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I recently inherited a project from another project manager, and I've encountered significant scope creep issues and ambiguities in the solution design. The project involves upgrading from version X to version Y and it is now at the end of the development stage (it is a waterfall project).

The approved solution design has some open points, such as Feature A, which is marked to be implemented without clear specifications on input/output. or that some features will be updated during testing, or existing features will be replaced as per customer inputs during testing. I'm currently in the process of discussing these open points with the customer, capturing them as OPLs (Open Points & Clarifications), and recording them in meeting minutes. They are a lot, that I am thinking of stopping all activities.

My concern is that the solution design should be updated as we clarify these OPLs, and each new release should be approved by the customer as we make progress. However, the customer seems resistant to this approach, possibly due to the previous project manager's strategy of tuning everything during system integration which is a win for the customer.

Given the weak high-level management support on my side, I'm left to handle this directly with the customer. I would appreciate advice on the following:

Is updating the solution design and seeking approval for each release a reasonable approach to address this scope creep and undefined points? How can I better communicate this need to the customer, especially when they are accustomed to a different management style?

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    This is a perfect example of why Waterfall rarely exists in the wild. You have a hybrid. An adaptive part was left for the integration step. Whenever you have scope creep in Waterfall, you need to do the whole thing all over again for the new scope. From what the customer is concerned that was done at the beginning of the project. So you either accept this and do it in the integration step (hopefully you have budget buffer), or get back at the negotiation table to agree and plan the extra scope.
    – Bogdan
    Jan 23 at 9:28
  • Yeah, it's exactly as you said in your article—a perfect example of that situation. Sadly, I don't have a budget cushion, or I'd totally go for your suggestion of adding some agile work. Right now, though, I'm dealing with a shortage. So, my only play with the customer is to try negotiating, just like you mentioned.
    – MS007
    Jan 24 at 7:21

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Your approach is perfectly reasonable. This of course is why a waterfall lifecycle is an inefficient and troublesome way to deliver software.

One factor you don't mention is what are the commercial terms. If the contractual arrangement is T&M then your approach is the best way to proceed. If on the other hand changing the specs has extra cost implications then that's something that will have to be negotiated.

Very often the reason why people like specs approved early on is precisely so that they can put things into negotiation later - a tactic that can work to the advantage of either customer or service provider but not a tactic designed to encourage a harmonious and constructive relationship. If there are cost implications of changing the spec then discuss with the account manager or whoever manages the commercial relationship what strategy to take.

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  • About the commercial side, it's not looking too great. We're running low on budget, and there's a high chance we'll need a bunch for some on-site work abroad. Like, we're talking about a solid 2 months and multiple teams. Totally get your point about involving account management, but it's a bit tricky. The previous PM sort of opened this door, so we're not in the strongest position, you know? And, to be honest, my management isn't super skilled at these negotiations. But anyway, they need to do their job somehow.
    – MS007
    Jan 24 at 7:29

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