Monday, September 01, 2008

You don't need an SUV - keeping the scope down

Okay so Gerald has been going a month now and we are into that dangerous stage where people begin to realise what the project is doing. Suddenly they want more, lots more. Rolling out to 30,000 people isn't enough, why not roll it out to 500,000? Why not have amazingly complex security requirements and some AI?

Pretty much all of these have now been suggested on the project and the mantra I respond with is
do one thing well
What I mean by this is that we don't want to boil the ocean at this stage, we want to prove that the solution works for a, pretty large, user group and then build on that success. If we start lobbing in more requirements and expanding the scope then the project will be delayed or fail and we won't achieve any of the aims. Once we have that first piece done then its open season on what is next, but right now lets keep it concise.

The most important phrase at this stage is "Phase 2" as in "we'll add that to the requirements for Phase 2". The reason is that 90% of Phase 2s never happen and the 10% that do look completely different to what was being asked at the start of Phase 1. Smile the California shop assistant smile, give them the feeling that you care, and then file the thought away in the bin of "future requirements". People will bleat and moan that its "required" but the reality is that its better to have something doing 80% than nothing doing 100% and many of the requirements you hear at this stage are "SUV" arguments.

An example of fake creep in the real world is the SUV. 99.999% of SUV owners have absolutely no reason for owning one, but they come up with "requirements" that end up with them buying the SUV.
  • It snows around here sometimes
  • I drive up hills
  • The roads are a bit rough
  • I might go off-road
  • I want to feel safe
Now all of these are rubbish reasons to own an SUV. Unless you are a farmer or equivalent, and its amazing how many of those don't buy a Porsche Cayenne then these are all fake requirements. In the French Alps you will see people with a Renault Twingo doing fine in the snow and as for the rough bit and the hills... well I'm here in Bangalore today and the roads could be described as "patchy" at best and everyone has a sub-compact.

The point is that your project should be a sub-compact. It works, it gets from A-B and you can get 5 people in at a squeeze. Building an SUV for your project means adding in gadgets, weight and features that take you time and money and at the end of it you are just shifting those 5 people in slight more comfort.

The smart move is to build the basics and then look at what actually creates value. Say "no" to all of the scope creep and keep it simple. My goal is to have all of my user groups equally annoyed that they are only getting 80% of what they asked for, but for that 80% to be 100% useful.

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The Simplist said...

Based on this premise, how do you know the first 80% isn't also subject to SUV bloat and therefore superfluous to the project?



Steve Jones said...

A good point and worthy of a longer reply when I have time.

There is a principle in UI design that I apply to projects. Keep taking things away until you loose all functionality, then add the last thing back, repeat until you have the bare minimum required to deliver the functional requirements.

This is what I do on projects. The first part of the project is about saying no and reducing the requirements all the time. You only stop doing that when you can't deliver on your project vision. As long as the vision can be delivered then you are fine.

Right now I'm looking to get my project looking like the Tata Nano ;)

Laurent Schneider said...

You do not need a SUV, but do you really need a car?

The Simplist said...

I look forward to your more detailed response when time permits.

While we agree on minimal A-B approaches, I prefer using the club racer Analogy

This way it leaves a more positive connotation with the customer, since it appears quick & capable. But like any good Phase 1 system, you quickly notice shortcomings and want to improve it further.

That's when you give them a GT. ;)

Hemant Patel said...

Steve Jones and other authors make nice arguments to keep scope minimal, but as enterprise architects we need to provide various options and their costs/risks, benefits to the client.

The client will decide on an appropriate option based on its business needs and financial situation. The IT architecture, processes and structure needs to be alingned with the business or organizational structure.

For example, if the businesses have separate country based divisions and do not need or cannot afford costs of more automation in information integration, IT should not push grand vision, but deliver quick or smaller hits in information integration. IT will not be able to influence business division integration to fund IT integration. Globalization efforts should start with business integration rather than IT integation.

Gaining incremental credibility is the only way to success in the IT and business worlds.

Hemant Patel, Senior Manager, Capgemini Outsourcing