Analyzing Scope Creep

Scope Creep 122811_1517_pmfoundatio12[1]_png_w=630As part of Walden University’s graduate course, EDUC 6145 – Project Management in Education and Training, for this week’s blog assignment I will describe a project in my professional life which experienced issues related to scope creep.

One of the first major projects I participated in as an educator in the late 1990’s was developing a proprietary customer service course using a multimedia authoring tool. To maintain a level of confidentiality, I will not reveal the name of the tool, but I will provide a description of my experiences with this project.

Background: As computer based training (CBT) began to evolve, professionals with computer programming experience were the backbone of the development team for these courses (Locatis & Al-Nuaim, 1999). Companies purchased the CBT courses; installed them on local computers; with individual users completing the learning content and printing certificates of completion when finished. One of the first CBT courses used in my organization was medical terminology.

CBT course development became less complicated and less expensive to create with the growing availability of multimedia authoring tools beginning in the late 1980s. Authoring tools made it possible for non-programmers such as instructional designers, trainers, and teachers to develop interactive courseware for use within their own organizations (Allen, 2009). Major players in the field of authoring tools during that era included Authorware, CourseBuilder, Dazzler, Quest, and Toolbook (FAQS, 1999).

The Purchase: By the late 1990s, my department head was ready to enter the arena of creating organization-specific CBT courses. There was a trainer in our department familiar with one of the authoring tools while completing her graduate program, but she did not have direct experience with it. After a careful selection process based primarily upon information provided by sales representatives and journal articles (Mistake # 1), the decision was made to purchase an authoring tool which supposedly was intuitive for trainers. With my budding experience in technology, I was given the assignment of using the new tool to develop an interactive customer service course.

The Training: Believing you have more technology skills than you actually have (Mistake # 2) led to the decision that I would only attend the advanced training sessions. The real reason for this decision was more in line with saving money since the training sessions were being conducted in the vendor’s corporate offices near the west coast and included an airplane flight, hotel, meal and transportation expenses. Even though I struggled with some of the skills presented in the training sessions, I returned to work, energized with a tool pouch of new technology skills and ready to use the authoring tool for many years to come.

The Project: The basic course structure including content, exercises, and quizzes was recently created in two PowerPoint modules by my training colleague. My responsibility was to take the content, add lots of bells and whistles including interactivity, sounds and special effects, audio narration, better quality images, branching, and bookmarking to produce a highly interactive CBT course for delivery on our local area network.

It sounds simple, doesn’t it? Well, in reality without a written project plan (Mistake # 3) with deliverables, due dates, software requirements, etc.; and without sufficient resources of people, time, and technology (Mistake # 4), it took me a year to finish the project. The project was plagued with delays. Since my office was next to an overhead speaker for the public address system, all narration had to be recorded in my home office which then caused a secondary issue of ensuring the audio recording software and equipment were compatible with the personal computer in my home. My training colleague resigned shortly after the project started, requiring me to pick up a large portion of her responsibilities which in turn reduced the time I could dedicate to the project.

The Scope Creep: The scope creep was of my own making. In my quest to produce the most interactive course possible, I spent many hours searching for the most appropriate images and sound effects, and re-recording narration clips that had minor flaws. In addition, I spent many hours testing the branching and bookmarking features to verify learners could easily navigate between the modules, and from one lesson to the next without errors. I allowed time to take control of the project and perfectionism to take control of me.

Dealing with the Scope Creep: Admittedly, I did not deal with the scope creep. I just let the project evolve until it was done. Likewise, my department head also did not deal with it. Over time, I lost some of my enthusiasm for the project and my department head moved on to other projects and programs.

The course text shares this important fact, “clients and project team members have a natural tendency to try and improve the outcomes as a project progresses” (Portny, Mantel, Meredith, Shafer, Sutton, & Kramer; 2008, p. 346). This was certainly true with me while I tried to improve the finished product as the project progressed. I was the only project team member and I allowed the scope creep to happen.

This issue brings to mind, a line in the “Gone With the Wind” film (Selznick International Pictures, 1939) where Prissy tells Scarlet, “I don’t know nothin’ ‘bout birthing babies, Miss Scarlett”. Well, I can honestly say, back in the late 1990s, I did not know anything about project management and scope creep. But, if I had known about these topics, I would have been encouraged by the video program for overcoming scope creep with Dr. Van Rekom, Troy Achong, and Vince Budrovich. In the video, it was shared, “scope creep is inevitable”; and requires the project manager to “build in time and money to deal with it ahead of time” (Laureate, n.d.).

Looking Back: There are always lessons to be learned with past projects, whether they were successful or not. For this project, the finished course was plagued by audio difficulties for as long as it was in use, primarily because the audio files were many and very large. When the organization implemented its first Intranet for employees, the course was not compatible with the software application used to manage the Intranet, and so my department reverted back to using the original customer service modules created in PowerPoint. In addition, because the course was created with an authoring tool prior to the implementation of SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model) standards for learning technology (Ostyn, 2003), its components could not be repackaged for delivery through our first learning management system in 2004. In the end, the authoring tool was never used again, and the course created with it, died a relatively quick death.

References:

Allen, M. W. (2009). Who’s creating the e-learning? In Michael Allen’s 2009 E-Learning Annual. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. Retrieved from http://books.google.com/books?id=rP03gi-SIcsC&pg=PA46&lpg=PA46&dq=authoring+tools+in+1980s&source=bl&ots=pvccE-Ibky&sig=cqMD_4VDImpK343YrxR8ZZxInlI&hl=en&sa=X&ei=xl5oUaHCNqi90AGP7oGYAQ&ved=0CEYQ6AEwBQ#v=onepage&q=authoring%20tools%20in%201980s&f=false

FAQS (1999). Multimedia authoring systems faq 2/3. Retrieved from http://www.faqs.org/faqs/multimedia/authoring-systems/part2/

Laureate Education (n. d.). Practitioner voices: overcoming ‘scope creep’. [Video]. Retrieved from http://mym.cdn.laureate-media.com/

Locatis, C., & Al-Nuaim, H. (1999). Interactive technology and authoring tools: a historical review and analysis. Educational Technology Research and Development, 47(3), 63-75. Retrieved from http://sfxhosted.exlibrisgroup.com/waldenu?url_ver=Z39.88-2004&url_ctx_fmt=infofi/fmt:kev:mtx:ctx&ctx_enc=info:ofi/enc:UTF-8&ctx_ver=Z39.88-2004&rfr_id=info:sid/sfxit.com:azlist&sfx.ignore_date_threshold=1&rft.object_id=954925589375&rft.object_portfolio_id=2550000000134356

Ostyn, C. (2003, May). A brief history of SCORM. Retrieved from http://www.uytes.com.tr/eogrenim/Insightsmy.htm

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.

Selznick International Pictures (1939). Gone with the wind, historical romance film. Retrieved from https://www.google.com/#hl=en&gs_rn=9&gs_ri=psy-ab&tok=6CK4y2b2Jd__kgcGWMVslA&pq=gone%20with%20the%20wind%20screen&cp=18&gs_id=3a&xhr=t&q=gone+with+the+wind&es_nrs=true&pf=p&sclient=psy-ab&oq=gone+with+the+wind&gs_l=&pbx=1&bav=on.2,or.r_qf.&bvm=bv.45175338,d.dmQ&fp=35c22db6eacd6bc5&biw=1280&bih=815&bs=1A brief history of SCORM. Retrieved from http://www.uytes.com.tr/eogrenim/Insightsmy.htm

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.

Selznick International Pictures (1939). Gone with the wind, historical romance film. Retrieved from https://www.google.com/#hl=en&gs_rn=9&gs_ri=psy-ab&tok=6CK4y2b2Jd__kgcGWMVslA&pq=gone%20with%20the%20wind%20screen&cp=18&gs_id=3a&xhr=t&q=gone+with+the+wind&es_nrs=true&pf=p&sclient=psy-ab&oq=gone+with+the+wind&gs_l=&pbx=1&bav=on.2,or.r_qf.&bvm=bv.45175338,d.dmQ&fp=35c22db6eacd6bc5&biw=1280&bih=815&bs=1

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10 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Izzi on July 3, 2013 at 11:54 am

    Hi Penny,

    I will be following your blog.

    Izzi

    Reply

  2. Hi Penny,

    I’m looking forward to following your blog throughout Online Instructional Strategies.

    Sally

    Reply

  3. Memories…the 1990’s were a time when many software packages were born and died! It was all still so new and we were all learning/making it up as we went. One of the issues of that time frame that is obvious in hindsight was the lack of standards. While today we still have many packages to choose from we can usually depend on some things working the same way regardless of the actual software package.

    I can identify with wanting things to “be perfect” to the point that sometimes I feel paralyzed while running through various scenarios and become unable to move forward.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Reply

  4. Hi Penny,

    Wow! You went through a lot with that project. Even though it sounds as if the fruits of your labor never materialized, I bet you walked away with many lesson learned and used the knowledge gained to create other types of learning with more success. Your comment about having project management knowledge rang a bell with me too. I love the structure that the PM processes bring to any project and they certainly help to save time and also help identify risks that can ruin a project if left unaddressed.

    I think my experience is the opposite of yours as I am more fluent in project work, but lack alot of ID field experience. So, I glad that they put this course in the MSIDT cirriculum for others to learn and see the benefit of structuring their ID work with the project processes. Anyways, if you like the project processes we studied, look into a membership to the Project Management Institute as they are the foremost authority and have a manual called the PMBOK guide that is sure to help with your ID projects.

    Thank you- James Hermann

    Reply

  5. Penny,

    As I read your entry, I found myself with my hands covering my mouth as I gasped over your experience, especially about having to record at home because of the PA system and ensuring your personal equipment was compatible. Like you, I was unaware of scope creep and can easily see how if you had known about it you could have planned for it. When you talked about your perfectionist side getting the best of you, I was reminded of Budrovich’s (n.d.) statement that “the best is the enemy of the good.” I think this will be one of my downfalls as well since I like everything to be the best and not just good.

    Thanks for sharing your experience!

    Renee

    Reference
    Budrovich, V. (n.d.). Overcoming scope creep. [Video podcast]. Retrieved from mym.cdn.laureate-media.com

    Reply

  6. Posted by Rob Skipper on April 14, 2013 at 4:27 pm

    Penny,

    As I was reading your post, I could feel your pain. At the same time, I cannot believe that nobody came up to you and talked to you to find out the status of the project. I could see myself in your shoes 20+ years ago if I was doing that same project. I hope that now you will be able to recognize when scope creep is starting in on your future projects.

    Rob

    Reply

    • Posted by Penny Baker on April 14, 2013 at 10:18 pm

      Rob,
      I am a whole lot smarter these days and yes, I now can recognize scope creep. Thanks for replying to my blog post.

      Penny

      Reply

  7. Penny,
    I absolutely love this post. Your writing is vivid and unencumbered, which makes me feel that the project is a shared memory, not your experience alone.

    Your post reminded me of an article I read the day before. In Don’t Get Caught Looking (Bickle, 2013) Jason Bickle relates an experience similar (at its core) to yours. Although you wrote about scope creep and he wrote about “creative paralysis,” the upshot is the same: the inability to move a project across the finish line.

    “Too often, our perception is that ‘new tech’ is better, and novel is considered engaging. We spend too much time searching for the perfect course, method, and tools” (Bickle, 2013).

    Even better: “When we have trouble writing an interesting story, we don’t jump online looking for new letters to add to our 26-character alphabet. We practice and work hard to use the letters we have in novel and engaging ways” (Bickle, 2013).

    As I’m typing I realize that the reason I enjoyed your post so much is that it is relatable. I think anyone who has ever worked on a project in any capacity can relate to your experience.

    Thanks, Penny!

    Sally

    References
    Bickle, J. (2013) Don’t get caught looking: Honing the craft of instructional design and development for online learning. Retrieved from http://pubs.royle.com/publication/?i=153868.

    Reply

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