Wednesday, December 3, 2008

SMART and DUMB

Everybody is familiar with Projects which run out of Budget and Time. All of them ending in the infamous "Blame Game" full of accusations, discussions and the occassional team of lawyers.

To prevent this from happening several strategies are used. One of them is to switch from Time & Material to Fixed Price. The intended result is to deliver within fixed price and time boundaries a predetermined product. No quarrels afterwards, everything is decided beforehand, in other words problem solved. To determine what will be delivered, requirements have to be defined. Nowadays SMART (Specific, Measurable, Acceptable, Realistic, Time-Bound) and DUMB (Doable, Understandable, Manageable, Beneficial) are not just hyped acronyms, but are really used during the requirements phase. A very good trend which I fully support.

What can be misleading, is the idea that the requirements phase is a peaceful step in a project. For example, the customer wants a new Infrastructure. Complete with SAN, Virtualized Applications and Role Based Access within six months. The IT provider can deliver a new Infrastructure, complete with SAN within six months. Virtualized applications will take an extra two months and setting up Role Based Access can take up to six months.

To make a requirement Specific, Measurable or Time-Bound. is often not the problem. The big argument is whether it is Realistic or Acceptable.

The customer might think the fourteen months needed by the IT provider is not acceptable and shop around for an IT provider that can do it in six months. The question is if this is Realistic?
Another example, to comply with new regulations an update of a software package has to be built within eight months. To fully implement the new regulations will take a year. Only part of the new regulations can realisticly implemented within eight months, but is this Acceptable?.
Getting into an argument afterwards is always bad, it show both parties have not taken their responsibility. But arguing beforehand, is very good. That shows commitment and professionalism before the real money will be spent.