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Reviewing new IT systems

By willrmoore ·
I am managing the development and installation of a new corporate purchasing system in my company. The system is being developed by a third party and will have to integrate with a number of systems, and fit with our corporate data model, with as little impact as possible.

To help limit unforeseen risks I intend to set up a technical review panel, who will critique and assess all proposals and products. Hopefully the panel can develop a procedure for such reviews, as I hope to then use them with other projects. I have no experience of technical reviews, and would like to know what areas of expertise should be included and what type of questions should they be asking?

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Depends on what you are buying

by Tony Hopkinson In reply to Reviewing new IT systems

If it's the code and you have no in-house resource, then you need it reviewed based on how maintainable it is.
Documentation, consistent style, readability and good design practices. Get a consultant in, not Gartner, someone who designs software. If you are going to go down this route, make it clear from the outset. Send a working product back to them because it's written badly and you'll have to pay for them to sort it out.
In fact I'd recommend you get the consultant in now and have him or her negotiate what say readability means.

Always remember the first thing that gets sacrificed to profit or cost in a software project is code quality.

Look at it on a super user basis.

When you look at it from say an interface to invoicing, you are going to get the opinion of those who manage that now. No different for on going administration , data integrity, security, network admin etc.

It's no where near as arcane as some would make out. Usually it's as obvious as someone turning up with a linux box and you have are a windows house. Or you use AD and it doesn't. Or you are moving to Vista and it won't work with it.

Unless you are buying the code, it's the admin interface that matters. If you are, then it's how easy is the code to understand, because that's the bulk of the time for code fix and enhancement.

Technical review from a nuts and blots perspective is no different as such, from can you get a purchase in to the ledger.

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Should I be concerned with technical architecture?

by willrmoore In reply to Depends on what you are b ...

Thanks for you tips.

The problem I now have is assessing the back end.

Until now our company had used a Lotus Notes based solution, now this is being re-written and redesigned with an SQL back end. Over the coming year the systems the Purchasing system integrates with will be re-designed / replaced, and the purchasing system will need to be (heavily) reworked to handle different budget rules.

This is where the problem lies, we have requested the package is designed in such a way to allow easy modification and good integration (we are working to remove duplicate data across the organization), however in the past this has not been successful. Our company has repeatedly paid over the odds for small changes as packages were not designed well enough. This time we have been very careful to outline the changes that will need to be included in future, but I still want to be able to assess the package before we install it.

What type of people should help me assess this / what things should I be asking for (for example should I insist all systems share data by XML feed or by direct access to each others tables? Should we place more or less of the code in the tables? &c)?

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It's changes like that here third party types make their

by Tony Hopkinson In reply to Should I be concerned wit ...

money.
60% of the cost of any software system that lasts into the next version is maintenance.

Generally a software hosuse will cut to the bone to get the software in, the customer being understandably reluctant to waste that initial investment, will pay full cost for change after change.
As long as it's in small lumps, every individual decision, get new system vs spend a few k is a no brainer.

Personally I'd be requiring XML import and export, and if I was you I'd be looking at **** the changeable logic in a scripting engine.

I've been doing a proof of concept on the latter. I have a draft of next years rules. so I'm implementing this years and looking at how much work is involved in next years.

I've been looking at it on the basis of handing over the encapsulation of the business logic in scripts to the business analysts, so not far from your split of effort between 3rd party developer and teh people who know enough to specify waht they need to do.

I'm trying for a design where a mere chnage on how an existing value is calculated, requires no coding on my part and can easily tested automatically.
Won't be 100% doable, but a nice goal. There little point in paying someone as expensive as I to to change a + sign to a - in code.

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Thanks for your help

by willrmoore In reply to It's changes like that h ...

I think our finance department would agree with the comment about the cost of change; they have a lot to say about this particular supplier.

Good luck at simplifying the process for making small changes to the code - if all apps were easy to configure business efficiency would be much improved (provided people like me could correctly specify what we will need to configure in advance)...

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That's the best part

by Tony Hopkinson In reply to Thanks for your help

you get to write the scripts!

I'll be busy shooting aliens, browsing, listening to music and watching all the episodes of Blakes 7 back to back.

Occasionally if you have enough free time, I may give you a brief opportunity to bug me with work and such.

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Look at Past Performance, References

by Wayne M. In reply to Reviewing new IT systems

You are going to need a development team that you can trust. I would recommend requesting at least 3 past performance references in your proposals. Be sure to contact all 3 for each potential vendor. Ask each reference for additional contacts and also have your CEO question his network of contacts.

Unless you already have the technical skills to do the work in house, you are probably not going to be able fully evaluate the technical proposals. After award, I assure you that the project will run into some glitches. At that time, you will want to have a vendor that you trust to tell you the truth.

Make sure the vendor you choose has done this type of work in the past and its other clients were happy with the work. This is the best way to ensure that you will also be happy with his work.

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