Where’s the vision
Experience suggests that a project without a vision is like a rudderless ship. A clear vision from the start is essential to the success of a project. It is like the corporate mission statement. It is not the project objectives (objectives are generally SMART – you shouldn’t be looking to measure the vision), rather an articulation of how the end goal of the project will touch the lives of it’s ultimate recipients; the customer or the user. What the project will do for them (not the business, not for IT, but the customer, consumer or user).
The first step then is to get the vision agreed on. Luke Hohmann’s innovation games such as product in a box are a good way of distilling the vision. Next step is to keep it live and visible. Don’t just have it buried away in the project Wiki, but have it stuck on the walls where the team work. And then use it as a frame of reference when those difficult questions arise around scope and priorities.
Why is this important? (Via Leisa Reichelt), Peter Merholz shows how Google started out with a vision for their calendar.
And what it meant for the product when it went to market…
Google didn’t start with a bunch of features of functionality (“Drop dead simple to get information into the calendar” – that’s hardly a requirement any BA would be proud of), but by having this vision, a statement of what the product would mean to the end user, and referrring back to it when scope or design decisions had to be made, they ensured that the end product delivered real quantifiable value.