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6 common traps to avoid during the design phase

May 20, 2021 | Admin, Advisory Services, Implementation Services

When facing a digital transformation, customers lean on a great consultant to handle project requirements with knowledge, expertise, and solutioning skills. But it’s not without its challenges. Shifts in objectives, a change in stakeholders, and a communication breakdown are often to blame for stalling out a project. 

In addition, did you know 44 percent of projects fail due to a lack of alignment between business and project objectives? And 80 percent of organizations report they spend at least half their time doing reworks. Unanticipated delays and soaring costs can be avoided when you plan for possible changes and avoid common traps that torpedo the design phase of a project. 

Before you start your next project, be sure to avoid these six common traps that often occur during the design phase. 


1. Too much documentation and verbiage

Don’t boil the ocean! Cumbersome documents allow for more potential missteps or inaccuracies. The key is quality, not quantity. Documenting keeps everyone on the same page and creates fewer misunderstandings in what is going to be built. Visuals are your friend. Use workflows and charts depicting what will be built. It saves on time and money and improves requirements traceability


2. Scope creep 

Don’t include things that are not in the estimate without express change orders stating so. Don’t lose sight of the goal and ROI objectives. It’s okay to be flexible, but you need to be cognizant of the impact to schedule and budget as well as deviation from previously agreed to requirements. 

In the design phase, you are typically more focused on the expected outcomes–what do you want this to do, and what high-level approach is required to get there. This is not the place to get stuck in every detail of the feature, but it should be detailed enough to uncover deviation from the scope. This is the best time to uncover any major change orders and either right-size budget/time estimates if necessary or re-prioritize and look at options that correctly get you to the end result. 

The key is to avoid ambiguity. Understand that changes may come and make sure the design has the appropriate assumptions, constraints, dependencies, and risks that allow for that change to be transparent down the line, should it arise. The scope keeps the deliverables clear and realistic, makes planning easier


3. Fail to consult

 Don’t be an order taker. Use your knowledge and experience to coach and advise your client. It’s okay to say no, but important to explain why and what alternatives there are. This creates a trusted relationship and alignment. 


4. Don’t communicate to the appropriate level of your audience

Don’t assume people understand what you mean. Put out a glossary of terms to agree on subjective terminology or acronyms. This helps to avoid misunderstandings that can have drastic effects. Use a simple approval process. For example, let’s say I didn’t realize the client had the wrong understanding of the license model when modifying a requirement, and what was built could not be used without substantial license cost. An approval process forcing a hard look at the requirement modification would have exposed that issue.


5. Don’t organize project artifacts

Keep them all in one place and use naming conventions and folder structures to keep the appropriate documentation together and easy to find. Avoid misplaced or missing documents and make sure you have version history and a process to know when and what changed in a document and keep all others in the loop – avoid costly rework, missing requirements, and extra time sorting through unnecessary or invalid docs.


6. Requirements perspective not inclusive of all users roles

Don’t look at them from one lens or as independent features. Include elements of interoperability, dependency, interaction diagrams, integration diagrams, design for all types of users including admin interfaces. This improves quality, simplifies code, lessons, regression, and UAT cycles, reducing cost and improving the deliverables.


A thoughtful, well-prepared design will get your project on the right track. Avoiding traps with streamlined communication pathways, and a focus on the outcome will keep it moving forward. 




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