S is for… Scoping-Sword

Because of the single most important rule of delivering software projects – the Scoping Sword is not only a key weapon in your armoury, you must be skilled in how to use it effectively.

Picture the scenario; you start off with a nicely planned and resourced project and everything is just swell, the sun is shining and pretty flowers are blooming all around your feet. Cue the day you deliver the first cut of the new software to the customer. This is the point when you experience the phenomena known as goalpost-shifting. The customer will come back with all sorts of statements, like, “but I thought it would do X”, or, “surely you knew I needed Y”, or even, “everyone in this business knows it has to be able to do Z”. It is important to recognise it immediately and act swiftly to regain control and limit the potential damage.

First of all you need to weed out the genuine defects – of course you are going to fix them. Then you need to assess the features the customer forgot to tell you about first time round, the requirements that your code-monkeys misinterpreted and delivered wrongly and the stuff you were planning to deliver in a later phase anyway.

Once you have all of this information, you need to look at your options. If the project deadline is not moving, the customer is not stumping up any extra cash, and your management won’t sanction any extra zero-cost resource – what’s left to do?

Correct! – pick up your big Scoping-Sword and hack a chunk of features out of the project! Now don’t panic, if you’re good enough, this can all be done in a controlled and tactful manner. The customer can be shown that the additional work he needs can’t be delivered in the remaining time without something else suffering. ‘Better to remove something and deliver it in release 2.0, rather than deliver it badly in 1.0’ is always a good line. You can then re-group, re-cost and charge for it in Phase 2.

Ensure you cover any changes with the appropriate Change Control paperwork and sign-off, to ensure you suffer no repercussions later when it turns out the person that was waiting for the feature wasn’t informed when it suffered at the hands of the de-scoping exercise of week 24.

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