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The Honeymoon Period

It seems like we’ve all been there one way or another. The story goes something like this. You go through the courting process with a carefully selected list of Independent Software Vendors (ISVs). Finally a choice is made. You move forward and begin the roll-out of a new Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) business application. You work diligently with the implementation team; fine tuning the configuration until ultimately you’re up and running.

While the whole process was exhausting,  the team worked really well together and now you’re seeing the benefits and getting the necessary buy-in from the users. Some questions come up along the way but you’re able to provide some additional training or tweak the configuration and most everyone is happy.

Although slightly annoying, the remaining areas that you feel could be improved are tolerable and at the moment you are willing to live with them because the software has accomplished much of what you had hoped:

  • Data that used to be spread about in a variety of systems, some of which were paper based is now being collected in a single system.
  • Gathering this data, which use to take weeks or longer, can now be done with a few mouse clicks.
  • Productivity has increased, reliability has improved, and the workflows that have been set up in the application match well with the Business Processes that you want established in your department.

Settling In

Inevitably as time passes, the productivity gains that are realized with the aid of the new system become routine, almost expected. Once minor annoyances are now becoming slight irritations. You may feel that some are oversights by the ISV, so you call and report the issue. The customer service representative listens to your issues and in a polite voice explains that in fact, this is how the software is designed to operate. They inform you of their customer suggestion database and indicated that they will enter your ideas.

Months go by and a new minor version of the software is released but without your suggestions being implemented. To you, these seem like the most obvious modifications that everyone would want.

You scratch your head and ask “Why won’t my ISV listen to me?”

Communication Is Everything

Although it may not seem like it at times, I can assure you the every COTS provider is working hard to provide new, high quality versions of their products that meet the needs of the customers in a timely fashion. With every new release of the software, ISVs are addressing one or more of the following:

  • New functionality
  • Feature enhancements
  • Usability
  • Performance
  • Bugs

In reality, the list of items on the product backlog is great; often far too long to include in a single version release. The product owner must prioritize this list in a way to deliver the most value in the most efficient manner. There are many opportunities for our users to influence this prioritization but it requires good communication. Share with your ISV your thoughts and wishes. Make the effort to share your experiences and be willing to invest the time to respond to their follow-up questions. Hopefully, this will be a long term relationship with many opportunities to share your thoughts throughout the life cycle. For us, the life cycle includes

  • The sales process
  • Business process mapping and configuration
  • Customer Service
  • Process improvement
  • Retirement

Just as in life, what you put into the relationship is proportional to what you get out. In future postings, I’ll address these areas and how we use the information gathered to influence our prioritization effort and ultimately what gets into a release and what remains on the product backlog.