I work for a large government department as part of an IT team that manages and develops websites as well as stand alone web applications.
We’re running in to problems somewhere in the SDLC that don’t rear their ugly head until time and budget are starting to run out.
We try to be “Agile” (software specifications are not as thorough as possible, clients have direct access to the developers any time they want) and we are also in a reasonably peculiar position in that we are not allowed to make profit from the services we provide. We only service the divisions within our government department, and can only charge for the time and effort we actually put in to a project. So if we deliver a project that we have over-quoted on, we will only invoice for the actual time spent.
Our software specifications are not as thorough as they could be, but they always include at a minimum:
- Wireframe mockups for every form view
- A data dictionary of all field inputs
- Descriptions of any business rules that affect the system
- Descriptions of the outputs
I’m new to software management, but I’ve overseen enough software projects now to know that as soon as users start observing demos of the system, they start making a huge amount of requests like “Can we add a few more fields to this report.. can we redesign the look of this interface.. can we send an email at this part of the workflow.. can we take this button off this view.. can we make this function redirect to a different screen.. can we change some text on this screen… can we create a special account where someone can log in and get access to X… this report takes too long to run can it be optimised.. can we remove this step in the workflow… there’s got to be a better image we can put here…” etc etc etc.
Some changes are tiny and can be implemented reasonably quickly.. but there could be up to 50-100 or so of such requests during the course of the SDLC. Other change requests are what clients claim they “just assumed would be part of the system” even if not explicitly spelled out in the spec.
We are having a lot of difficulty managing this process. With no experienced software project managers in our team, we need to come up with a better way to both internally identify whether work being requested is “out of spec”, and be able to communicate this to a client in such a manner that they can understand why what they are asking for is “extra” work.
We need a way to track this work and be transparent with it.
In the spirit of Agile development where we are not spec'ing software systems in to the ground and back again before development begins, and bearing in mind that clients have access to any developer any time they want it, I am looking for some tips and pointers from experienced software project managers on how to handle this sort of "scope creep" problem, in tracking it, being transparent with it, and communicating it to clients such that they understand it.
Happy to clarify anything as needed.
I really appreciate anyone who takes the time to offer some advice.