# Scope Creep

1. Apr 6, 2006

### Ivan Seeking

Staff Emeritus
I had never heard the expression before but what a great way to say it! Most of my work is tied to R&D, which makes scope creep a common problem for me. We start a project with goals A-F, but over the course of several months or more the customer begins to understand more clearly what is desired, and the wheels keep turning upstairs, and we keep getting new insights, and pretty soon we have implicitly or explicitly added goals G-M. But of course, my bid only covered A-F. The customer typically says or thinks something like, "well obviously we needed to do this", to which I respond [more or less] "then obviously it should has been in the bid request". And of course the next thing is, "but we are already over budget [and now we realize that we have to do this]"....

2. Apr 6, 2006

### Staff: Mentor

Yep. Constant problem in the construction industry. With construction, you often don't know what a project will cost until you design it and sometimes you don't know how much it will cost to design it until you know how you are going to design it. But the clients want as much up-front pricing as they can get.

3. Apr 6, 2006

### brewnog

I've found this lately. I've been working on a project providing engineering support to a quality investigation. We defined all the issues to cover (let's say A to F) at the first meeting, but by the time we'd covered A to E, it was clear that A, B, C and D weren't even relevant in the first place, but G, H and I were. It's gone on for ages now, and we're looking at things now we hadn't even been aware of to begin with.

The route you need to take in these projects only becomes clear once you've taken it, at which point it becomes the obvious route to have taken.

4. Apr 6, 2006

### FredGarvin

Geeze Ivan...have you been watching me at work? That is exactly half of what I deal with. The other half is that "Oh...BTW..we're out of budget, there are no more man hours left and you're 6 weeks behind already."

R&D is a beautiful place. I would never trade for anything else.

"Scope Creep". I like that. We just call it being short sighted.

5. Apr 6, 2006

### Staff: Mentor

That was a big problem with the construction of 2nd generation nuclear plants. Apparently the construction licenses were approved and construction began when as little as 5% of the plant was designed!

Then along came design modifications, and sometimes contruction caught up and surpassed the design! So millions of dollars of construction would have to be ripped out and redone. That is how several nuclear plants went from several $100 million to several$billion. Well that and delays due to intervention and legal challenges. The interest on some plants was perhaps around 20% of the final cost, and legal fees another 20-30+%.

Hence, many orders were simply cancelled.

What about scope modification or redirection?!

6. Apr 6, 2006

### Ivan Seeking

Staff Emeritus
Hey, I heard it from, not an engineering manager, but a company manager! Since when do company managers understand anything about my life???

Don't tamper with success.

7. Apr 7, 2006

### brewnog

Still, it keeps us in a job.

2 more weeks and I'm out of R&D and into (gasp) manufacturing for a few months! Either I'm supposed to become a more well-rounded engineer by experiencing having to deal with my current products, or I'm just being punished for a while!

8. Apr 7, 2006

### Staff: Mentor

A related term is "creeping elegance", but the source of those changes is generally within the design team itself. Sometimes the additions are good, but almost always they mess up your schedule estimates.

We used to have a program here at my work called the "AE Rotation". That's where every 6 months or so one of us engineers from R&D got assigned to the Applications Engineering department. Lots of time on the phones with customers, and lots of time spent debugging customer problems. I guess I was more well-rounded by the end of my stint, but that was a pretty difficult assignment!

9. Apr 7, 2006

### FredGarvin

As much as I hate the manufacturing environment, I have to admit that it was time well spent. You will definitely benefit from being close to the line and dealing with the guys that have to assemble things and make them work. I think every engineer that will have anything to do with design should do that. You will have the opportunity to learn a lot. Make friends with the mechanics as soon as you can.

10. Apr 7, 2006

### brewnog

Yeah, I'm converted anyway. We don't do nearly enough design for manufacture at our place, this is exactly why I want to have a spell with the guys who actually put my crap together. Then off to applications; to have a spell with the guys who have to install my crap, sales; to have a spell with the guys who have to get rid of it, and then service; to have a spell with the guys who sort it out when it all goes horribly wrong!

The joys of rotations. Put me back in the development office ASAP please!

11. Apr 7, 2006

### Staff: Mentor

I see that as being important, even critical to becoming a really good engineer.

How one makes a product affects its performance, and the designers (engineers) need to know how something is made, so they can better understand its performance, particularly when the product fails to perform as intended.

This is on top of knowing the environment in which a product performs, and often, this is another area overlooked.

Lo and behold, everyone (engineers, manufacturers and customers) is surprised when a product doesn't work as expected, despite the testing and analyses.

12. Apr 8, 2006

### Ivan Seeking

Staff Emeritus
So as it turns out, the customer is complaining that a system specifically designed to run only one [chemical] batch process at a time, wouldn't run two at a time.

There are probably about a gazillion safeties intended to prevent exactly that situation.

What they really mean is that six months after commissioning the system they realized that they never thought of something, so this was declared to be a glitch. :rofl:

13. Apr 8, 2006

### FredGarvin

I am telling you, I am getting sick of seeing crap like this from idiots that can't take the time to figure out what they need. I have always wanted to say the aged old response: "The lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine."

Ivan, just to collect data for a little pet theory of mine, how many of the folks that represent your customer are actively practicing engineers, not MBA's or managerial types?

14. Apr 8, 2006

### Ivan Seeking

Staff Emeritus
If they had any engineers working on this system they wouldn't need me...which has always been a bit perplexing. They have plenty of engineers, but apparently they are all working in another division and are not involved with this system. All of the people that I deal with are either managers, process operators, or chemists.

15. Apr 8, 2006

### Staff: Mentor

One my colleagues is an engineer who works with physicists. He had to tell them to stay out of the engineering and just stick to physics, and he'll do the engineering. :rofl:

16. Apr 8, 2006

### Ivan Seeking

Staff Emeritus
Well, engineers all think they're physicists, so fair is fair.

17. Apr 8, 2006

### i_wish_i_was_smart

i work for a civil contracting company....when i'm not in school, and the owners never make up there minds, its freaking unbelievable, i was working on cad this one summer, i had to redo 1 drawing 20 times in one day, a drawing which i was told was "perfect" the first time around, they just needed this differently now, and that and change it BACK and do that, and now its 5 minutes before quitting time and i need the drawing which will take 5 hours to do on my desk when i get back tomorrow and while you're working i'll be enjoying my hot dinner and quality time at the gym in front of the tv or what now..... its so damn frustrationg makes me wanna stay in school forever

18. Apr 13, 2006

### civil_dude

You wanna know real fun, when a lawyer starts playing engineer......