Critical Success Factors for enabling Packaged Software to realise the potential Business Benefits

Bond, Bryon (2009). Critical Success Factors for enabling Packaged Software to realise the potential Business Benefits. Student dissertation for The Open University module M801 MSc in Software Development Research Dissertation.

Please note that this student dissertation is made available in the format that it was submitted for examination, thus the author has not been able to correct errors and/or departures from academic standards in areas such as referencing.



Pre-written Packaged Software that can be configured to meet requirements has become the first choice as a means of satisfying an organisation’s software application needs. The short history of IT projects is characterised by them being difficult to implement and never realising all of their intended benefits. Software development is one of the hardest of human endeavours, because it attempts to build rule-based models of behaviour based upon an infinitely complex world of humans and their social interactions. The attraction of Packaged Software for Businesses is not only that the development of the software has been removed from the equation having already been written, but more importantly, it has also been fully tested and proven to work. The move towards the use of Packaged Software started to gain pace in the mid 1990’s, and it has been growing in popularity for over ten years. However, despite avoiding the need for organisations to develop their own software, there are still numerous reports in the literature of IT projects failing. This study sets out to identify if Packaged Software implementations exhibit any special problems and risks when compared to conventional bespoke software projects. Reports in the literature have concentrated on Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Systems. These are the most expensive examples of Packaged Software systems. They are difficult to implement and carry high risks that have even resulted in bankruptcy for the implementing organisation. However ERP systems alone do not completely fulfil all the software application needs that an organisation may have. There are many smaller, more specialised packaged systems that tend to be implemented more frequently. This study sets out to see if lessons can be learned from the literature on ERP systems and whether they can be generally applied to all types of Packaged Software implementations. Studies in the literature have typically looked at implementations from a two dimensional viewpoint, that of the Business as a whole and that of the Software Vendor/Consultants. However, a typical Packaged Software domain actually involves three groups: the “Business”, IT department and the Software Vendor/Consultants. Using the Delphi technique, views from all three groups were gathered to assess the “Critical Success Factors” and risks associated with Packaged Software. The study also set out to identify the roles and responsibilities for the main stakeholders for a Packaged Software implementation. This study found that for Packaged Software to be cost effective, it requires an understanding of the Business Processes and a willingness to change their design to fully exploit the system’s capabilities. This means that Packaged Software implementation is more about designing Business Processes to align with the best practices embodied within the software. If this is not recognised, it can lead to expensive software customisations or inefficient Business Processes being put in place to support the software. This inevitably brings about more change within the Business and therefore requiring more “change management”.

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