The Three Scope Busters of IT Projects

One key in the set of keys to success is proper scope management; blocking the three Scope Busters: Better than needed, More than needed, Different than needed; the three scope busters.

  1. Better than needed: Most average companies can manage with bronze level solutions, but sometimes projects anyway end up aiming for the gold level…
  2. More than needed: Certain features are more important than others. The ones that serve the core business process are the most valuable. Sometimes projects end up including all that is asked, or doing and redoing the same things due to bad specifications of decision making…
  3. Different than needed: In case the strategic need is not defined a project may end up doing something else than is needed. Maybe because it is interesting, easier,…

The imaginary starting situation for this post is that we have an average company that needs an IT system. The strategic needs of this average company can be fulfilled with an average IT system: the ‘bronze level’ is suitable for this company, as is the case for the majority of average companies. Problems occur when someone in the IT project does not know, understand or accept it.

The company itself activating the scope busters

The basis for possible success is of course that both the business management and IT management understand and accept that ‘bronze’ level is the optimal level; a lower level system would not be adequate and better quality would be waste of time and money. In addition to understanding this the company must document and communicate it as the Company’s IT system scope strategy. Else company leaves doors and windows open for the three scope busters.

End user representatives activating the scope busters

In IT projects it is common to gather end users’ requirements, and develop the IT system based on those. This is of course wrong. IT system should be based on company’s strategic needs, not on end users’ requirements; unless end users’ requirements are consciously based on strategic needs. Problems occur if end users don’t know or accept the strategic needs but require a ‘gold’ level solution, more ‘bronze’ level functionality than needed or something totally different than needed. End users are quite well aware of the possibilites of IT through buying, selling, communicating and playing on the Internet. Furthermore, they often have an earlier IT system in their mind and naturally want to use the skills they already have and combination keys they are familiar with.

Provider activating the scope buster

External providers must also understand and respect the strategic needs. It is tempting for a provider to offer better, more and different. Making the system a bit better or having some extra features might increase customer satisfaction and would cost just a little bit more. This extra cost is waste of money if it means exceeding the optimal quality level. Furthermore, the little bit more is sometimes more than just a little bit more. It is also tempting and logical for providers to offer solutions they are familiar with, but client’s strategic needs should be the main driver of development.


Three project scope busters

Figure 1: The Three Project Scope Busters in IT System Projects

Better than needed, more than needed, different than needed: In IT system development any of these three busters messes project’s scope, and therefore timetable and budget. They key to block these scope busters is preparing an IT system scope strategy, communicating it and requiring that it is followed.

The purpose of an IT system is not to be of the best possible quality. The purpose of an IT system is to be optimal for the strategic needs of the company in question. With an optimal IT system the company can then be faster, higher and stronger than the competitors that have heavy IT systems and related investment costs as their burden.

Vesa H Autio is a solution manager in Consolis, and a senior advisor for a project management consultant company Arito-tsm offering JaVePro training and research services. He has over ten years of experience in managing IT, RD and business development projects.

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