KJR Principal Consultant Ben Wonson reflects on the growing market of Systems Integrators and explains how organisations can make informed decisions when implementing Commercial Off-The-Shelf software.
When clients are starting a new software project, I’ve often noticed project governance oversights that may hinder the software’s implementation and overall outcomes. Pre-packaged, ready-made solutions for businesses to purchase and implement called Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) software are becoming more frequently employed in software projects. This has made it essential for businesses to acknowledge all elements of the software being implemented in the context of their requirements and to recognise any aspects that could derail a successful execution.
Most businesses don’t install COTS software internally. A Systems Integrator (SI) who specialises in assembling software and ensuring it functions correctly with an overarching system will usually be chosen for the job. The selection process is rigorous, with increasingly mature procurement processes helping companies objectively choose the most suitable SI. But even after a partner is selected, it’s still necessary to maintain awareness of your organisation’s requirements and any potential flaws. Who knows what could happen in the implementation process?
There are thousands of capable SIs in the field, and just as many competent organisations. As your organisation opens its software supply chain to a third-party SI however, unlikely risks can come into play. These factors influence the implementation process from both sides and can prevent COTS software from meeting your goals.
Do they meet the requirements your company needs?
COTS Software will vary depending on your organisation’s needs. When you’re hiring a Systems Integrator, they need to understand your business’s requirements and constraints – things like your business’ structure and roles, as well as technical limitations and costs. Identifying these will allow your SI to determine an ideal solution for each scenario.
As companies’ requirements for their systems come in all shapes and sizes, COTS software has countless features ripe and ready for implementation. A balance should ideally be struck between using more affordable out-of-the-box solutions or expensive customised software, which could both fit your company’s objectives in different ways. Keep in mind though: the more personalised a solution is, the more likely it will cut at your budget.
COTS software, when being implemented, should be adaptive to suit organisations. If an SI fails to understand your business’ needs, their efforts will likely be ineffective. Preferably, an SI should develop a suitable application roadmap unique to your organisation. Balance is key – if they identify your company’s requirements well, you’ll have a higher-quality implementation.
Will they push through, or leave when the going gets tough?
So, you’ve had your COTS software installed and it’s ready to use. Now what?
If your company has a high level of trust you might not notice if your software has been implemented inaccurately. When you do realise, this can lead to a blaming game, with a loss of even more time and money for the organisation. On the off chance that things go wrong, having effective governance in place allows decisions to be made and time saved. Outlining who is in charge, how conflicts can be resolved and how to address concerns if things go south are relevant frameworks to keep track of. SIs specifically must monitor the progress of the project and the software’s performance to keep it running smoothly.
Objective implementer or subjective scope creep?
I’ve worked with plenty of capable and competent SIs, but there’s always the odd few that aren’t. According to Grand View Research, the global System Integration market size is expected to grow to USD 582.5 billion by 2025. With such a fragmented market rapidly developing, eliminating those few faulty SIs can be difficult.
SIs have an aptitude and love for their software, making them naturally talented in their field. That said, rose-tinted glasses can be blinding in the implementation process. An SI’s passion for their own software alongside the need to sell to organisations can lead to businesses having more services implemented than required once the project begins.
This process of uncontrolled growth in requirements or solution design is called scope creep and usually occurs when guidelines aren’t properly defined. I’ve encountered it at work before, and it’s not as uncommon as you’d think. Evading it all comes back to understanding and documenting the processes you already have and clearly articulating what you’re looking to achieve. Determining your measures of success – be it customer acquisitions, lower churn rates or higher retentions – allows you to logically determine which services need to be employed.
Keeping aware of all the factors that go into choosing the right SI for your company can be daunting. Despite this, it’s the best way to ensure your company’s requirements are met.
As part of KJR’s Project Assurance service, we recognise the importance of spending time with our clients. We aim to assist with preplanning so we can understand your requirements and customise our software services to suit you. Supporting with governance frameworks and monitoring ongoing tasks allows us to collaboratively manage projects while understanding the technical aspects of implementing COTS software.
As a technology-focused strategic advisory firm, KJR offers Quality Assurance and Systems Integration services to help organisations reach a solid foundation for quality practices. Contact KJR to find out more | 1300 854 063