Congratulations! You have developed your program portfolio, filed it with the regulator, and have gotten their approval. Are you ready to launch the program? Is your tracking system online and ready to receive data? Is the customer-facing web portal up and running? It seems that the software piece of the implementation puzzle is often the last piece to be developed and can put the program launch into a time crunch. So how do we avoid attempting to do six months of work in six weeks? By creating a roadmap that will get you from regulatory approval to program launch. Are you going to use an in-house developed tracking system, or are you going outside? If you decide to purchase an off-the-shelf system, be sure and build in enough time for the entire procurement cycle. Either way, begin with the end in mind and engage your IT provider as early as possible. Internally, decide the business requirements of the system and secure buy-in from all the stakeholders. Specifically, what are the essential functions needed at program launch, and what can be phased in over time? Prioritizing the critical functionalities for first development allows programmers to work in the time allotted to deliver software for the program launch.
Where do software development projects go off track? The most common problems are around business requirements, the need to compromise, system testing, and the relationship with your provider. Business requirements should be developed in detail before the first programming begins. Too often, requirements are written on the fly or not in enough detail. Even worse, there are instances where there is no internal agreement on what the solution needs to provide. If you are building a customized application, then you can get precisely what you want. If not, you need to be willing to compromise. An off-the-shelf product will not be able to meet each one of the nuances of how your program is being operated. Remember that the end goal is to have a solution that enables an on-time launch. Further, become knowledgeable in how the new product works so that change requests can be tailored to meet the end objective. No one likes to do User Acceptance Testing. However, it is an essential piece of a successful launch as it verifies that the solution is working as planned and builds understanding. Finally, the firm you have hired and/or your internal IT provider are your partners in success. All parties have a goal of delivering a working and usable product. There is nothing to be gained in a project that fails. A close working relationship with the development team is critical to hitting the launch date.
If you follow all these recommendations, does it mean that your development project will not have any issues? Of course not. However, having a roadmap and being flexible will place you in a better position to influence the project’s end outcome on time. If you find yourself against hard program launch deadlines, remember to ask yourself , “what is the minimum functionality I need to meet the program launch date?” Having a reliable IT provider can make this journey easier. The team at ANB Systems can be that reliable partner for you and help in all phases of development. They will assist in clarifying your vision of the solution, developing the business requirements, and support you in testing.
Written by – Michael Stockard
Michael Stockard is an independent consultant at Stockard Energy Advising and is a member of the Advisory Panel at ANB Systems. Michael has over 40 years of experience in the design and implementation of demand-side management programs.