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Commercial Off The Shelf Software Projects: Using Business Objectives to Reduce Failure Risk

Many organizations purchase Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) software to achieve faster time to deployment for enterprise software projects. If a firm opts to implement a custom solution, there may be a significant delay in getting benefits from the new system while the custom solution is built and tested.

In order to realize the benefit of choosing COTS over custom development, project teams need to take steps to avoid project failure, failure that can include massive cost overruns and deployment delays. Business objectives requirements can help business analysts reduce the risk of significant unexpected costs at different phases in a COTS project.

Business objectives define the desired outcomes the project should achieve and give you something against which you can prioritize features. (In fact, BAs should fully understand the business problems and objectives before organizations choose between COTS or a custom development solution.)

When your organization is selecting software, business analysts should attach a dollar value to each desired feature, and use those features values in combination with what each solution supports to rank the solutions against one another. This analysis allows BAs to help recommend a solution that provides the most ROI to the organization.

Be aware that identifying business objectives can be challenging for organizations not used to assigning metrics to projects. Business objectives always relate to increasing revenue or decreasing cost, or some
proxy for those.

The goal is to implement COTS while maintaining business throughput on the most important business processes. However, while improving some part of the organization, a new COTS system might actually degrade performance in another. The implementation is still valuable if you have a net overall improvement in the organization. KPIs help the entire organization understand what the impact will be on specific business processes; business objectives inform and guide this process.

For areas where there is a gap between the COTS solution and existing business processes, BAs can help the business adapt the business processes to the new solution. Business analysts can define best practices in using the new COTS system; the user training provided will help users more readily accept the new system, and can save a company millions of dollars otherwise spent on custom design, development, and testing to recreate old business processes in the new COTS system.

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