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Lowering The Risks In Developing "Do-It-Yourself" Software Projects

Written by Phil McCutchen

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2. Management mis-objectives: Any firm trying to develop a staffing software project for itself must first fully and clearly definerepparttar objectives forrepparttar 138163 project. Few do this torepparttar 138164 extent needed.

Software development and implementation is an incredibly complex process, even for a moderately sized firm. Senior management must be involved fromrepparttar 138165 get-go. End-user considerations are paramount ifrepparttar 138166 technology is to be fully accepted. Questions regarding business practices, methods, and future business or technology possibilities must be answered.

Critical torepparttar 138167 success ofrepparttar 138168 project is both established accountability and an understanding that software development is inherently risky due to rapidly advancing programming technology. Anybody remember thatrepparttar 138169 billions of dollars allocated to correcting Year 2000 computer problems wererepparttar 138170 result of management and programming decisions made, in some cases, inrepparttar 138171 1960's?

At a time when CEO's often focus onrepparttar 138172 performance ofrepparttar 138173 next quarter, trying to plan and manage something that may take years and millions of dollars is difficult at best. Even with long-range planning and management, mis-steps are fairly typical. And it takes unusually strong and pragmatic business leadership to admit that they've takenrepparttar 138174 wrong development road and make any needed course changes.

3. CYA CIO's: The CEO who does not want to get involved in software or IT projects is often tempted to place all of his eggs inrepparttar 138175 basket of a trusted CIO or similar IT manager. Doing so may setrepparttar 138176 firm up for a humpty-dumpty fall.

Years ago,repparttar 138177 MIS department was often referred to asrepparttar 138178 "glass house", where massive mainframes resided, presided over a technical priesthood whose mystic incantations wererepparttar 138179 interface betweenrepparttar 138180 "big iron" andrepparttar 138181 information needed to runrepparttar 138182 business. Today, business-savvy CIO's and networked computer systems arerepparttar 138183 rule.

However,repparttar 138184 firm's CIO andrepparttar 138185 MIS department may still have a vested interest inrepparttar 138186 technology and methodology with which they are already familiar. They may want to protect their turf at all costs. As a result, their tendency is to do things "the way we've always done them", only bigger and more expensively.

Atrepparttar 138187 other extreme are sometimes visionary CIO's who see a new IT project as an opportunity to bring inrepparttar 138188 latest and greatest technology, without fully understanding it or its applicability torepparttar 138189 business.

Either way,repparttar 138190 firm loses, (althoughrepparttar 138191 CIO and MIS department staff may gain some new programming skills they can use on their next job).

Can you ensurerepparttar 138192 success of any "Do-It-Yourself" home-grown software project?

With so many variables, it is virtually impossible to predictrepparttar 138193 success of any custom software development project. You can, however, improve your chances somewhat by following a few simple guidelines:

1. Establish goals. The most important thing is to define, exactly, what you want to accomplish. What is your firm's business plan? How does IT relate and contribute to it? What should its objectives be? Be realistic in settingrepparttar 138194 goals, then document them. Get buy-in on these goals from senior management allrepparttar 138195 way to end-user.

2. Establish budget and time specifications. No matter how you cut it, software development is all about time and money. Working from your goals, considerrepparttar 138196 cost to developrepparttar 138197 software, AND those areas where budget and time requirements can increase exponentially. This includes testing, documentation, implementation, and end user training. And don't forget ongoing support, development, and "bug" fixing.

3. Establish project milestones. Hand-in-hand with establishing your budget and time-frame -- determine what goals you have to achieve inrepparttar 138198 development process to completerepparttar 138199 project on-time and on-budget. Some of these milestones should be, as NASA says, "GOŚNO GO", milestones; that is, if not achieved,repparttar 138200 project doesn't fly. Remember, 40% of all projects fail outright, so be prepared to cut your losses.

4. Obtain warranties and guarantees. When dealing with outside consulting firms, this is crucial. It is all too easy to point fingers afterrepparttar 138201 fact, less so if clear communication between client and consulting firm spells outrepparttar 138202 expected results. Andrepparttar 138203 consequences of failure. Have a "Plan B" that you can, if necessary, fall back on.

5. Avoid "mission creep". There is often a temptation to add features and functions beyondrepparttar 138204 scope or goals ofrepparttar 138205 project as it progresses. This is especially true as new technology raisesrepparttar 138206 "wow" factor ofrepparttar 138207 possible. Stick torepparttar 138208 established goals and avoidrepparttar 138209 quick-sand ofrepparttar 138210 "never-ending" software development.

Can you succeed withrepparttar 138211 pragmatic alternative?

If allrepparttar 138212 preceding talk ofrepparttar 138213 failure rates of custom software development makes you think it may not be worthrepparttar 138214 gamble, you've one viable option left. Go back and talk to those industry-specific staffing software vendors some more.

Find out exactly what they have to offer, and what they have onrepparttar 138215 boards forrepparttar 138216 future. Can their "90 percent" software be customized forrepparttar 138217 other five percent or ten percent you believe you just HAVE to have? Or, do you really need that five percent more?

Look at your own business with a critical eye to determine if your business practices can or should be adjusted to fitrepparttar 138218 available IT solutions. Remember that with any experienced staffing software vendor you're buying allrepparttar 138219 improvements they've made overrepparttar 138220 years for many, many clients. You may find that, whilerepparttar 138221 software solution offered may not be exactly what you want, it will in all likelyhood measurably enhancerepparttar 138222 productivity of your current operations.

Above all, remember that you're inrepparttar 138223 staffing business, notrepparttar 138224 speculative, expensive, and time-consuming software development business. Stick to your own core business competencies, withrepparttar 138225 understanding that software and technology should support and enhance your business operations, efficiencies, services, and profits.

And what about Mike Dunville and Alpha Staffing? Well, he thought it through, had a lot of talks with everyone onrepparttar 138226 staff from top down, rated all ofrepparttar 138227 staffing software vendors to findrepparttar 138228 one that met 80 percent of their expected needs and hadrepparttar 138229 most experience andrepparttar 138230 best R&D and support capabilities, and bought it.

That was last year. So far this year sales are up 15 percent, billable hours per desk are up 20 percent, and net margin is up 12 percent. They'll add two more offices soon without a hitch, and staff retention is better as well. Mike really enjoyed passing outrepparttar 138231 big bonus checks to everyone. And getting one himself.


* Mike Dunville is a fictitious character, as is Alpha Staffing. His story, however, is fairly typical of small-to-mid-size businesses with unique software needs.

Phil McCutchen is Marketing Manager for VCG, Inc., the leading provider of staffing software to the staffing industry. He has been with the firm since 1991, and has more than 25 years of marketing experience. For more information:

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