Most software development projects have specifications; thinking about specifications in terms of scope can be more difficult. Briefly, it’s hard to describe the scope of a software project in ways every stakeholder can understand.
Here’s a metaphor. If I’m talking to an architect, and I mention the size of an office (say 10×12), the architect likely has a good idea of the look of that office. He knows what will fit in the space. He can categorize it as large, medium, small, or very small. I can’t. I can compare it to the size of a house. I have a sense that 3,000 square feet is average in certain neighborhoods, and 20,000 square feet is huge. Some people, though, might think that 20,000 square feet is a bit constricted. The architect has better visualization ability than I do.
So it is with business end users and programmers. When we say web application, we understand the environment as well as its strengths and limitations. Most of our clients don’t. We know that adding a piece of information or two to a screen and the file associated isn’t much trouble, but having the computer understand speech is a lot of trouble. More importantly, a piece of software with 1000 hours of work in it may look similar to a product with 10,000 hours of work. A 20,000 square foot home will be noticeably bigger than a 2,000 square foot home. Not so for software.
So how do we establish scope? There’s really no magic. The key is communication. Programmer to business user. Business user to programmer. “If we add this, it will take this much effort.” “That’s no big deal.” “That’s a major project.”
The biggest thing we’ve learned in the past few years since we got rid of hourly rates and time sheets is the importance of communication about scope. Scope creep extends the project. It raises cost. Constantly evaluating scope is the way to make sure business requirements are met and projects stay on time and on budget.
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From a recent comment on this blog:
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Come on. Spammers, you can do better than that.
What do the readers think? How about some real comments!
A segment on this morning’s news revealed a new device that car thieves are using to gain entry to autos. It seems that it doesn’t work on all models (Lexus, not Cadillac, etc.). The thief walks up to the passenger-side door, appears to push a button or use a device like a car unlock fob, and the door opens. The thief gets in the car and steals what he (in this case) can.
Here is the news story (take a look at the video at the bottom showing the device in use):
I find the way clients (and some CPAs, for that matter) view ERP and accounting very frustrating.
“Let’s install a new accounting / ERP / warehouse management / business software program! It will fix all of our problems.”
Here’s what I mean:
- Perfectly accurate job costing information for a company that is losing thousands of dollars in operational inefficiencies will tell you exactly that: “You are losing thousands of dollars in operational inefficiencies.”
- Perfect warehouse management software in a warehouse that can’t put product in the right bin will confuse the situation, not fix it.
- Perfect MRP software in a manufacturing firm with bad bills of materials will–with accelerated computer-enhanced speed–mess things up.
Time management books tell us we often spend time doing things that are less important than others. We focus on the urgent and not the important.
To make that a little more psychological, we choose the things that we are comfortable with. The salesperson that doesn’t want to cold call rearranges the paperclips on the desk, the pencils in the drawer, and rewrites the telephone script. Net result: Perfectly arranged pencils, paperclips, and a fresh script AND NO SALES!
Accounting in a business with messed up processes is arranging the paperclips: perfect symmetry that accomplishes exactly nothing. Worse yet, it distracts from the real task at hand. Stop rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic! Fix the process. Then automate it. That is all.