November 1, 2013
Project Planning and Identifying Requirements
This past summer I agreed to spend our family vacation camping. My brother-in-law and his family were driving down from British Columbia to meet our family halfway. Sounded simple, fun, and a low cost vacation! During preparation month, consisting of menu planning emails, compiling camping cargo to the middle of the garage, and writing the never ending list of must have’s – I started to think about my work… I’ve spent my career helping companies identify business and stakeholder requirements. I have spent many engagements explaining to clients the difference between their NEEDS in comparison to WANTS. I’ve explained the increased project costs of not having a consensus, not identifying true needs, and not prioritizing. I have talked to corporations on the importance of discussions and planning. Without identifying requirements, projects inevitably lead to increased costs, elongated timelines, scope creep, and frustrated stakeholders and resources. It is also very difficult for some companies to hold back from adding functionality or custom development, just because they can – when it may be something not really needed, or doesn’t fit stated requirements. I was noticing a very strong resemblance to those professional discussions and experiences, while in the midst of a personal one that would have benefitted from applying the same knowledge… “Do we really need all this stuff? It’s only 4 days!” The standard reply, “We have a pickup truck. We can bring it all! Just in case we NEED it!” After weeks of compiling, collaborating, and hours of packing (notice I didn’t say planning) - including bikes and all matter of sporting equipment, securing a guitar, loading “day” cots, amongst a hundred other things - we were off. All was going along great, except for the additional stops to refuel… More baggage = More Fuel = Unbudgeted Increased Cost Upon arrival, we stopped to fill the coolers – remember the menus planning? We don’t eat or buy that much at home, for twice the number of days; More increased cost, and effort! It takes work to keep refrigerated items cold while camping. “Do we really NEED all that food?” The standard reply, “We might want it... you never know!” Too much cargo? I am certain I could have done without the lacrosse sticks. Kids using the side of my tent as a goal, while I was still sleeping in it was certainly not a vacation highlight. Camping was everything it should be … engaging and definitely quality family time. However, two of the main requirements and expectations of the vacation weren’t met – not simple (actually quite a lot of effort), and costs much higher than expected. The trip was coming to an end… time to pack up. Instead of being able to enjoy the last hours with long-distance family, we spent it organizing all the leftover food, strapping and loading the equipment. It was a shame, because we ended up regretting those lost hours. ArcherPoint works to help companies help themselves. Truly PLANNING. It’s not about making a list of absolutely everything that could be done. Instead, we’re facilitating the more difficult conversations of what is absolutely needed, and more importantly, WHY?
- What decisions need to be made to come to an agreement?
- What elements are REQUIRED?
- Prioritize the “nice-to-have” list, and then really think what should be included.
- Is it worth the time? The space? The cost? The effort?
- What are we giving up by putting items in the wish list that may not meet any business requirements?
- Reduce long term unbudgeted costs
- Increase visibility to project status and obstacles
- Have an identified plan
- Focus on completing projects on time
- Ensure you make efficient use of resources.
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