What is independent verification and validation (IV&V)? This is a “gut check” process performed by a third-party organization that is not directly involved in the development of a software product. 

The goal of IV&V is to identify high-risk areas as early as possible in a project, such as an ERP implementation. This helps organizations mitigate known risks and prepare contingencies. At the same time, it helps project managers and IT staff members objectively identify and address system development issues before they cause problems. This improves the quality of the overall effort. 

Should your organization consider IV&V before going live with a new enterprise software solution? Today, we’re sharing how this process works and the benefits it can provide. 

What is Independent Verification and Validation?

High-profile, high-risk projects can benefit from an outside perspective. With IV&V, you hire a third party to review core project requirements, such as:

  • Whether user requirements are being met
  • Whether the project is structurally sound
  • Whether the project is built to the required specifications 
  • Whether the project includes necessary security components

When your project teams are working feverishly on a project on a daily basis, it can be difficult for them to keep a fresh outlook. As a result, both major and minor issues can be overlooked. 

Companies that perform IV&V services can identify any issues or discrepancies that might exist in your design. They perform tests to measure product quality and make sure it conforms to your company, industry, and business requirements. 

At Panorama, our ERP Project Auditing service offering encompasses IV&V. Our team not only audits your project, but we can determine if you need ERP Project Recovery.

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Common IV&V Steps Performed

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all guide that all IV&V companies follow. Instead, these partners adjust their approach based on your unique business needs and project goals. 

For software projects, such as ERP implementations, the company ensures that each deliverable in the project is:

  • Correct: Is each deliverable correct in respect to its methodologies, conclusions and logic? Is each deliverable accurate with respect to facts and computations?
  • Complete: Is each deliverable complete in respect to objectives and scope?
  • Consistent: Is each deliverable internally (within the deliverable) and externally (across related deliverables) consistent?
  • Compatible: Is each interface/integration aligning with the solution?
  • Traceable (and Testable): Can each requirement be independently, repeatedly verified and validated? Are there objective acceptance criteria that the purpose and objectives of the demonstrated results are in the final product?

The company checks for these attributes using various testing methods, including integration, functional, and system testing:

Integration Testing

In integration testing, the IV&V organization ensures that all software units or modules are integrated appropriately and working together as they should. If there is an issue at this touchpoint, it can affect the performance of the entire system down the line. 

Functional Testing

In functional testing, the IV&V organization ensures each component works as expected. They also test the system as a whole to make sure it includes the features and capabilities that users require. 

System Testing

System testing is the most comprehensive of these three. It involves testing the entire software and hardware system to make sure it works as the users expect and require. 

Navigating Project Team and IV&V Dynamics

An IV&V company can bring significant business value to an organization. This team can help companies identify hidden risks and pain points in an implementation before they snowball into bigger issues. 

However, this doesn’t mean that communication and collaboration will always flow smoothly between your in-house team members and these external third parties. 

Early on, it’s important to pay careful attention to the way your internal employees perceive the IV&V team. These dynamics can be a little sensitive, which can throw off the overall project dynamics. 

If a conflict exists, it’s often rooted in misconception. For instance, some project managers may feel threatened by the IV&V team. They might distrust their intentions and think that these workers are only there to spy on them or glean proprietary information from their projects. Or they might think they want to undermine their authority or simply point out everything that’s wrong with their work. 

Ultimately, the IV&V team should be considered a welcome presence in any enterprise software project. With these experts on board, your project managers will have more time to strategically consider the project as a whole and make necessary improvements. 

Verification vs. Validation: What’s the Difference?

There are two distinct parts of any IV&V process: verification and validation. While these two terms might sound similar, they include very different steps. Let’s break down the differences. 

System Verification

During an independent system verification, the IV&V company is trying to determine if the software development plan (SDP) aligns with your specific end goals. 

For example, say you want to integrate business intelligence (BI) capabilities into your organization to facilitate more robust data analysis. The IV&V team will want to make sure that your SDP includes appropriate BI modules that support this capability. 

If they discover that the SDP actually contains coding that’s more appropriate for a customer relationship management (CRM) module, they will flag it and label it as faulty. This is because CRM functionality, while beneficial, falls outside the scope of BI. 

Once they receive these notifications, your project team members can adjust the SDP accordingly. When they find this issue as early as possible, it helps them stay within the scope of the original project. This way, they can avoid spending excess time and money on features they don’t need or aren’t as high of a priority. 

System Validation

Independent system validation occurs after the verification process. This is a latter step in IV&V testing. 

While the IV&V team examines business requirements during the system verification phase, they become more interested in the final product when it’s time to conduct validation. At this juncture, they want to make sure the software fulfills the requirements set forth by the SDP.

As such, there’s less emphasis on what’s in the SDP and more of a focus on whether the final system meets the end goals. Testers conduct analyses to confirm that the system functions as planned and there are no outlying issues that could impede its performance. 

5 Benefits of IV&V

Especially if your in-house team is skeptical about bringing an IV&V on board, it can help to outline the benefits that this third-party support can bring. Let’s look at a few ways these experts can help. 

1. Discover High-Risk Errors Early in the Development Cycle

As your software development process approaches full implementation, it costs more to find and correct a defect. Thankfully, IV&V is performed early in the project, helping you identify and mitigate errors and risks before they become bigger, more expensive problems.

2. Reduce Total Project Costs

There is a time cost associated with retroactively correcting faulty plans and inoperable code. In the hours that your team spends reversing and correcting its steps, they could have been working on innovations to drive business value. When you want to maximize the ROI on your software project, IV&V is an essential step. 

3. Improve Product Quality

Throughout the software development process, quality should always be top of mind. With IV&V, you ensure it remains the highest priority. When the job is done right the first time, you can avoid costly and time-consuming issues like scope creep and redundancy. 

4. Improve Internal Communication

A successful IV&V strategy requires communication and coordination among various project teams. Stakeholders, decision-makers, employees, and contractors alike can work together to foster stronger two-way communication throughout the enterprise. 

5. Mitigate Risks and Implement Contingencies

With the right steps in place, businesses can nullify potential risks and prevent their operations from derailing as a result of new software. Then, they can keep everything on track through strategic contingency planning. It’s easy to miss areas of vulnerability when you’re working on the project around the clock. These risk areas are more evident to third-party IV&V teams that know precisely what to look for. 

Optimizing Your Approach to IV&V

What is independent verification and validation? This is a practice that can help you see your efforts through new eyes. These teams can perform rigorous testing to make sure the end product is not only functional but feature-rich and capable of helping you meet your goals.

Not every software project will require a robust IV&V approach. However, major transformations, including ERP implementations, can benefit from this project component, particularly in the public sector.

To learn more about this service and what it includes, contact our ERP consultants below.  

About the author

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As Director of Panorama’s Expert Witness Practice, Bill oversees all expert witness engagements. In addition, he concurrently provides oversight on a number of ERP selection and implementation projects for manufacturing, distribution, healthcare, and public sector clients.

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