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12/9/2004
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SmartAdvice: Do Up-Front Analysis To Make Sure The Linux Desktop Suits Your Work Environment

Before migrating desktops to Linux, consider integration headaches and whether initial licensing savings will be offset by reduced vendor support, The Advisory Council says. Also, plan for change management so the words 'scope creep' don't strike fear into your heart during new projects.

Question B: How do we avoid "scope creep" in new business-application projects?

Our advice: Scope creep--fewer words are likely to strike more fear and concern in the hearts and budgets of project stakeholders, project champions, and project managers alike. Project resources go to great lengths to avoid or prevent scope creep, even sometimes at the risk of beneficial change. Scope creep doesn't, however, need to be a challenge that causes many a sleepless night. The key is to minimize its damaging effects without devising all kinds of schemes to avoid it altogether.

Project-management professionals will note at length that controlling the scope of any project--whether a new enhancement effort, a new development project, or a smaller project within a larger one--begins well before project kickoff. Every project effort should have, among other tools, a project charter, a structured project plan, and a clearly defined change-management process. The following action items will help to keep scope creep from damaging your project efforts:


Related Links

For Project Managers

The Project Manager's Homepage

PM Boulevard


  • Make sure to understand the goals and objectives of the project, and specifically what the project will accomplish. This is the business case. Ask yourself, "What business problem will be solved, and are there any known constraints up front?" These are drivers that should be cited explicitly in a project charter. Be sure to get agreement on the project charter from the project champion and key stakeholders.
  • Define work requirements (break them into manageable pieces), milestone events, and project deliverables. Breaking larger work products into smaller, more detailed work components constitutes the process of creating a work-breakdown structure, and it will make the process of creating a project plan much easier. Obtain agreement on both deliverables and work requirements from project stakeholders.
  • Resist the common practice of using Microsoft Excel as a vehicle for creating project plans. Microsoft markets a very flexible and widely used project-management product, Microsoft Project, for creating project plans, charts, reports, and identifying critical paths. It's extremely difficult, if not impossible, to determine exactly where a project effort lies or what impending challenges may be upcoming by looking at a spreadsheet.
  • The Project Management Institute defines scope creep as "adding features and functionality without addressing the effects on time, cost, and resources, or without customer approval." As such:

  • Be adaptable. Recognize that there will be both scope creep and change during the project--it's unavoidable. Change may even be good and provide a beneficial opportunity. Make sure, though, that any change to a project effort is filtered through a clearly defined change-management process. All changes should be evaluated on cost and benefit, formally tracked, and approved or rejected by a change-management board comprised of project stakeholders, key management, project managers, and perhaps even project champions. Finally, be sure to adjust the project plan after all approved changes.
  • Consider the importance of integrating a structured project-management philosophy into your enterprise, and perhaps certifying your project managers as professionals through the Project Management Institute. The Project Management Institute's Project Management Body of Knowledge espouses a comprehensive array of principles, tools, and techniques to make project efforts more streamlined and effective.
  • Acting on the above simple steps will let organizations minimize and control the damaging effects of scope creep. And, it certainly places them in a far better position to control projects, rather than projects controlling them.

    -- John Sinclair


    Beth Cohen, TAC Thought Leader, has more than 20 years of experience building strong IT-delivery organizations from user and vendor perspectives. Having worked as a technologist for BBN, the company that literally invented the Internet, she not only knows where technology is today but where it's heading in the future.

    John Sinclair, TAC Expert, has more than 26 years of experience spanning a variety of industries. His last 11 years have focused on process, project, and information management in consumer-goods and clinical-trials environments with experiences in document and content management, systems validation, FDA compliance issues, and 21CFR-11 legislation. His strengths include research and analysis and evaluating the business use of emerging technologies. He's certified as a Project Management Professional and is a graduate of the Society for Information Management's regional leadership program.

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