failure or of running over budget, time or not meeting requirements. From Exercise 4 and the Standish Group’s statistics, you will remember 68% of all I.T. projects fall under these categories.1 Still, it is far better to know and accept what you don’t know now than to be in the midst of application development and losing sleep over the lack of progress you are making, the amount of time it is taking and/or the money it is costing.
Given a substantial amount of uncertainty, you may want to reconsider your decision to Build a software application. It may be time to obtain the services of a Software Development Business Analyst or a Solutions Specialist. You may also want to look for an off-the-shelf solution or consider a blended approach.
What is a blended approach? If you can find a ready-made solution that meets many of your requirements, you may be able to plan internally or to contract for some customization immediately after the ‘off-the-shelf’ implementation that will ‘top up’ your application. You may be able to get this additional development done internally. Or, sometimes, off-the-shelf companies provide these services on a fee for service basis following implementation. Another option could include contracting with a third party for the extra development to have modules or tools built to fill in some of the off-the-shelf software gaps.
Finally, one more question to consider - - what is the driving force behind development of your application? If revenue or competitive advantage are crucial to your business, you may still want to spend the time, money, and effort on custom development according to Bob Laird, IT Chief Architect at MCI/Verizon.2 Weigh out the importance of revenue and competitive advantage to your business compared against the certainty or lack thereof of factors from Exercise 4, and summarized at the beginning of this Exercise.
Are you closer to an answer? Is a custom application still for you or have you reconsidered? What was it that tipped the balance for you either way?
We and our readers would love to hear what you’ve decided to do and what was most compelling in your decision.