Project Creep and the Usability Pillar

By Darin Joncas

Adopting a ‘think global, act local’ approach to your BI initiatives ensure projects don’t encounter “project creep”. This is where assets are pulled from the first project to make the second project successful then pulled from the second project to make the third project successful, and so on. While these assets do add value to the next project, little attention is paid to the value they remove from the existing projects. Avoiding these backward bottlenecks can be done by understanding and communicating the incremental success associated with a strong Business Value Attainment (BVA) culture and why enterprise-wide BI adoption is crucial to success.

In most cases, the first BI project starts off with excitement and energy. But that nemesis known as Project Creep is gradual and stealthy. I was once involved with a dashboard project where we had the same initial excitement. Everyone was primed to implement an outstanding dashboard with billions of records flowing into the mobile devices every second, bursting with a collection of dials, selectors, and buttons that would make any mobile user feel like a space commander. We even bought a go-live countdown clock and put it in the war room on the wall.

Fast-forward six months: the change orders started coming in, the deliverables changed, and the original vision was altered to become a cloud based solution. That countdown clock was in the garbage and no one could give a good reason to explain why we missed our go-live date. Looking back, I can confidently say it was Project Creep. Halfway through the first project, a new project surfaced. With no budget to staff it, we buckled down and shared resources. We worked extra hours to accommodate the additional requirements and even drew from other internal experts and advisers. However, each new person and their experience added new ideas and challenges that reworked the existing solutions and created weeks of effort for each phase.

Individually, the projects had a good chance of being successful. However, uninvolved, outside participants with little of a BVA foundation were driving the people and processes and making the project efforts messy and uncoordinated. A good BVA initiative can help deter Project Creep and should focus on three pillars: Usability, Sustainability, and Agility.


Usability is the ad hoc effort of the business to quickly view production relevant KPI’s and metrics in any format, at any time, and on any device. In many BI environments, we often see that business is reliant on IT for the reporting type, the tool used, and the static choices of data options. Additionally, the format and method of delivery is often set by someone who has never been in a meeting with an end user. A solid Usability pillar is achieved when both IT and the business collaborate together (with a support team), agreeing and adhering to a collective understanding and evolution of the company’s BI maturity and responsive development. For a robust usable architecture, keep in mind the need to holistically understand the business areas, their aptitude for visualizations and the consumption of data as it pertains specifically to them. Balance efforts between what they should use and what they’re willing to use.

Sustainability and Agility will be discussed in future posts.

As the Director of the SAP Business Intelligence practice, Darrin Joncas has his opinions on intelligence. “90% of being smart is knowing what you’re dumb at. I like to think I am 50% of the way there…the smart part.” Darrin is a Business Intelligence professional with 20 years’ experience in designing, implementing, selling, evangelizing, constructing and reconstructing enterprise solutions. This Calgary, AB native started his career as an Instructor, is an SAP alum and currently contributes insight and leadership as a member of an exceptional SAP practice team at Ciber. As an exceptional communicator, Darrin is adept at building long term business relationships. He attributes his achievements in life to the belief that “balance is the key to success in any undertaking”.

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