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Just Get'er Done

We had our first snowfall in Southern New England yesterday. Yes, they have had snow in the mountains but for the rest of us flatlanders we finally got our punkins frosted. When this happens around this time of year you can hear the clock loudly ticking in our community – folks want to use their boats through the last good Indian summer weekend, but you also have to get it winterized fast so you don’t have anything burst unpleasantly. We are up against a deadline set by Mother Nature. Last year I pushed it and had to make some compromises. It is the old conflict between get it done right or get it done before the deadline. When there is a hard freeze coming, sometimes you have to be happy with just getting it done.

I have been experiencing this same situation with a number of clients lately. They have established a CRM program with targeted deliverables, a time frame for completion, and an approved budget to fund the implementation – the three proverbial sides of the “Scope Triangle”. The challenge with this, invariably, is when there is an immovable deadline. Deadlines are normal within CRM programs and don’t have to be problematic. Sometimes you have to get a release out by a certain target –before year end rush, in time for a global kick off meeting, within a funding window.

Meeting program deadlines is also normal, but success is completely based on the effectiveness of the original estimation. Poor estimations lead to scope negotiation – if too much was promised in too short of a window, something has to give. We all know the levers – push out the date, reduce the quality or quantity of the deliverable, or engage more resources and incur more cost. This is the traditional scope negotiation and tradeoff process. This is all fine, except when the scope is set arbitrarily such as a line-in-the-sand deadline or budget ceiling. There is no business reason driving the timeframe or the spending limit, just a threshold that is not to be exceeded. Period.

Sandlines

It is the period that causes the problem, especially when the original program estimation is a rough estimate used to establish a budget approval. Things like that are meant to be refined. Typically, large CRM programs are funded before all the details are ironed out. Estimations are meant to be directional. However, in some organizations they become a line in the sand not meant to be crossed, and that causes problems.

Three of my current clients have scratched this arbitrary line in the sand - each one with a different leg of the triangle –quantity of functionality, timeframe for delivery, and budget ceiling (less than funding). Invariably, once the more detailed analysis is completed, we find that to successfully satisfy business requirements the line has to be challenged. More functionality is needed for success; or the amount of effort will take longer than the targeted timeframe; or the budget ceiling will not enable the program to deliver on the promised business benefits.

So, what do you? If there is a scope parameter that cannot be moved for very rational reasons, then you have to work within it. Find the trade-off that comes with the least baggage. However, when scope parameters are set without merit, then my answer is to push hard to satisfy the business need – don’t be limited by the line in the sand. Every CRM program that I have seen fall short of meeting business requirements ultimately ends in poor adoption at best, or getting the proverbial plug pulled at worst. Arbitrary scope parameters can be the demise of an otherwise good program.

Does this mean that you should boil the ocean with your first phase just to satisfy all the different business stakeholders? Not at all. However, there is always a threshold of business value that needs to be reached for every program and for every early program phase. If you find that the line in the sand does not let you reach that threshold of business value, you need to push hard to move it.

And, if you are an executive that has drawn that line in the sand, I hope you will listen to reason. Your investment is riding on it.

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