By Martyn Hall
Have you ever started a home improvement project with a clear vision of what you wanted, only to end up with something completely different (and not in a good way)? If so, you might have experienced project scope creep – the gradual and unplanned expansion of a project’s objectives, requirements, or features. For those who have talked to me in the last six months, you’ll be familiar with my pain.
Project scope creep can happen in any project, but it is widespread and costly in complex and large-scale ones, such as implementing an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. ERP systems are software applications that integrate and automate various business processes, such as accounting, inventory, human resources, and customer relationship management. They are designed to improve an organisation’s efficiency, productivity, and profitability.
However, implementing an ERP system is a complex task. It involves multiple stakeholders, vendors, consultants, and users, each with expectations, preferences, and agendas. It also requires a lot of time, money, and resources, as well as a careful analysis of the current and future business needs. Without a clear and agreed-upon scope, an ERP project can quickly spiral out of control, leading to delays, budget overruns, dissatisfaction, and failure.
To illustrate how project scope creep can ruin an ERP project, let’s use a more familiar example: fitting a new kitchen (very relevant for me). Imagine wanting to renovate your old and outdated kitchen and make it more modern and functional. You have a budget of £15,000 (approximately USD 19,000) and a deadline of two months. You visit a designer offering fitting services and start planning your dream kitchen.
At first, everything is going well. You choose the cabinets, countertops, appliances, and flooring you like and agree on the layout and colour scheme. You get some high-quality 3D renders that make it seem natural and personalised to you. You are excited and confident that you will have a beautiful and practical kitchen in no time.
But then, things start to change. You want to use space in your utility room better, so now is the time to do that. You see a friend’s recently fitted kitchen and love the new spotlights in the ceiling, so you add that to the project, too. You ask your contractor to add them to the project. The contractor agrees but warns you it will cost more and take longer. You don’t mind because you think it will be worth it.
Then, your wife thinks more and more about the project. She likes the overall design, but she has some suggestions (keep in mind she helped design it from the start, too). She thinks the cabinets should be grey instead of dark grey, the countertops should be quartz instead of granite, and the hob should be induction instead of gas. She also wants to add a glass splashback instead of tiling the wall. You agree with some of her ideas but not all of them. You argue with her, and you compromise on some changes. You tell your contractor to make the adjustments, and they agree but warn you again that it will cost more and take longer. You are a bit annoyed, but you think it will be fine.
Then, your contractor begins the survey and notices the walls need to be straight and will require plastering. There are existing tiles on one wall, with no way of knowing what the wall will be like behind them when they come off, so that’ll likely need replastering, too. Before you know it, the state of the existing room isn’t fit for a new kitchen and requires supplementary work to get it to the same high-quality standard you’re expecting. You agree to the additional work, wanting the high-quality finish, even though you know it costs extra time.
This could have gone one of two ways as a project:
- The additions complement the design, the extra cost has been worth it, and you have a dream kitchen you love. Visitors comment on how lovely it is. It’s over budget by £10,000 (approx. $12,000), but you can see it as well spent. It even took three weeks longer to complete, but it was worth it!
- The additions make the kitchen a mishmash of styles and features that must be fixed. It becomes a nightmare that you wish you never started. It’s over budget by £10,000 (approx. $12,000) and took longer to complete, leaving a sour taste in your mouth.
I’ll let you know how my kitchen turns out. Fingers crossed for option 1!
This is an extreme example of how project scope creep can impact and sometimes ruin a kitchen project, but it is not far from reality. Many homeowners have experienced similar situations, where they ended up with a kitchen they didn’t like, didn’t need, or couldn’t afford. The same can happen with an ERP project, where the scope can change due to various factors, such as:
- Changing business needs or goals
- Unrealistic or unclear expectations
- Poor communication or collaboration
- Lack of stakeholder involvement or buy-in
- Inadequate planning or analysis
- Insufficient or inaccurate requirements
- Ambiguous or vague specifications
- Uncontrolled or excessive change requests
Scope creep can have severe consequences for an ERP project, such as:
- Increased costs and risks
- Reduced quality and performance
- Delayed or missed deadlines
- Lowered user satisfaction and adoption
- Diminished benefits and value
- Damaged reputation and relationships
- Failed or aborted project
So, how can you avoid project scope creep and ensure a successful ERP project (or a kitchen project, for that matter)? Here are some best practises that you can follow:
- Define and document the scope clearly and precisely
- Align the scope with the business objectives and strategy
- Involve and engage the key stakeholders and users from the start
- Communicate and collaborate effectively and regularly
- Establish and follow a change management process and policy
- Monitor and control the scope throughout the project lifecycle
- Review and validate the scope at every stage and milestone
- Manage and mitigate scope-related issues and risks
By following these best practises, you can prevent project scope creep and deliver an ERP project (or a kitchen project) that meets or exceeds the expectations, requirements, and needs of the organisation and its users. You can also avoid wasting time, money, and resources and achieve efficiency, productivity, and profitability. And most importantly, you can have a project you are proud of and happy with.
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