The Agile Sure Step Project Type: New Options for Implementing Microsoft Dynamics

For ages, consultants have delivered ERP projects in waterfall fashion, and to be honest, they didn't fare too well as far as project success was concerned. Budget overruns, missed schedules, scope creep or scope reductions - these have been more of a norm than an exception. And even though agile methodologies were gaining momentum, and getting accolades, the ERP world still preferred the thunder of the big-bang waterfall approach.

In its latest release, by offering support for the agile project type, Sure Step has made a giant leap into the realm of agile project methodologies. While Sure Step does not yet fulfill all the ideals of agile methodology, many of the building blocks are now in place to bring positive change to many Dynamics ERP projects.

Agile approach is radically different from the waterfall approach.

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About Vjekoslav Babic

Vjekoslav Babić is an independent Microsoft Dynamics NAV consultant, trainer, author and blogger, with 10 years of experience in NAV and 16 years of experience in IT.

As a solutions architect and a project manager with a leading Microsoft Dynamics President's Club service provider company, as a Microsoft Dynamics NAV consultant with Microsoft Services, and as an independent consultant, he has been working on Microsoft Dynamics NAV implementations ranging from tiny one-man-bands to international mega-corporations, delivering services and trainings all over the world.

In 2008, Vjekoslav co-authored the acclaimed book "Implementing Microsoft Dynamics NAV 2009". Vjekoslav runs an active blog about NAV implementation, project management and development best practices, acts as a columnist and editorial advisory board member at MSDynamicsWorld.com, and as a columnist in a number of other web or printed periodicals in Croatia and worldwide. Vjekoslav is also a frequent speaker at Microsoft or Microsoft Dynamics conferences.

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Agile SureStep Projects

An excellent introduction to a highly-relevant topic, my good friend. Unquestionably, SureStep has made major advances in each successive revision, and you have concisely highlighted many of the advantages and pitfalls of its foray into agile project process. In proper context, however, SureStep is a high-caliber methodology; a narrow focus adaptation of project framework (PMBOK in this case). How much of the additional weight of making SureStep a complete project solution, without diminishing its ease-of-use mission, remains to be seen.

Specifically, SureStep in its current incarnation is overwhelmingly a partner tool. This is understandable, given both its intended audience and the Microsoft channels for disseminating such tools. Critical elements of what PMBOK refers to as the Initiation and Planning stages of a project are assumed to have been completed by the client before the SureStep process begins. Those of us who have seen projects aimlessly meander for lack of a clearly articulated (and accepted) charter, executive endorsement and stakeholder vetting may surely grasp the signifigance of these "missing pieces."

Adaptation of agile (agile SCRUM in your example) further tax these deficiencies. Strong client-side grasp of the principles and usage of project process AND SCRUM application may be viable within sophisticated, process-mature client environments. The client-side "spectator" role that often exists within waterfall deployments is likely incompatible with such approaches. Whether this constraint qualifies or disqualifies mid-market Dynamics users from a particular project deployment strategy is probably best evaluated on a case-by-case basis. The underlying question where agile strategies are being contemplated, however, is often one of whether a client is "adept enough to be agile."

Vjeko, you've correctly cited many of the departures from generally-accepted partner approaches inherent in an agile SureStep strategy. Surely a reliance upon multiple iterations of user acceptance testing-- a frequent project bottleneck-- is beyond the current SureStep approach. This is, matters of practicality aside for the moment, curious as the textbook definition of "project" includes a mandate for reiterative capabilities. Correctly stated is that further refinement of the SureStep "big bang" deployment is needed before an incremental (read as "genuinely agile") project strategy may be accommodated.

Being in full agreement that the SureStep foray into agile project strategies is a very promising work-in-process, I look forward to reading your further blogs on this topic.

Very good, thanks Vjekoslav!

Jim Wang
MCBMSP :: http://jianwang.blogspot.com