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Responses to Lack of Scope - When are We There Yet

WRITTEN by: Bill Sterzenbach |
categories: Business Growth

Nov 2009


Lack of Scope - a project killer for sure..projects with no finite definition of  'are we there yet?' and clients with little patience for being 'pinned down' to a set of deliverables. You WILL have these clients from time to time, and they are most certainly manageable - in fact they can be quite profitable clients in many cases, they just take a different style of management. In my years of managing technology projects, I've discovered that there are some fairly classifiable reactions to lack of scope.

The responses to lack of scope run a wild arc from doing surprising little for the money to packing so much into a project it becomes unusable. Many experienced firms will see lack of scope as a great money-maker as they will promise little and give even less. The client doesn't know what they need, so they never know if they received any value. If they dare complain to the development firm, they will be met with 'We gave you what we promised'. Note this is a far toss from 'We gave you what you needed' and futher yet from 'we gave you what you wanted'.

Inexperienced architects tend to 'overgive' - they feel that if they 'just do more' the client will love the end result. The problem with this thinking is that it's usually NEVER enough of the right stuff and WAY too much of the wrong stuff. The client wants a shopping cart with 'all the bells and whistles' so the provider creates a shopping cart with 30 different kinds of discounting methods, but no wishlist or forward-to-friend functionality, so in the end it's discovered that the client really meant that he wanted more 'social' functionality and less 'pricing' functionality and the client is disappointed. Here it's a case of 'we did our very best' - but we all know that this is a slippery benchmark at best.

The client often contributes to these situations as it's sort of a 'I'll tell you when you guess it' approach to project management, and it can be tricky. These clients aren't evil and they aren't foolish, they're just busy. More importantly, they are relying on their technology partner to help define the scope - a quality found only in more strategic relationships. The good news is that I've discovered something..if you know what you're doing you can usually strike a really nice balance for the client with very little input.

The reason an experienced (and introspective) manager can find the sweet spot so easily is because they have done so damn many of these types of projects (whatever type it is) and they 'just know' what needs to be in there. Also, you learn to read a client, their culture, and past projects they have commissioned and you get a feel for what rings their bell. With the understanding of 'what just works', some knowledge of the clients psyche, and a little patience, you can give the client something that is in their budget, satisfies their wish to get some value out of their investment, and most importantly, actually creates a positive result for the client.

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