When buying a commercial app or working with a vendor to create one from scratch, organizations are specifying too many requirements, including ones that are non-essential or cosmetic. According to one Info-Tech Research Group Ltd. consultant, the key to successfully selecting a vendor for packaged or custom applications is to identify core requirements quickly and keep the initial selection team small.
“If you have a team of more than five people who are commissioned with finding the right solution and requirements, you’re probably wasting a lot of effort,” said Andy Woyzbun, lead analyst at London, Ont.-based research and consultant firm. Especially for customized projects, design by large committee almost never works, he added.
While some organizations gather staff from across multiple departments to work through all aspects of a project — from the initial requirements gather project through to vendor selection — Woyzbun warned that this practice will cause most companies to miss the essentials.
“Don’t sweat the details until you’re well into the development process,” he advised, adding that it’s a far better strategy to select a vendor or develop a set of key project requirements without wasting too much staff time outside of the initial development team.
Bringing in employees from various departments is great to validate what’s been chosen and what features can be added on top of the core functionality of an application, he said.
For example, when building out a payroll system, some employees might want to see customizable fields and fonts show up on their pay stubs. While this is something that should be taken into consideration for the latter stages of the project, the focus of the payroll system needs to be on its core features.
“Don’t worry about the colours of the walls before you’ve bought the house,” Woyzbun said, adding that the companies he’s worked with tend to “overcook” their requirements and the vendor selection process in general. This is especially true on large ERP, CRM, or business intelligence initiatives, he said.
The organizations that keep their requirements teams small and zero in on key objections will waste the least money and get a usable product turned around quicker, Woyzbun said.