Managing ‘Impulsive' Scope Enhancements that 'Sound Logical'
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If you have ever been part of a home improvement project, you will know the grind of "while we are at it; let's do this as well". You started off with a plan to re-paint the interior walls of the house but by the end of the project, you had also replaced the kitchen floor, the carpets, and the roof! This is how the sequence of such typical "project enhancements" looks like:
- Your partner made a valid point that painting just the walls makes no sense if those damp corners of the ceiling will not be touched upon. You do not want clean walls and a dirty ceiling after all!
- You decided that a patchwork will not do, and you need to fix the roof before any paint job is done. You decided to engage an external vendor to fix that end of the roof. It is a one-hour job after all!
- The contractor agreed that the job was minor and will not take more than an hour. He will, however, need to rent some equipment and the minimum you can rent for is 8 hours. What a waste! Unless your "efficient" mind tells you that the entire roof can be done in 8 hours which is due for renovation by next winter. So, you are re-doing the entire roof now.
- New roof, new exterior, and interior paint! The carpet is worn out anyways - why to spend effort and money on the carpet protectors? The neighborhood store has a sale going on - You decided to get the new carpet as well!
- You have always wanted a hardwood floor for the dining area. You decided to go for the hardwood flooring instead of the carpet area. Replacement of the kitchen floor to a matching one is only logical!
Product management for large enterprises is no different. The older the organizations get - the longer the tail of the "Legacy Systems" becomes. All systems are connected in one way or another and the moment a new large project is initiated - it seems logical to fix 'everything connected' but in most cases - is not! In an ideal world - you will rip off all your legacy systems and replace them with greenfield projects. It is the metaphorical equivalent of re-building the entire house.
We do not live in an ideal world, rather a real one where financial constraint, resource availability and business continuity are the harshest realities. While it makes no sense that you build upon or for a platform that will become redundant in the very near future - you cannot re-do the entire tech ecosystem overnight either.
It takes a strong vision and discipline from effective product management leaders to say "no"! You cannot re-invent everything your new project touches without breaching the timelines and violating the budgets. Saying ‘no’, however is tough. Deep inside most product professionals are the fairy godmothers wanting to deliver on all the wishes of our stakeholders, or maybe it’s just me!
It is not easy to say no, especially to the influential stakeholders. But is a necessary skill to possess for this profession. Here are some sentences that do not sound like a ‘No’ but may help deliver the point effectively.
- Yes, we can do it, but that would increase the budgets roughly by X%, will you be able to help secure additional funding by the timeline? Otherwise, we are putting the entire project at risk.
- Yes, it seems like a minor change on surface, but the design team has concerns about legacy integrations, and they believe that with this change, we will not be able to keep our commitment to the original schedule and budget. Would you be willing to bring the Chief Architect on board with this change without impacting the schedules and budget?
- Yes, it makes total sense. I am just concerned about the timing. I do not want our project to go down this rabbit hole. Would you agree to adding this to the next phase?
Most stakeholders are reasonable and do not intend to de-rail the projects. They just need to be given the perspective that seemingly little changes have big impacts and will have larger impact than they think.
Good business analysts and product management professionals are usually open to the scope enhancements wherever reasonable; the best ones though have to be reasonably convinced for them!
Tools and Resources That Can Help
If scope creep is occurring due to a lack of agreement or misunderstanding among stakeholders, check out IIBA’s tools around Stakeholder Analysis. IIBA’s KnowledgeHub provides online, Member-exclusive access to IIBA's business analysis standards and community-driven content, such as "how do I" scenarios, templates, checklists, and more that can be applied to everyday business analysis practices.
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Note: This article was peer edited by Kristyna Samcova.
About The Author:
Sanjeet Manchanda, CBAP® is a Senior Product Management Professional providing consulting services in USA and Canada through his venture workfromnorth.com