Managing Scope

Scope Creep is a common term in the ERP world and it refers to changes to the original goals of the project, usually out of the control of the project stakeholders.  Unfortunately, nearly every project that I’ve been a part of has some form of scope creep.  Sometimes it can be harmless, and other times it can bring the entire project to a screeching halt.

The most common cause of scope creep is uncontrolled expectations.  When the project begins, most of the participants are riding a natural high.  The salesperson just signed a new deal, the client is excited to be on a path to solving some of their biggest organizational problems, and the consultant is meeting a new client for the first time.  At this early moment in the project, I begin the process of setting and maintaining the project expectations.

Coming out of the sales meetings, much of the discussion has typically been about feature functions (see The Feature Function Trap).  Some examples are websites/portals that don’t currently exist, advanced reporting or dashboards that don’t currently exist, etc.  I’m not saying that these things can’t be achieved, but you need to attack this project in bite-sized chunks.  Remember, that your entire business will be performing an overhaul if you implement your ERP solution correctly.  That will cause a lot of initial pain, but will lay the foundation for you to build long-term success.

I start all of my kick-off meetings with a discussion about Six Sigma methodology.  Six Sigma is a method of process improvement focused on classifying requests, issues, and tasks into different levels.  As the project progresses, you get closer and closer to your ultimate goal which is 100% of the goals for the project.  The first level is the basics for what we cannot do business with starting on day one.  After we go live, then we will transition into the other levels, continuously adding functionality and solving problems on an ongoing basis.  This means that when we go live, we may only have as much as 60-80% of the project goals complete, but we’ll give ourselves a much better chance at going live on the date we want to.

As the project progresses, new requests, issues, and tasks will be created.  This is scope creep.  Expect this to happen, but manage this scope creep by assigning your six sigma level to these tasks.  Ask yourself if this needs to be in place in order for you to run your business on the day of go-live.  While it may not be ideal, you may be able to operate without it until a few weeks after go-live.  This sets more achievable goals, and allows you to hit your dates and manage any increases in budget.  It will also give you visibility into where the increase in budget is coming from and why you need to spend that money.

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