Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Scopeless contract: the solution

In my last blog entry, “Scopeless contracts: the problem” I rehashed all the reasons why including scope in a contract for delivery is a bad idea. So having rubbished the most common way of working I had better explain what I suggest you do….

You have two choices.

Option 1: Set up a ‘Business as Usual’ contact.

The client nominates work to be done and the development team do it. Simple. This is the way most organisations work “business as usual” but once the idea of a project enters the scene people expect the project to have an end date, in order to have an end date they imagine that some amount of work needs to be done.

You can still have an end date but instead of measuring progress against “work to be done” (he scope, the backlog) measure progress against the value added.

After all, software is never finished. If you ever run out of requests for a software product it means nobody is using it. However it might not make sense to do all the work that is requested.

How do you size the team? You don’t, you start small. You start with just the money you can afford to loose. After a while, say three months you review what is bring done and decide whether you wish to go faster (expand) or slower (contract), or perhaps stop altogether.

(Another reason to start small is to reduce the effect of Conway’s Law: if you start big you will get a big programme of work, if you start small you might just come up with a small solution.)

Option 2: Set a Goal, work to the goal

If option 1 isn’t governed enough for you then set an overarching goal. Every three months (or what ever time you decide) ask yourself: are we making progress towards the goal?

You might even want some people on the team measure progress towards the goal (these would normally be Business Analysts). All the work you do should be tested against the question “Does this move us towards our goal?”

If you want more structure use my 10 Step Requirements model.

Yes, it really is that simple.

Drop the backlog. Set a goal. Work business as usual. 1, 2, 3.

The thing is, when you contract with someone to build you software its not like asking them to build you a house. You are buying a service not a thing. If you could buy a thing you probably would have done already. Once you make that mindset shift it all makes sense.

The only complication is, well there are two really: first you have to accept the project model is broken so you need to make more strategic decisions. If you need to keep projects for accounting purposes but projects should have nothing to do with development.

Second you need to do this on a rolling basis, review it every three months.

For most organisations the biggest problem is that they have come to believe the project myth, and they believe it all the way up the hierarchy. Until the people at the top really understand that IT doesn’t fit into the project model its difficult to change.

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