Managing Scope Creep in Your Implementation
Runaway expectations can be the death of even the most thoroughly planned ERP projects. With all of the promises that software salesmen make to businesses during the selection process, it’s hard not to get carried away. You might be believing that an ERP system can cut costs, increase sales, increased employee productivity and just about magically fix all of your problems the second it’s been implemented. While all of the above (well, besides the magic bullet) are possible with hard work and careful implementation, it’s unreasonable to expect that your ERP will be netting you 300% growth within the first year. Managing scope creep is always a challenge in ERP and CRM implementation, but it’s critical that the project team pays careful attention to projected goals and expectations from the start to the finish of the process, as misaligned expectations will lead to disappointment, frustration with the software (leading to user abandonment) and budgets running wildly out of control.
And there’s stats to back it up. The Standish Group’s CHAOS Report in Project Smart 2014 reveals the following startling facts about software implementations and the risk they can pose to an organization:
- 31.1% of projects will be cancelled before they ever get completed
- 52.7% of projects will cost 189% of their original estimate
- Only 16.2% (smaller companies) and 9% (larger companies) of software projects are completed on time and within budget
These are not very encouraging statistics, especially to any business looking to get started on their own enterprise software journey. However, there are ways to help your organization beat the odds and eliminate the danger of scope creep from their ERP or CRM, and that’s what we’re here for. Obviously, project scope must be clearly defined upfront, preferably before you even begin selecting your ERP vendor. These specific, measurable and reasonable goals will allow you to pick the software that will best help you achieve them after all. Then, as changes to scope arise they must be documented and addressed throughout the life of a project. Don’t let employees slip by timelines or have executives believe that a certain number of billable hours are needed to complete a deliverable when really it is twice that time. To ensure scope is tracked and managed, an integral part of a successful implementation process is a required project management budget for every project, regardless of size, to take preventative measures early and often that minimize scope creep and keep your ERP out of the dreaded failure zone.
Our clients sometimes raise questions about the project management time built into our estimates and project plans, and you may also be wondering about the time required to put into an ERP implementation in order to ensure its success. While estimates might seem high to you or your team, it’s something a organization really should not be cutting corners on, as successful projects always include fervent documentation, tough conversations and tireless adherence to the project goals and objectives. This requires a knowledgable and dedicated user in your project management role who is carefully monitoring project scope in relation to the timeline and budget. They will be the first to know the warning signs for scope creep—and can often reign it back in before ever becomes a failure-inducing problem. If there is a serious change needed either in the enterprise system or the goals for it, that project manager will be the one to communicate the new plans to executives. That way, key stakeholders are kept in the loop about the state of the ERP and CRM, and don’t refuse to sign a check for double the amount they thought they would have to months down the road, crippling your project before it can ever get on its feet.
Scope creep is best managed proactively and with a plan of attack before the project even begins. Early on, it’s best for the project team and software stakeholders to be upfront about project risks and transparency when it comes to potential scope creep. As part of our consulting sales process, we provide an estimate for how much project management time will be required, based on the modules being implemented, in the Statement of Work. We then review our change control process and communication plan for changes to the original scope with executive sponsors prior to the project kickoff and again with the project team during the project kick off meeting. Carefully review a Statement of Work (SOW) before commencing a project, and go through all the items to understand how they will help you achieve your project goals. If something seems too good to be, it usually is. Discounted implementation services might seem nice and convenient when you first sign on the dotted line, but those are often the projects that end up disastrously over budget and behind schedule, as executives expect everything and more from the ERP while still saving on prices. Make sure that if you are going for outside consulting help that you interview them thoroughly, that they are familiar with your business and the software, and that and are confident in their ability to either stay within scope or reign a project in as much as possible if scope creep does occur. ERP projects can go wrong for any number of reasons that will often be no one’s fault, but it’s imperative that you put together a team ready to deal with these kinds of curveballs.
The Right Tools
One key tool that you must have in your implementation arsenal to ensure that all changes to the initial scope are documented is the Issue Change Log. This log is where the implementation project team are responsible for inputting issues, changes or new requirements as they come up throughout the project. At Datix, we generally monitor this log constantly and work closely with the client project manager and executives to address areas of scope expansion on a weekly or as-needed basis and dial back on any areas of scope creep we might see emerging. At a minimum, we are having weekly status meetings to review accomplishments, upcoming milestones, project risks and budget trends and run down percentages. All employees critical to the project must sit in on these meetings and be able to candidly discuss their roles in the implementation and how they have been keeping up with individual goals and how those goals will contribute to expectations for the project as a whole. Scope creep often happens because employees may fall behind on a certain deliverable, or find that the system is making a task more difficult than previously projected, and then that employee fails to communicate the roadblock. Although it may be uncomfortable, straightforward conversation is critical when it comes to an ERP project, and that progress should be accurately, thoroughly and consistently tracked in your issue change log.
Communication, Tough Conversations and Transparency
As changes and new requirements arise with the CRM or ERP implementation it’s imperative that the project team (and outside consultants if you have hired them) are constantly communicating how these fit in (or don’t) with the scope and the impact that they have on the timeline and budget. Sometimes this involves pushing executives and key decision makers to make tough judgements about what is go-live-critical or not. If budgets are tight, prioritize what absolutely must be done before your live date and what can be completed in the post go-live stage. Other times, a new development involves a change order to the original scope that must be signed off on by your teams executive sponsor, so that they aren’t failing victim to scope creep and expectation the whole house built on a certain day when you only have a few stories finished.
Although no one likes to talk about additional costs, it’s highly advisable that your project team don’t hide from those conversations as they are natural and expected in the types of implementations that come with enterprise software. ERP and CRM projects can be huge endeavors, and bumps in the road are to be expected. The good news? With careful goal documentation and scope checking, your business won’t find themselves surprised, disappointed or wondering “Where did all the money go?” at the conclusion of a stage or the project. Instead, executives will be notified of budget changes ahead of time, the reason for those changes and why the project will still be on track to provide all the promised improvements. That way, the project team doesn’t come under fire for failed expectations and overrun budgets after it’s too late for them to defend themselves, and stakeholders still support the implementation throughout its lifetime.
What about you? Have you experienced scope creep during a software implementation recently? Do you have questions about how we confront and manage scope creep at Datix? Provide your comments below. I’m happy to answer any questions you might have! If you need a more in-depth discussion on your personal ERP project, or a helping hand to help get you started on the right path, don’t hesitate to get in touch with an expert at Datix today!