Mistakes: Lack of Defined Scope (Part II)

30 Dec

Still working on the report problem, but it’s starting to take on a finishable shape.  As nerve-wracking as deadlines are by definition, the good thing about setting one is the way they force your mind to focus on essentials.  This project will get done, and then I’ll be moving on to another thing or two.

The big thing I’ve discovered (which, again, shouldn’t be a surprise) is the extent to which both the usefulness and the pleasure of a project like this is curtailed when your clients are not as attached to the project’s success as you are.  In this case, it was an obvious hazard because I volunteered the project for my own experience and for free.  Usually when I’ve worked for free the client is either 1.) psyched and extremely cooperative (yea!), or 2.) apathetic, which means more work but not a real problem.  But I did not realize that in this case, the client’s decisions have created a real obstacle to completion because there are major sources of data I had to discount because halfway through the project I was not allowed access to them.  The final report is probably going to be of some use to the client: it provides more information than they had at the beginning.  But, really, being able to say “This is what 60% of your clientele is doing” doesn’t tell you  anything that’s worth building a strategy on.  My inner statistician is not happy.

So, my evolving solution to this dilemma is focus on 1.) what will be useful to the client, and 2.) what will be useful to my portfolio.  In that order, because the report is “due” before the portfolio.  To the client, the most useful parts of the report are:

  1. A list of viewers with as much contact information as I could find, and suggestions for ways to supplement that list, and
  2. A set of alternative layouts for the website.

My own portfolio needs wireframes, site maps, and task flows: those which are finished in time for the report will be going in there, too.

Next time, I’ll have to say at the beginning, “These are the kinds of information I’m going to need in order to successfully complete this report.  I understand that you might have concerns about sharing your database with a contractor, and it is perfectly fine if you would prefer to copy and send that information or to create a temporary passcode so you can track my activity.  But without that information, I’m afraid it’s not possible to provide the analysis you’re looking for.”  Etc.


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