The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan


December 2013


By Adam Johnston

Technology plays a critical role in all organizations today, be it for building better IT infrastructure, providing a friendlier online user experience, or improving internal productivity.

Moreover, as the need for commercial leadership and strategic guidance in new and traditional IT projects grows, so too does the role of the chief information officer (CIO) and chief technology officer (CTO).

When embarking on new IT projects, it is imperative that these officers note how poor project management and planning can cause the size and cost of IT projects to spiral out of control. The phenomenon is known as scope creep.

According to a survey by Robert Half—the world’s first and largest specialized recruitment firm—77 percent of Japan’s CIOs and CTOs worry about scope creep.

Globally, 76 percent of CTOs and CIOs are concerned, with concern in Hong Kong highest, at 82 percent.

In Japan, the IT-related functions most prone to scope creep are system upgrades and deployments (42 percent), application development (40 percent), mobile technology development (24 percent), and IT implementations (23 percent).

Scope creep can place a lot of pressure on IT professionals, since it may be hard to plan properly for a project when objectives and scope keep changing.

If the scope of a project must be changed, it is critical to ensure that the parties involved take part in the rescoping process. In addition, they must ensure there is proper documentation and sign-off on changes before execution.

Make detailed plans
Understand the requirements and get buy-in from key stakeholders right from the start. Identify goals and milestones as well as the roles and responsibilities of team members.

Set realistic deadlines
These must not be just deadlines your management wants to hear. Involve everyone right from the schedule development stage, and exercise discipline to ensure objectives and deadlines are communicated and met.

Keep lines of communication open
If changes to the scope are requested, management should be advised of the impact on the project and asked to approve the changes.

Maintain proper documentation
Good records help indicate where a project starts to blow out of proportion due to scope creep. By helping explain project delays and budget overruns, they can lead to better performance in future projects.

Manage project risks
Act immediately if a project is at risk due to scope creep. Delays cause further damage.

Test deliverables at every stage
Internal and external customer satisfaction obviates the need for major overhauls.

It is essential that staff improve their project management skills and receive timely coaching to help cope with scope creep. Depending on the size of an organization, additional support from interim or contract IT specialists can help reduce the potential for tension between the IT department and their clients, while maintaining productivity during workload peaks and troughs.