I spoke on the topic of Scope Management (“Scope Management – Is it the rainbow or the pot of gold”) at the Quality Management Division (of ASQ) conference in Irvine, CA on Friday, March 6, 2009. Building on the 12 steps of the Northern Scope(TM) process and presenting how scope management addresses the major IT development deficiencies cited by the Standish Group’s CHAOS report, it became obvious that formalized Scope Management is simply due diligence for IT programmes. It provides the means for Customers to direct the programme and to ensure that what they receive as the software solution matches and solves their business problems. While the IT Supplier side of the equation has been working diligently to improve their processes over the past years (via the Capability Maturity Model and other models of improvement), their focus is on providing the software solution. Where the IT development still struggles lies with dysfunctional behaviors on the part of both sides – but it really has little to do with the building and construction process once the piece(s) of software are well defined. Where the dysfunction is rooted is in the dynamics of the fundamental customer/supplier relationship and how work is contracted:
1. Customers need technology solutions to their business problems and understand that such solution will be a major financial and people investment. Due to factors such as history (past IT projects that exceeded their budgets), time pressure (the director announced that this unnamed project will be delivered by xx date), budget cycles (we need to allocate the right amount of dollars now) — customers demand firm fixed price estimates before requirements for a program of work. This arrangement is always a losing proposition because the supplier is forced to estimate something as amorphous as ether – in other words to give a firm price for a “bag of work” for which there is not yet a definition! This is like me wanting a new house somewhere (TBD) – and demanding a price before the location, floorplan, or even my needs are known.
2. Suppliers faced with demands for a fixed price solution before the problem is even known endeavor to be paid for the work that they will do to fulfill the customer’s needs. Because there is so much uncertainty at this preliminary stage, suppliers see that they will expend hours to develop and deliver the software and systems solution. They want to be paid for hours they work on the programme.
There are several fundamental disconnects at play here:
a) The “bag of work” is undefined. If someone could examine the basic components of the work to be done (new software developed, conversion of existing data, fixing of old system programs, etc) – and divide it up into discrete “projects”, that would be a start;
b) Firm fixed price will never work before requirements are known. The work at this preliminary point can be priced based on unit pricing (similar to cost per square foot) by the type of work identified in a.
c) Because both major parties to the programme (the customer and the supplier) have different expertise and speak different languages (the customer speaks business while the supplier speaks techie), communication can be less than optimal. While a business analyst or project manager can assist with this translation of business and techie language there can still be miscommunication because the goals of the partnership (minimize the investment to get the best possible solution versus be paid for the work done) are diametrically opposed.
Here is where scope management and a certified scope manager (CSM) fits in. A certified scope manager (CSM) is a bonafide and experienced IT and business professional who acts as the customer advocate throughout the software intensive system project. A CSM works on average a mere 2-3 person days per project per month – a minor investment when one considers the substantial savings in cost, morale, and communication it guarantees.
Customers no longer have to dread project meetings – in fact, when a neutral scope manager is involved, meetings typically run smoother and the customer receives more professional and honest answers about the work in progress than without.
A Certified Scope Manager (CSM) is a designation bestowed on an individual who has taken the 4 day CSM mandatory training courses plus any pre-requisite refresher workshops (4x 1day) and is qualified to assist the customer side of the IT development equation to ensure success with their project involvement — and more importantly – with the outcome!
CSM training is scheduled the third week in April 2009 in Tampa, FL. All are invited to attend whether you represent a software consumer or a software supplier or builder. See http://www.qualityplustech.com/ for registration and payment details
Have a nice week!
Contact Carol to keynote your upcoming event – her style translates technical matters into digestible soundbites, humorously and forthright.