There is a good article on the Requirements Network Group on Modifications to COTS by Bill Flowers.  www.requirementsnetwork.com I’ll be talking about Developing Requirements for Purchased Software (COTS) in Atlanta on July 21st at the SPIN (Software Process Improvement Network) chapter meeting. www.atlantaspin.org

These are both important topics for project managers and business analysts. As Bill points out, the big software vendors like SAP and Oracle traditionally focused on large companies as their customers but are now realizing that small or medium size companies have the same needs. As a business analyst in one of these small to medium sized companies, you need to be prepared to discuss the costs and benefits with your stakeholders. Software vendors will sell to your business stakeholders, convincing them to purchase rather than build software applications.

BAs have not always been involved in software selection decisions so if you hear about an evaluation process in your organization, try to get involved. Requirements are critical for selecting the best package and should be done before vendor evaluations. When the business doesn’t have a clear, shared understanding of what they need, they will select a package which looks good and is well presented. The underlying functionality, design, and/or performance may be lacking. We need business requirements (data, process and business rules) along with high level functional requirements, non-functional requirements and transition requirements to make the best selection. The IT group should also have technical requirements for vendor packages. All of these requirements should be presented to the vendors in an RFP. Ask vendors to respond to your requirements rather than choosing the best sales demo!

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