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Save yourself some serious headaches by investing in better project requirements

You can commence a project without a thorough scope process - but you should expect it to go horribly.

Adam D 25 November 2013

This article is based on a white-paper I read recently from Karl Wiegers: “The Business Value of Better Requirements”. We’ve always known this, but it’s nice to see someone like Karl has taken the time to clearly articulate the actual business benefit of executing on a good scope project at the commencement of a project. Don’t get me wrong - you can commence a project without a thorough scope process - but you should expect it to go horribly.

We strongly recommend a thorough scope project is executed at the commencement of a project of any significant size. You should be aiming for these outcomes at a minimum:

  • Vision, Goals and CSFs for the project
  • In-scope functionality – a functional specification
  • High-level implementation plan

Ideally you should partner with someone that is experienced in executing on such projects, and will need to have your important stakeholders carefully consulted in a structured way, typically via:

  • 1-on-1 stakeholder interviews - we find you can learn a lot more critical input in this environment
  • Professionally run team workshops - we can ensure alignment across all parties when we’re together

Executing carefully on a scope project has many benefits:

  • Saves money - spend less time/money fixing problems later
  • Reduces frustration - everyone has clear(er) expectations on what is in/out
  • Increase chance of success - by reducing the number of errors/bugs to be revealed late in the project
  • Reduce time - as they say “a stitch in time saves 9”

Can you imagine how hard you’d kick yourself if you let that missed business rule make it’s way into operation, and have to pay $15,000 to fix it rather than $150 if you found it in scope. You should read the whitepaper for more insight, but these numbers aren’t made up - they’re taken from hundreds of actual case studies.

You can use the outcomes of the scope to:

  • Facilitate Estimation - allow your dev team to accurately estimate work required, rather than having to submit inflated (risk factor) estimates
  • Enable Prioritisation - based on effort & cost, prioritise what you do now, and what can maybe wait till later
  • Develop Designs - use the Functional specification to execute accurate technical design
  • Effective Testing - a clear functional specification will create the ability to write accurate test plans
  • Track Project Status - a functional specification can be used as a project road map and items can be ticked off along the way to track progress
  • Accelerate Development - a clear path is easier to follow, and work is executed faster and more efficiently

Finally, if you spend just 10+% of your budget on the scope, the real cash benefits are outstanding.

Money “saved” on skipping or minimising the scope process is a false economy - it costs you a lot (lot, LOT) more in the long run.

So… we recommend talking to your agency or IT partner about ensuring they have carefully considered this part of your project before you embark on the journey. Projects go wayward far too often, and with some careful planning, you can avoid a lot of heartache, money and reputational damage.


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