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4 Biggest Custom Software Buying Mistakes
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TerryB
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TerryB,
User Rank: Ninja
2/20/2014 | 9:49:59 AM
Re: No Hard Deadline?
Your Coverlet Meshing had the best description ever of Agile to business:  The middle finger of methodologies.

We (IT) don't need business and IT management to hold our our hand every step of a project. Point us in a direction and get out of the way. Good developers will deliver what the end users want.

Agile is something formalized for large businesses. At SMB's where I've always worked, that just how you get things done. There is no reason to produce these time consuming business requirement documents and have endless meetings, there are no people to read or attend. Just you and the people who use your software. The quicker you get to running code prototype, the quicker you can iterate to the final product that works like users need.

Agile is the formal attempt to get big IT teams and big bureaucratic companies to operate the same way. Long overdue. But it only works if you have developers that can communicate with users and understand the business. Many non technical IT managers don't want any part of that.

 
JoshOakhurst
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JoshOakhurst,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/19/2014 | 7:32:14 PM
Re: No Hard Deadline?
RE: Chris Murphy "I'm wondering how companies can manage their business planning without a hard deadline for completion. When I hear of companies building custom software, it's often because there's some really pressing need or ripe opportunity -- meeting a competitor's app offering, or a looming cost savings."

 


Emphasis above is mine, I highlighted those two word for a reason:

 

It's hard to plan for ripe opportunity. That's the rub.

 

Planning happens for the to-do list: we need x on y date to make sure z ships on time.

 

Opportunity realization happens for items on the wish-list: woah, wouldn't it be great if x could influence y?

 

Often, the wish-list vs. to-do list is a dichotomy we draw for clients. Succinctly, fresh tech/process automation/"invention"/innovation servicing is more condusive to the wish-list. And buyers in that mindset don't have deadlines as a top priority. 

 

RE: "How do you manage business unit expectations in that case? "

Once we're engaged with a philisophically aligned client, we manage expectations by showing them cool stuff early and often. We share the knowledge we pull out of our observations and hacking, and we quickly lay out prototypes/concepts/sketches (six weeks or less).

 

Yes, it's Agile, but technological transformation is much more than code slanging.

 
JoshOakhurst
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JoshOakhurst,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/19/2014 | 7:22:06 PM
Re: No Hard Deadline?
RE Somedude8: "Living by The Rule of the Deadline is short sighted and unwise, but it looks good on a spreadsheet."

 

I'll go so far to say that we decline work when infinite variables are unknown yet a hard date is among the top three considerations.

 

Like a personal trainer aproaches a wanna-be-athlete, we holistically apply technology to the enterprise to make it better. It's okay if the client wants to run a marathon in six months — they'll certainly be a better runner on that hard date — but the longer we train, the more value we'll create.
JoshOakhurst
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JoshOakhurst,
User Rank: Apprentice
2/19/2014 | 6:44:08 PM
Re: Really re build?
LOLZ TerryB RE: Management Consultants

 

You're right, I should have been more explicit with the analogy: instead of running your technology-invention partner through procurement, take them golfing instead. 
ChrisMurphy
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ChrisMurphy,
User Rank: Author
2/19/2014 | 4:20:33 PM
Re: No Hard Deadline?
So if business units can't be made to understand and value Agile development, and they're the ones who want and requested the software functionality, is there any hope of the procurement pros embracing Agile? Is that necessary?    
DDURBIN1
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DDURBIN1,
User Rank: Ninja
2/19/2014 | 2:41:24 PM
Re: No Hard Deadline?
@Garey, If it looks like a duck, talks like a duck, yes it's Agile development LOL!  Business managment at most organizations I have worked only care about cost and delivery date with very little concern about the process however talk to them about the business's product life cycle and they know everything about it.  I'd like to see them apply the same conern and vigor they show in product development to software development then maybe IT will get some respect.  It is happening at more and more companies as the "old" guard retires.
Lorna Garey
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Lorna Garey,
User Rank: Author
2/19/2014 | 2:02:11 PM
Re: No Hard Deadline?
Aren't you describing Agile development?
TerryB
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TerryB,
User Rank: Ninja
2/19/2014 | 1:59:44 PM
Re: Really re build?
Most of the Build vs Buy argument is around whether you have internal development team or you don't. Companies like Josh's throw a whole new twist on this.

I assume what he is doing is, for example, writing a mobile app to connect your internal systems to customers. That can make a lot of sense because you may have some internal guys to know the technology your inhouse ERP (or SaaS ERP for that matter) uses but has no clue how to write for mobile devices. And if you limited recurring need for that kind of development, training your inhouse people or hiring someone new are likely more costly alternatives than using someone like Josh.

Josh, my only criticism of your article is your comparison to mgmt consultants. I'm assuming people can actually see and use your software when you get done. I've never seen a mgmt consultant produce anything of tangible value. Except maybe teach you some new buzzwords.  :-)
Somedude8
IW Pick
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Somedude8,
User Rank: Ninja
2/19/2014 | 1:36:19 PM
Re: No Hard Deadline?
Mega game makes Blizzard is a good example. Their software is ready when it's ready. This often frustrates the crap out of gamers who are dying to get their hands on that next game/patch/expansion. Blizzard won't even give a projected release date until they are pretty close to being done.

They do of course live in a dramatically different world then your corporate cubicle farmers live in. But consider for a minute the true cost of software: Maintenance. After years in this business, I am 100% convinced that the most expensive thing in software development is crappy code, which is the inevitable end product of deadline-based development.

I mostly bailed on cubicle land and went freelance a little while back. One of the freelance sites I get work from lets clients rate 5 aspects of the freelancers work. One of those is schedule. I have never gotten less than a top rating in all categories, except schedule. If I think my code isn't up to snuff, I don't turn it in, I refactor or whatever I need to do.

I am not saying that projects go completely without deadlines, but that common sense needs to be in the mix here, and that code quality is by far the most important part. Living by The Rule of the Deadline is short sighted and unwise, but it looks good on a spreadsheet.
DDURBIN1
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DDURBIN1,
User Rank: Ninja
2/19/2014 | 12:45:27 PM
Re: No Hard Deadline?

I spent many years as a software developer and I can attest to all these mistakes.  I'd settle for a building a building project apporach to software development but in many cases the seat of the pants approach is taken by CFOs and CEOs.   The key to delivery dates is a fully defined and designed deliverable that doesn't change over the time of development.  That rarely happens in the real world.  Try starting a building project when you're not sure how many floors it will contain or half way into the project two more floors are added by management.  A building contractor would never allow that to happen and if did would not have a fixed date.  However it happens most of the time in software development but its a mistake.  To allow for "fix" delivery dates the deliverables need to be short and sweet developed over not more than six months otherwise scope creep is about to creep in and destroy your time line, guaranteed.

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