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Your Business is Requesting Too Many Software Customizations

        posted by , April 03, 2011

COTS (commercial off the shelf) projects often fail due to complex customization requirements that drive up costs and project risk. Where organizations often fail is at saying no to customization.

Choosing COTS

Your organization invests in a software package based on a simple rationale: there is no point reinventing the wheel — it is better to leverage the processes and data model of a industry leading software vendor.

Where things go wrong

The task of identifying customization requirements is often given to business people who:

1. Don't understand the inbuilt processes and data model of the software package.
2. Are not process experts.
3. In many cases do not understand industry best practices.
4. Generally want to do things the way they have done them in the past — resistant to change.

The resulting requirements often try to adapt the software package to as-is processes. Such requirements are expensive to implement and lead to high risk projects.

A Better Approach

Before buying a COTS package make sure the in-build processes and data model will support your business.

The implementation process should focus on adapting the business to the COTS solution and not customization. This requires very strong executive support.

A Metrics Based Approach

The basic rule of buy vs. build is that you should build if package customization is going to exceed 5%.

If you make the COTS choice — consider capping your customization budget at 4%. Require all customization requirements to come with a business justification. Rank your customizations by payback metrics and only implement the top 4% — everyone else needs to make their business run with out-of-the-box functionality.

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