Agile for Package Implementations

Mike Griffiths is a consultant and trainer who help organizations improve performance through shared leadership, agility and (un)common sense. He maintains the blog LeadingAnswers.com.

There is lots of great information available on how to use agile methods for custom software development projects, but less so for package implementations. Commercial-off-the-Shelf (COTS) solutions make up a large percentage of the IT projects undertaken by companies each year, and many organizations are missing out on benefits that an agile package approach can bring.

While some of the agile techniques are aimed squarely at new software development, many others are applicable in environments of uncertain requirements, technological risk and high rates of business change. So while pair programming is not likely to be useful if you’re doing no programming, many agile practices are. Also, COTS projects are rarely a pure package install; customization is usually required, and integration code must be written--both of which can benefit from agile principles.

When examining the goals of an agile COTS implementation, we find many commonalities with regular agile development projects. Namely:

  • To surface and overcome User Interface and functionality shortcomings early.  Software (either packaged or developed) is intangible and difficult to reference. We need to see screens and reports to assess suitability; demoing elements early is a great was to bridge semantic gaps between intention and implementation.
  • Deliver the highest business value elements …

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