How new software solutions can be available faster

With the right approach you have a usable version in 3 to 6 months.

Didier Stickens

Technological evolutions follow each other in the IT world at an increasingly rapid pace. In recent years, popular terms such as Cloud solutions, SAAS, blockchain, Machine learning, AI, low-code solutions, micro-services to name a few, passed by. Better and faster solutions are constantly being sought to achieve digital transformation.

However, anyone involved in software projects has to note that implementation time is only increasing regardless of whether it is an implementation of an existing (SAAS) package or customized software. Two years lead time between the initial decision and the solution finally being operational is no longer an exception. In a rapidly evolving world, this therefore means that there is a good chance that the specifications will be outdated by the time of delivery.

In this blog, we look at how to avoid such a situation.

Flexible mindset

An important factor is mindset. In many organizations, IT or automation is still seen as a one-off project. A temporary project with a fixed budget that guarantees the next 5 or 10 years. However, this leads to large and heavy implementations with little room for flexibility.

Enabling opportunities

By viewing automation as a continuous process that supports opportunities, you get results faster and there is room for flexibility. The aim is to achieve a Minimal Viable Product (MVP) as quickly as possible. By this we mean a version that does enough in terms of functionality to be useful to the user AND to realize an acceptable ROI (so-called ‘quick wins’). 

Benefits of MVP

By focusing on an MVP, it is possible to implement much faster while gaining experience. That experience is essential as it helps to more accurately formulate the requirements for the rest of the application so that they can be successfully rolled out in the next phase. This not only results in a better outcome but also speeds up implementation, as gathering detailed requirements often causes delays.

For the same reason, when implementing that MVP, it is useful to have a prototype or preliminary version available as soon as possible. Which ensures that feedback can be collected from various users at an early stage and taken into account in further implementation. This limits the impact of any tweaks to this specific subproject, and this contributes to an improved user experience of the final result.

Next steps

After implementing the MVP, the functionality can be systematically built on.

When setting priorities, it is important to consider the following 3 factors:

  1. What benefit will the implementation of a functionality bring?
  2. What is the cost?
  3. Which stakeholders (management, users, customers, …) enjoy the benefit?

It is important to keep a good balance between the different stakeholders (see point 3). It is a common mistake to implement management’s priorities first and end up with no budget left for the other stakeholders’ requirements.

Team IT partner

Another important aspect affecting implementation time is the IT partner itself. More specifically, the (internal) staff turnover at that partner. A substantial part of the implementation time is taken up by the time it takes the IT partner’s team members to familiarize themselves with the customer’s details and singularities, even if they have experience in the sector. Even if you have been working with the same IT partner for years, as soon as the latter has a high staff turnover and you have different people working for you each time, a lot of time (and budget) is lost in ‘onboarding’.

Many (large) IT companies also work with so-called ‘project slots’. This is a defined period during which the technical team (not the vendor or the project managers) must realize your project and actually work for you. After all, you are not the only customer. The waiting period for the first ‘free’ slot on a new project sometimes goes up to 6 months at some companies. If your project (e.g. an MVP implementation) then does not get finished within the scheduled slot, chances are that a new, albeit shorter, waiting period will follow. As a customer you usually have no idea about this, but an implementation period contains a lot of ‘waiting time’.

Your own team

Finally, the quality of your own team also plays a big role. The team ideally includes someone who has sufficient decision-making power and at the same time is sufficiently familiar with the regular basic processes or is willing to investigate them. This decision-maker (that can also be a team) should also be able to properly assess the impact of the decision being made. This seems obvious but in practice a lot of time is lost or problems arise because of the big gap between those who decide and those who will use the system in practice.

Faster implementation of software solutions can be achieved by realizing an MVP, gathering feedback quickly and formulating the right requirements. Don’t forget the role of the IT partner’s team and the quality of your own team either. Those who think flexibly and see automation as an on-going project can move on faster.