A government of one of the countries in the Gulf region decided to embark on a project of building a multi-campus university in several - at times remote - locations. It was decreed that the said project should take five years to implement and the cost should be around US$200 million. It is not completely clear even after talking to several people actually involved in the endeavour right from the very beginning whether these constraints were just "dropped" from the very top of the government levels or if these were at least a very high-level estimates generated by a qualified party.
The scope of the project, at least at a very high level, was also thought to be well-understood. It included the following requirements:
- Engineering design of all five campuses (both conceptual and final)
- Construction of classrooms and lab training facilities
- Construction of dormitories
- Procurement and installation of all necessary equipment
- Setup of a new IT infrastructure including several data centers
- Design, development and delivery for over100 new courses,
- Setup and customization for a web e-learning portal
The primary contractor has decided to proceed with five different vendors to be responsible for different parts of the scope of the project. As a result, each vendor was requested to provide his version of the solution with respect to their vertical area of expertise. The primary contractor decided to simply aggregate individual scopes provided by the vendors into one united program scope. Consequently no thought was given to the proper integration between different scopes.
Finally, it turned out that the original RFP issued by the customer neglected to mention that the university will be constructed in an open desert with no water, electricity, sewage or roads. And since the primary contractor neglected to verify the existence (or absence, to be more precise) of all these ingredients, the budget and duration for the project mentioned in the original contract were, to say the least, inadequate.
To make the long story short, by the time the contract was signed and all five subcontractors led by the primary contractor arrived on the construction site, there were a lot of complaints, accusations and threats of court action thrown around. Finally, it took an involvement of an external consulting company who had to intervene and to establish, among other things, proper requirements elicitation and analysis techniques in order to create one united program scope and revised budget and timeline resulting directly from it.
The lessons that one is expected to learn from this case study are:
- Scope components and features missed at the very beginning of the scope elicitation process can, and usually do, turn into nasty surprises some time during the execution stage of the project.
- Scheduling and budgeting for the project without a good understanding of the scope of work is a futile effort
- And finally, a project manager should not under any circumstances ignore the interdependencies of the various scope components.
This is an excerpt from my new book “Project Scope Management: A Practical Guide to Requirements for Engineering, Product, Construction, IT and Enterprise Projects” that is being published by CRC Press The book should soon be available on Amazon.
About the Author
Jamal Moustafaev, MBA, PMP – president and founder of Thinktank Consulting is an internationally acclaimed expert and speaker in the areas of project/portfolio management, scope definition, process improvement and corporate training. Jamal Moustafaev has done work for private-sector companies and government organizations in Canada, US, Asia, Europe and Middle East. Read Jamal’s Blog @ www.thinktankconsulting.ca
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Jamal is an author of two very popular books: Delivering Exceptional Project Results: A Practical Guide to Project Selection, Scoping, Estimation and Management and Project Scope Management: A Practical Guide to Requirements for Engineering, Product, Construction, IT and Enterprise Projects.