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Initial Implementation Assets

Many customizable software process engineering frameworks are available for organizations to adopt, ranging from open source plans such as OpenUP to the commercially available Rational Unified Process. All of these process frameworks contain process content, as well as tools to support a variety of organizational needs, project types, and development technologies. What they don’t have is content specific to your organization.

These process frameworks have templates for the work products as well as samples from fictitious software development projects that do add value. However, that value pales in comparison to templates that have been tailored to reflect your organization’s needs, with prescriptive guidance for usage in your environment. Out-of-the-box templates from these process frameworks were created to apply to a vast user base—almost any type of company, in any industry, using any number of development environments. Therein lies an issue: Some of the content won’t be applicable to your organization, and will need to be removed. You’ll also need to add content specific to your organization.

I want to share two lessons learned with respect to the initial tailoring of process content, such as the templates just discussed. The first lesson learned is that you will need to do some initial tailoring. Blindly using the out-of-the-box process content can result in the introduction of unnecessary overhead in your organization, which is antithetical to the goal of eliminating waste from the process—one of the key factors on which your business case for change should be focusing. This tailoring is necessary, but should be as minimal as possible early on, which leads into the second lesson learned: process definition by conference room.

A balance should be struck between completing some preliminary tailoring that will add value to the initial adopters, and consuming vast amounts of time and resources to complete. The conference room approach to process definition is based on selecting representatives from all over the company to participate in creating the "standard" templates, all before the process is ever used anywhere in the organization. This approach is purely academic and based in theoretical ponderings by the working group. It can take weeks or even months to perform this exercise, and you can end up with templates that have more overhead in them than the original out-of-the-box versions had.

The balance you need to strike is to perform initial tailoring, and then pilot to see how those changes and additions work in practice. The lessons learned from practical application drive the evolution of this process content, which can become a standard after it has been proven to add value.

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