How to Deliver Enterprise Web Projects On-Time and On-Budget
Whether you’re a project manager in a large corporation, an external IT contractor in charge of managing a large-scale web implementation, a business analyst, digital developer, or content specialist; enterprise web projects offer a fantastic opportunity for you to showcase your skills set across a wide variety of areas. Enterprise web projects provide you with the opportunity to work on projects that can have a major impact not only at the organisation you’re working for, but your local community, to a national user base or even at an international level.
But how do you ensure that the role you play is an effective part of the overall web project you’re working to deliver on-time and on-budget whilst meeting stakeholder expectations?
In this article we’ll walk you through how to deliver an enterprise web project on-time and on-budget. We’ll show you how to deliver a product that both your internal and external customers will love, and one that you can use as a reference point when pitching your skills set for your next major project role.
What scope creep actually means in enterprise web projects
We’ve all heard the term “scope creep” bandied around digital projects for as long as we’ve been in the industry. However, until you’ve been held directly responsible for scope creep, are paying for the cost of scope creep, or are told implicitly what the ramifications of the term means to a project deadline or budget, the term can fail to have any real lasting impact.
The unfortunate reality in many large organisations is that there can be a culture of ‘no accountability’ for scope creep which almost always has a devastating affect on a number of areas of a business. This happens primarily because:
- The project wasn’t scoped in enough detail at commencement by each of the core stakeholders (this includes both business and technical stakeholders)
- Internal customers were allowed to request extra features with no consideration of budget, affect on deadline (whether this was a Phase 1 deadline or final deadline),and internal resourcing clashes this may cause due to the extended time frame required to complete the project at hand
- A detailed process of customer/product requirements analysis was not undertaken by the business or technical stakeholders charged with delivering the project
- Content as a key project phase was not scoped resulting in release date extensions, and
- A period of maintenance and testing was not allocated in the event technical glitches/bugs found their way into the final product
When scope creep begins to occur, what can be easy to miss is the ‘actual cost of doing business’. If you’re not extremely careful when assessing the ongoing likelihood that your web project will be delivered on-time and on-budget your project outcome can quickly become much more of a burden than as asset. For example:
- If you’ve undertaken a period of project scoping to produce a detailed requirements document consisting of:
- $4,000 worth of Project Management resources,
- $4,000 worth of internal customer resources,
- $2,000 worth of budget review by a Director, and
- $1,000 worth of accounts management
- Have worked with all relevant stakeholders to decided on a project deadline of 4 months from the point of project commencement
- Have decided on the technologies you want to use for your enterprise web project (including whether you want to go Open Source or Proprietary)
- Have interviewed a selection of external agencies with suitable qualifications and background to build your website for your organisation at a price point that you are comfortable with (we'll use $100,000 for the sake of this example)
- Budgeted for an internal project managers’ time over 4 months at 10 hours per week at $8,000
- Provided a brief of the requirements to be delivered based on your internal customers input, and
- Set a start date for your project.
Your project expenditure should be $119,000. Sounds reasonable at right?
But what happens if things start to go wrong and your project scope changes by 20% because:
- Your internal stakeholders decide they want more features, enhanced functionality or excessive design changes, and
- Suddenly you realise your initial scoping work wasn’t detailed enough?
In this situation, based on our experience and time completing projects for a wide variety of clients across a number of industries, it’s highly likely you’re looking at the following scenario:
- Your internal customers/stakeholders will begin to become increasingly unhappy and start looking for someone to blame for a poor discovery phase (i.e. scoping)
- Your external agency will either begin providing work at a loss or request a change in scope (likely at a T&M rate) causing potential client/provider friction
- The time involved by internal stakeholders and project managers looking for ways to get the project back on track will increase and result in what we call “unseen cost by the business”
The "true" cost of scope creep in enterprise web projects
So how much does all this cost? Here’s an estimate of what we believe to be ‘the real cost of doing business’ when you see a 20% scope creep occur in an enterprise web project:
- In the event of any sizable creep in scope an addition to the initial project scoping phase will be required. This requires a phase of scope management to be undertaken to review and request an increase to the project capability costing an estimated extra:
- $2,000 worth of Project Management resources,
- $2,000 worth of internal customer resources,
- $2,000 worth of budget review by a Director, and
- $1,000 worth of accounts management
- If approved, the agency will put their price up by 20% to $120,000
- Project Management will increase from $8,000 to approximately $12,000 due to an extra 20% more project required to be managed and the 20% extra time negotiating with the external agency, and
- The project deadline will have crept out by 2 months. Yes two months, ouch!
So the new cost, excluding the damage this has more than likely inflicted upon both internal and external relationships related to the project comes to $150,000. You may have been expecting an increase of $20,000 in cost, but the reality is closer to an increase of $31,000 due to a combination of internal and external time involved to develop, understand and deliver the new scope. All this from a 20% increase in scope which could have been avoided if the project had been properly evaluated to begin with. Below we’ve provided a chart of what this looks like so you can visualise the impact:
How to avoid scope creep and keep your budget on track
By now it should be pretty clear that if you’re going to attempt to save money by managing an enterprise web project in-house, the first place to start is by spending an appropriate amount of time scoping your project. What we suggest is that when stakeholder interviews are taking place, it’s vitally important to not just include the customer, but the agency you’re intending on working with to ensure all technical components of the project are not overlooked, as well as any design issues and/or project opportunities to save time and expense are considered.
This approach may be unusual for many organisations, but in this case, a proper requirements analysis alone could have saved $11,000, so you have to ask yourself what the value of ‘penny pinching’ is when interviewing suppliers, and the value of bringing on a supplier earlier in the project to help scope your requirements is worth to you.
Developer detail. Making sure your communication is on-target.
At the end of the day, the developers who are assigned to build your project are going to be tasked with delivering what you brief them to build. If your brief is not clear enough or is misleading, this is where issues can occur. This means ensuring a number of phases of sign off occur prior to development commencing so everyone is on the same page.
From a detailed design specification, to a developer specification, and release specification, your project brief should include proper functional specifications for mobile, tablet, and desktop devices and be clear across all proposed site templates so no ‘guesstimating’ is brought into the equation by any party.
In addition, we recommend weekly progress reviews with your web development agency to ensure that if anyone is getting off track (client, stakeholder, developer, agency) or requirements have been overlooked, then you’re minimising the wasted effort required to steer a project back in the right direction. With this in mind, we recommend Project Managers are ideally in contact more regularly than this with their clients, and maintaining a regularly feed of updates to key stakeholders so they remain informed.
Content is more important than design (Maybe, maybe not. But start treating it that way!)
It’s constantly amazing to me how many times organisations plan to deliver an enterprise web project, yet fail to allocate any budget for content.
If you’re releasing a site with 500 pages of content, that’s a very large piece of work that requires a great deal of time and a certain level of technical expertise. Why you say? I’ve got a CMS, doesn’t this just require a day or so of copy and paste? NO!
If you’re running an enterprise web project you need to provision for a content strategy and budget for implementation. If we take the above example (the version where things go well at $119,00), we estimate that the following extra budget and time should be allocated for 500 pages of content:
- Development of a content strategy inclusive of a well planned information architecture, parameters for implementation of rich content, and a distributed workflow model at $10,000
- Implementation of 500 pages of content over 2 months inclusive of 2.5 internal staff at $20,000
So if you missed that extra $30,000 for content, you may be surprised to learn these estimate are conservative...a.k.a cheap!
Content for many organisations can be a ‘nasty surprise’ that creeps up on them at the end of a web project. Take this scenario where we’ve identified an extra $30,000 worth of effort over 2 months which still needs to be approved by the business and will likely require another month of effort at $5,000 worth of management to be delivered. We’re already at $35,000 worth of extra expenditure most organisations fail to identify before going to market!
The point we’re trying to make is that it’s vitally important to acknowledge ‘the real cost of doing business’. For example:
- You have to pay your staff, but you should also consider the cost effectiveness of hiring an external agency to deliver your work due to their experience in the space, and
- Enterprise web project have many layers and that need to be scoped in great detail to be successful.
By identifying that the outcome of projects of this scale can benefit from an external agencies point of view, at least in the scoping stages, you can really save yourself a lot of time, money and heartache.
Summing up the importance of avoiding scope creep
Enterprise web projects if carefully managed are major assets to organisations, but so often due to a lack of experience in planning work pages of this size or the pressure to push out solutions faster than is reasonable to achieve a positive outcome, can go very wrong.
The best project managers we encounter are thorough and begin preparing to meet with us well before we ever talk to them. They know what’s required to deliver their enterprise web project, understand that surprises cost time and money, and are very good at managing stakeholders who are rarely accountable for project outcomes. If you’re likely to find yourself in this position, we recommend that you make sure you’re playing at this level well before you engage an external agency.
Managing an enterprise web project requires a watchful eye over a lot of moving pieces, with a great deal of attention to detail. Without it, the result will not be what you’re looking for. If you’re going to play in the big leagues, you need to understand what you’re looking to deliver, prepare to deliver it, prepare some more, then surround yourselves with individuals that have a proven track record of producing best-in-market web projects.
Nobody wants to pay more for something than they need to, but the reality is this can happen in the enterprise web space if you fail to evaluate ‘the less-visible costs of delivery’ instead of just the cost per hour that an agency will charge to produce a piece of work. Take this into account each and every time you go to market, and you’ll be well off in your pursuit of running a successful enterprise web project.