Analyzing Scope Creep

run scope creep

Some time ago, I had an independent consulting business where I used my expertise in multimedia to help a business client create a videography for her husband’s 50th birthday celebration. At first, I was hesitant to take on the project as this client had a range of ideas for the project, but nothing solid to create a clear picture of what she wanted. Believing in my creativity, I conceded to work with her and we came to a verbal agreement on how much the project would cost at a flat rate based upon certain conditions. I had two weeks to complete the project. To get started, she delivered to me a large shoebox of photos that depicted his life story from his teenage years through his late forties. The agreement was that I would scan the images and build a professional storyline with a sound track, transitions and titles. The final product would be rendered onto a DVD. In order to tell the story of this man I did not know, I needed to work with her to gain insight on the logical order the pictures needed to be organized after they were scanned into my computer. The scanning process of over 200 pictures of varying sizes took three days to complete. Our verbal agreement is that I would only work with the images she supplied to me and would be capped at 200. She agreed. I scheduled time to meet with her to determine the order for the images and a four hour meeting turned into two days. During our meeting on the first day, she felt compelled to tell me a story of varying lengths about every image we looked at. On the second day when she came back to complete the order of the images, she brought more images with her that she felt would add more understanding to the storyline, fill I some gaps, or represent a better quality image than some of the initial photos that were presented.

Working on various projects before this, I always have tried to determine the time it would take to complete a project and add a little extra time to accommodate instances where scope creep can occur. The exception to this project that initially had me apprehensive was the fact this this client was a member of my church and I figured that a bi-product of her satisfaction with my work could be used as advertising for future business. The flip side is that if she was not pleased with the outcome, it could jeopardize future opportunities. Being a professional believing that I could still deliver the product in the time allotted, I accepted 20 more images and made clear that I would not accept any further deviations from our original agreement that would affect my production timeline and my ability to deliver the project in the time she had specified. Also, no changes were considered to my fee for the project at that time. After we agreed on the amended stipulations and determined the order of the images, I scanned the remaining photos and began building the videography. After several days the images were placed in chronological order based upon our conversation. I took screen shots of the order the images were placed in to get her approval before I rendered the project into a video format. By this point, I am a week in before having to deliver the end product. It took her two days to give me feedback on the arrangement and of course there were changes. While I waited on the feedback, I worked on the soundtrack for the project. I made the changes she suggested and sent her the mixed soundtrack for approval. After she agreed on the soundtrack, I worked feverishly on building slides that would transition to each chapter in the storyline as I constructed the final pieces of the videography before rendering. So to recap, at this point before rendering the video, she has agreed on everything that I have created. I finished the project with two days to spare and I schedule a time to meet with her deliver the DVD and receive payment for my work. The following day, during lunch, I presented the disc. She watched it in silence filled with emotion. At the conclusion of the video, I was prepared to be paid and was ready to move on to the next project. Unfortunately, she has a few suggestions for how the video could be even better.

Looking back on the experience, there is so much about the various pieces to a project that I learned. The first, is never make a verbal agreement to preform work for a potential client that you have never worked with before. Get everything in writing so that everyone involved is clear about what is expected and what will need to happen if changes are required beyond the original agreement that will change the scope or any aspect of the project. Also, if someone is not clear about the project’s outcome or purpose, don’t make inferences about what you think they might want only to realize down the road it was not or what they wanted is actually much larger in scope than you assumed. Communication, milestones and signoffs are extremely important to the progress of a project so that you can better manage where you are in the process, what you can put behind you as a completion and that every stakeholder is properly informed at all times about deliverables to meet the project’s deadline.

Project Post-Mortem

training manual

In my department, there are seven trainers and we produce our own training materials for the applications we teach to district employees. For each training guide we create, it is designed to be delivered within a two hour time frame. As new versions of the software applications come out each year, we go through a season of updating the training guides to reflect the latest updates. The process we initially chose is an extensive process that takes over two (3) months and begins with the Microsoft Office products. As a group, we begin by reviewing what we currently had in place from a beginner, intermediate and advanced level, then we look at the updates to determine where they would best fit. We list out every possible function that each Microsoft program is capable of, that includes Word, Excel PowerPoint, Publisher and Access. Then, using a district skills matrix that reflects a foundation of skills a district employee should have, we built our classes around those topics. For features that may be specialized and a need is determined through a needs analysis, we create a separate training guide that covers that particular function, such as how to create a mail merge using Word and Excel. Using a work breakdown structure, all of the topics for each application that must be created based upon a styles guide is listed out in detail and assigned to a trainer.

In reflection, I have considered this project to be both a success and a failure. The project was a success because we had an effective system in place. After a trainer was assigned to complete a version of a training guide, such as the beginner level of Access, the trainer would complete the topics for each section of that guide. Once completed, another trainer was assigned to review the sequential steps in the guide and check for errors. After reviewing, the training guide went back to the originating trainer to be updated. Once updated, another trainer would run through the guide to make sure the topics in the guide followed a logical order and made sense for the end user. After the run through, the guide was ready for a test run in a training session with students. The test run in a class helped us to determine if the topics fit within the timeframe for the session and if the skills covered were useful for the student. It was also helpful to have more eyes on the training guides to make sure we did not miss anything. After the updated guide was used in 1-3 sessions, the assigned trainer would have a verbal discussion with those that used the guide and make any changes that were needed. At this point, the guide was finalized and ready for district-wide distribution.

As you can see, the process for writing and reviewing one training guide can get extensive. Having seven trainers working on multiple guides at one time while also having to work on other daily assignments and service the general needs of district employees concerning various issues can get a little hectic. I consider the project a failure because even though we had a solid plan in place for how to create the best product we could, realistically we simply did not have the time or manpower to execute each task with precision. Often, while working on a training guide, the trainer did not have a chance to have someone review the guide before it was needed for an upcoming training session. During the session, if mistakes were noted in a class of 20, all of them would make it their duty to inform the trainer that the guide had mistakes. Trying to complete all of the steps in the process became very frustrating and in time, that process was abandoned. As time went on and the need to update our training guides was still a necessity, we decided to reduce the number of steps in the review process and focus on job specific skills. By looking at what our audience needed to learn for their particular job based upon a district survey, it allowed us to create sessions that focused on how to be more productive with specific applications and the need to create multiple beginner, intermediate and advanced level classes became unnecessary.