Most project teams have experience in identifying and controlling scope creep. Maybe your internal customers have quietly requested small additions that eventually ended up as a large pile of unfunded demands. Or perhaps an ambitious new executive hoped to build their reputation by pumping up an in-progress project. These situations that push an initiative’s parameters are a frequent headache for project professionals.
When it comes to digital transformation efforts, teams may find themselves working against a few new forces that are often less predictable and easier for requesters to justify. And even though many of these expansions of a project’s scope make sense, it’s still important to determine if the original scope wasn’t sufficient, if the new requests are genuinely valuable, and whether the project should be expanded.
If you’re grappling with a technology project that seems to be growing legs, consider some of the hallmarks of digital transformation scope creep and tips to prevent it from dooming your project.
Your customers’ and users’ needs don’t stand still
The constant state of evolution across the entire business technology spectrum presents a new layer of difficulties for project teams trying to keep a lid on scope creep. As users grow accustomed to the systems that support both their personal and their professional lives, their expectations for usability and functionality will continue to change and grow. This could include elements such as mobility, remote access, and navigability, all of which are under constant development in the latest platforms.
Though users may not have originally identified a specific mobility requirement for the new system, for example, that doesn’t mean they don’t expect it to be available upon implementation. Many people simply assume that the latest technology includes them. These shifting goal posts are challenging to predict, but project teams can stay ahead of them by maintaining strong communication channels with technology vendors. Even if the first iteration doesn’t include the desired mobility capabilities, users may be more accommodating if they know it’s part of the future roadmap.
New features and functionalities become available mid-project
For their part, technology providers are always working on updating their systems’ feature sets. Because digital transformation projects often extend across many months and even years from planning through completion, it’s likely that new functionality will be added to the platform while the project is underway. This could lead to significant scope creep if the updates will support new technology integrations or revised workflows. Scope creep is likely to follow if stakeholders feel compelled to rethink what they want to achieve through the project before the final implementation. The prospect of getting more—even at the expense of time or budget—might be too enticing without some firm boundaries in place. Starting off with a strong consensus on deliverables is key to avoiding this kind of digital transformation scope creep.
Business needs are a moving target
Over the course of a digital transformation project, your company could sign an agreement with a new business partner or pounce on the opportunity to purchase a struggling competitor. Customer demands might shift and economic factors may change your firm’s revenue targets. These events, which can be difficult or almost impossible to predict, are likely to cause executives to reconsider the project’s direction and take a fresh look at the organization’s digital transformation strategy and investments. A solid picture of what’s required to keep operations moving, such as updating the project to include integration capabilities that will connect with a newly acquired entity’s core systems, will help keep scope creep in check without forgoing a chance to capture truly innovative and high-efficiency changes.