Containing the Pain of Scope CreepBy Regina Kwon Print
Cost overruns. Delays. Infighting. Most problems in the development lifecycle can be traced back to scope creep—including project failure.Cost overruns. Delays. Infighting. Most problems in the development lifecycle can be traced back to scope creep—including project failure.
Scope creep is a natural part of every project, says Douglas Brindley, senior vice president of consulting firm Software Productivity Research (SPR). According to SPR, requirements in an internal development project grow each month by about 2% of the original list. But as time passes, accommodating requests becomes more expensive, with new requirements at the coding or testing stages costing an order of magnitude more than those added during the first three months.
The projects that are successful are the ones that create a tight process to manage creep from the beginning. Knowing what a feature will cost before it's approved is key (see chart in the pdf). Creating a joint application development group—in which users are heavily involved in planning and review—or creating prototypes can also help, says Brindley, although such efforts are still relatively rare.
Unfortunately, the most common corporate technique of dealing with creep is to get a new CIO, says Brindley. "But fingerpointing goes both ways," he says. "Developers want an exact blueprint, while users have difficulty translating their goals into software terms."
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