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Why data insight projects fail and how to succeed – Part 3

Authors
Andrew Bradley
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In this 4-part blog series, we look at some of the common reasons data projects fail and the key underlying solutions that can help businesses improve project success rates. Part 1 dealt with outcome misalignment and the problems of a project failing to align with business strategy. Part 2 dealt with estimates and what problems they can cause. This time we look at why a project scope is so important.

Scope of the project – the devil is in the detail

In order to deliver a solution that everyone understands and is happy with post project completion, a clearly understood project scope is essential. This details what you are and are not going to deliver.

Project teams encounter challenges frequently during projects with additional requirements creeping in that were outside the initial scope. Through the previously mentioned outcome alignment and relevant stakeholder engagement during the scoping process, the risk of unforeseen “new requirements” (that either cause your project to run over time or budget) can be significantly reduced. This is not to say that the project cannot be agile to change but having a laser-focus on the outcomes and scope provides a solid foundation to effectively control such change and manage stakeholder expectations.

Scope of the project

This process is often rushed in a bid to see projects kicked off faster, but without a well-defined scope there is a risk the development team may not have the full picture of what needs to be delivered and stakeholders may have mis-aligned expectations as to what is in the plan.

When considering how to scope a data insight project, there are some key considerations that will allow for effective planning:

Inputs

Data: clarity on WHAT information is needed. This element needs to consider whether or not the requirement information currently exists; if it does, where is it? If it does not, how can it be obtained?

Quality: the delivered solutions will only be as accurate as the data feeding them. It is important to understand within the scoping exercise how that data quality can be managed.

Knowledge: there are a large number of people who can manipulate and utilise data. The value in your business is those that can appreciate the CONTEXT of the data. These are key stakeholders who can explain the ‘why?’ and ensure the final output is relevant.

Outputs

Delivery: some projects will require a single output produced at a particular point in time, others will benefit from outputs delivered at regular intervals to inform the users. The method of delivery to those users is also important – do they have to retrieve the information from a location or will it be delivered to them via email for example.

Audience: it is important to consider two things with the audience – knowledge of the data and the position held in the business. More senior stakeholders will require strategic information to make decisions, service teams will require operational level data to be able to perform their day jobs. It is also important that enough information is provided. Some consumers will have a more intimate knowledge of the data so will not require as much explanation, but others may need additional detail for clarity and confidence in making decisions.

Intended use: If the purpose of the development is to be able to forecast future activity, it is not enough to provide the audience with just the current position; there is a need for historic data to map trends and start to look at how that may be influenced moving forward. Conversely, if the purpose is to performance manage a member of staff, only providing a forecast of potential future performance is not adequate to be able to analyse historic activity.

By aligning your outcomes at the very beginning, this should help inform the scope of the project, as there will already be a level of agreement on what the project needs to help the business achieve.

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Risk

Without a full project scope, delivery may not resemble what everybody expected. This could be the result of a 3rd party not having the full project requirements, or an internal stakeholder expecting something different than what was planned. Mitigate this risk by producing a full and detailed scope of your project.

Reward

Fully detailed project scopes keep everyone on the same page, specifically your project team and internal stakeholders, as well as any 3rd parties involved in your project. Scoping provides an element of project transparency that ensures you’ll be able to better manage expectations.

Project structure and process, especially in the beginning phases of a project are critical to set the tone for what is to come, which is why our team of experts have developed a project framework with criteria and process at each stage to support delivery of successful projects. Find out more about the Fusion framework here.

In part 4 of this series, we’ll be covering the all-important areas of time, resource and people on your project.

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Authors
Andrew Bradley
Email