Scope Creep and the Web Site

web page

My experience of scope creep isn’t so much from a single project, but from evolving technology. Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton, and Kramer (2008) describe scope creep as a natural tendency of clients and team members to try to improve or expand the project. In this particular experience, the project of expanding our web site grew because technology grew, but the impact of the increased job duties should have been considered and planned.

Portny et al., (2008) note that the longer a project is, the greater the chance for project risk. As the evolution of web page technology occurred over a period of years, the risk factors were higher. Our school district went through many iterations of a web site. In the beginning, (before a web page was common practice,) we used a page designed by one of the teachers. It was cumbersome, but at least we were able to get basic school information out and the public could see who the staff were. Then, web templates for schools began to be accessible so we migrated to a small company who did the programing for us, but who gave us the tools to edit some pages with HTML. This worked better than our original page, but we still found it difficult to update and many teachers were reluctant to use it as they had little experience with HTML and didn’t have time to learn it. Finally, the option for our entire district to move to a more automated template came and it was promoted by the district admin promising that this template offered much more for teachers and that it was easy to use; everyone would be responsible for their own pages.

The project our district had of migrating to the newer, user-friendly web site was supposed to be easy and seamless. The district techs did a great job of moving the old information to the new site, the district calendar was in place, each school only needed to add their events and all would be well. Now all that had to happen was the teachers needed to be trained so they could create class web pages and we would have a full-blown web presence.

As I have mentioned before, our school district doesn’t identify “projects” it simply implements these types of things as it goes along. There was some training for the teachers, but it was at the beginning of the year when there were a million other items needing their attention. Also, as with so much technical training, the focus was on how to put an images and information on the page, not what the benefit of doing a blog or how the survey package would a great interactive tool. So what ended up happening was a minimal number of teachers actually attempted to use the web page. On the administrative side, no one was assigned to take care of the update duties of a web page: announcements, calendar changes, adding categories as new content became available, etc. As the school support technician, I was given that job, but found it involved so much more and it impacted not only my duties, but the activities secretary as well. Aside from school directed activities, there were a good number of school sanctioned events that existed “outside”: Grad Night, fundraising, and a various number of clubs and activities linked to the school. Communicating with these individuals became part of my growing position of webmistress. I also had to track down translations of documents into Spanish so we would be in compliance with state code for the mandated documents we had to post. Also not considered was what to do about teachers who forgot passwords, teachers who left the school and new teachers who arrived. The school webpage became more than simply a page I needed to update occasionally; it was a living, breathing entity that I had to learn about and maintain throughout the year.

The concept of the template web site is that each person takes care of his or her own page and all is well. The reality with this project was the scope crept beyond managing a single page. If there were a person directing this project, it would have been apparent that someone would need to monitor the entire site. When announcements need to be made, or news added, there would need to be a person who would take on that responsibility. Teachers would need ongoing training and mentoring in how to effectively use a webpage. A one hour training session wouldn’t scratch the surface, particularly with teachers who did not have a strong background in technology. Because our district managed this project as it went along, not much was thought of in terms of how to mitigate the issues that arose or the mushrooming duties that went along with the site. Lynch & Roecker, (2007) suggest that when changes in time or scope are extensive enough that the project manager needs to revisit the planning phase. In my district’s circumstance, since the size and use of the web site had evolved, the original objectives had changed somewhat which needed more consideration and planning.

If I were to manage this project, I would start with planning it with the administration. The latest change to the web site needed to be carefully planned; training needed to be considered and teachers needed access to someone who could help them over the learning “bumps. Consistent communication throughout the year would had kept the focus on the web site and given the users the opportunity to ask questions or request help. Greer, (2010) suggests that when a project is complete, write a list of “lessons learned”. I know now there needs to be a central person who oversees the entire site because too many items or issues need the attention of a designated administrator. This project could have been implemented more successfully if it was managed appropriately from the start with good planning and a good breakdown of work. If there had been a project manager, he or she would have seen where the project was getting off the tracks and would have been able to respond the issues.


References:

Greer, M. (2010). The project management minimalist: Just enough PM to rock your projects! (Laureate custom ed.). Baltimore: Laureate Education, Inc.

Lynch, M. M., & Roecker, J. (2007). Controlling the project. In Project Managing e-Learning: A Handbook for Successful Design, Delivery, and Management (pp. 94–108). London: Routledge.

Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project Management: Planning, Scheduling, and Controlling Projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

 

 

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5 thoughts on “Scope Creep and the Web Site

  1. Mary, school division scope creep is unique in that it not only affects the scope, budget, and timeline of projects but it negatively affects the attitudes of school division employees as well as the attitudes of tax payers toward the school system. Much of this frustration connected to software projects and their 50% poor delivery rate is due to poor communication, lack of control and the “constant tension between the desire to add functionality and the requirement to control time and resources while maintaining quality” (Lynch, & Roecker, 2007). As you state there seemed to be no one available to execute the proper change of scope documents and re-allocate the timeline and resources (Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). Maybe whoever was in charge was overwhelmed. Managing scope creep requires the project manager to implement the following control strategies: a change of control system, formal change orders, approval of changes in writing, and amendments to all project plans and schedules (Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton, & Kramer, 2008, p. 347). You did a very good job of recalling this project.
    Win
    References
    Lynch, M. M., & Roecker, J. (2007). Project managing e-learning: A handbook for successful design, delivery, and management. London: Routledge.
    Laureate Education (Producer). (n.d.). Monitoring projects [Video file]. Retrieved from https://class.waldenu.edu

    • Hi Win,
      As usual, your comments are so insightful. What generally happens in my experience is the “get on the bandwagon” kind of thinking. So if all the rage is getting all the kids laptops or tablets, someone gets the ball rolling, but there is no one overseeing it to be sure the project is achieving the goals it was originally designed for. Usually, it seems so much of it is more of a PR project to indicate the school is keeping up with the trends so often fed by the faddish reporting in the news media. That’s why it often seems to me that in education there are so many rudderless ships. Very complex issues. You are able to uncover just how it seems to function.

      Thanks, Win for your comments.

      Mary

    • I for got my other reference
      Portny, S. E., Mantel, S. J., Meredith, J. R., Shafer, S. M., Sutton, M. M., & Kramer, B. E. (2008). Project management: Planning, scheduling, and controlling projects. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

  2. Hi Mary,

    I think that scope creep is a huge issue in technical types of projects. A lot of times, a technical project impacts so many different audiences, all with their own ideas as how a project can be made better. That’s why it’s so important to get sign off by the appropriate people and then go with it. Otherwise, I really believe that many projects would never get finished but will always be a work in progress.

    Jimmy

  3. Mary,
    I agree with Jimmy. “I think that scope creep is a huge issue in technical types of projects.” Although I have never experienced any project of this magnitude, I can only imagine how easy scope creep can happen. Thanks for your great example. Great post!

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