StupidScope Kills Projects   December 2, 2012

December 2, 2012

Many people are mystified as to why their projects are lagging.  Off the top of my head, the general consensus is like 75% of all projects are more than 50% late.  There’s a ton of reasons why this occurs.  After all, if there was a magic bullet to make all projects come in on time, we’d certainly have that nailed by now.  I’d like to pose one reason why so many projects drag on.

We are all familiar with the concept of scope creep, in which additional features cause a project to go all haywire on schedule.  Many times, it’s just that one or two features aren’t fully hashed out in the initial discovery phase of a project and stakeholders end up innocently increasing scope by expanding scope unknowingly.  Or developers get under the hood and find that some random feature requires a massive amount of extra work that nobody could have predicted with an inordinate of pre-project research.  That is a well understood (and maybe even … gulp … well accepted) trait of project progression.

What isn’t as well accepted is the concept of what I’ll call “StupidScope”.  This is where a feature isn’t really part of original requirements, but ends up being deemed <tounge-in-cheek> absolutely, unequivocally necessary “otherwise, we’ll lose millions”.  StupidScope features are often very inexactly defined and are often faddish in nature.  They invariably come after specification and are a response to the latest marketing trends that are floating around the trade blogs. Because of the poor definition, they end up being refined as development is occuring, often going through multiple revisions before alpha release.

And I know you’re sitting there saying, “not me, man, I’ve got my priorities together.  My project would NEVER suffer from that.  I’ve got a mind map [or a gantt chart or Scrum backlog .... blah blah].”  In moments of honesty (i.e. 3 beers in), even the most sensible stakeholder will admit that they are given to flights of fancy regarding nebulous concepts that they KNEW would be awful time sucks.

So you need to keep an eye on the following features.  And be aware that these are just a few problem areas that I’ve run into.  Your list should be much longer.

  • social engagement with your audience
  • social engagement betwixt audience members
  • anything with “social” in the title …
  • semantic stack order for your content (after you’ve already built it out and you are mid-project)
  • responsive design after design has already been signed off
  • flexible product taxonomies
  • mobile: adding new devices/platforms and new resolutions as they are being released
  • adding additional 3rd party APIs
  • switching development platforms (yes, this is more common than you may think)

When these and many other trendy features sneak into your project, whatever your role is, if it can’t be defined in exact terms, squash it.  No matter what the programmers tell you, ask yourself, “is this feature worth pushing my project for an unknown amount of time … like 60 days?”  You may decide that the value is there.  If so, proceed.  But most often, when you cage it in those terms, the value just isn’t there.

Keep intelligently trimming your projects and just say no to StupidScope.  That’ll help you meet those insane deadlines.

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