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Change Management - the scourge of the Software Developer?

Change management being called the scourge of the software developer may seem a rather strong statement but, in reality, many application development projects have failed, been late or totally scrapped, as a direct result of change management not being handled appropriately.

As requirements change frequently for a whole raft of reasons, a streamlined, flexible approach to change management is required. The best developers want to develop software that is of high quality as well as of high-value and the easiest way to do this is to implement the highest priority requirements first. This enables them to maximise stakeholder ROIs, thus in short they strive to manage change rather than prevent it.

People change their minds for many reasons. For instance it may the identification of a missed requirement; the realisation that a feature needs to be included as part of the integration process with another system; a bug has been identified that needs fixing; another stakeholder has uncovered some new or different requirements not originally included in the original definition process; or, the market and/or legislation has changed and this needs to be accommodated.

If you "freeze" the requirements early in the lifecycle you are unlikely to build what people need and instead build what they initially thought they wanted, which is not a great strategy for success. However, this "catch 22" situation can be managed effectively through the adoption of an Agile approach.

This approach is desirable to IT professionals because it enables them to always be working on the highest-value functionality, as defined by the stakeholders, at all times, which is not only a good business decision but very satisfying for developers because they know that their work is having a positive impact on the organisation.

In addition, there are several reasons why this is very attractive for stakeholders. They obtain concrete feedback on a regular basis; they see on a regular basis stakeholders what they're getting for their IT investment; they have control over the scope; and, they can add new requirements, change priorities, or rework existing requirements whenever they want. Thus, they have control over the schedule; can fund the project for as long as they need to; and, are now in a position where they can govern their IT portfolio effectively.

A classic example of the above was the experience of Saleforce.com. When the leadership realised that innovation in the firm was starting to slow down and they did what many software companies have done and turned to a radically different set of agile, customer-driven, outcome-orientated and iterative management practices, known in the software development world as Scrum or Agile. As a result of utilising reputable licensed people to assist them in this initiative, such as those provided locally by Scrum Solutions, Salesforce.com had much more spectacular results than many other companies embarking on this route.

18 August 2014: Article by Mandy Schoeman of Scrum Solutions