What Can Go Wrong During the Inception Phase
It is my contention that most projects fail during the Inception phase, but the participants fail to recognize it. The project plods along until the risks that were not addressed during Inception come back to haunt everyone. Here are some examples of Inception phase problems:
One common failure is establishing a formal contract for the complete design, development, and delivery of the system before the goals of the Inception phase have been achieved. As noted in Chapter 3, "Getting Started: Request for Proposals (RFPs), Proposals, and Contracts," how can you determine a reasonable bid before you know the project's important requirements and risks? Unfortunately, in an outsourcing situation, the decision to release a Request for Proposal (RFP) for a project from start to finish has already been made, and you are expected to submit a bid. These projects can (and do!) still succeed, but a constant focus on scope is mandatory.
Failure to set expectations. Most sources of difficulty in client relationships are due to poorly set expectations. This is a manifestation of poor communication between client and contractor. Always keep your client informed of project status, risks, concerns, and goals. If you have to deliver bad news to your customer, deliver it as soon as possible. Try to supply the customer with alternatives for solving the problem as well.
Failure to obtain stakeholder concurrence on requirements. The project's goal is to satisfy the client's needs. This cannot be accomplished without the client's concurrence that the proper set of requirements have been identified and established. Without obtaining this concurrence, progress proceeds rapidly but unravels as the client recognizes that the desired functionality has not been implemented. By that time, it is much more diffi-cult to recover. Take the time to work with the customer. See Chapter 9 for suggestions in this area.
Failure to identify and manage project risks. Chapter 8 covers some methods of identifying and tracking risks.