Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Dreaded Scope Creep

Part of the fun of genealogy is that you’re never really done – there’s always one more person to find, or just a little better understanding to be had of people or history.  Fun for a genealogist, but a problem for project managers.

The object of my genealogy project is to record and communicate the research I’ve done.  That means I have to stop the research at some point and prepare the information to be shared.  For this project, the end of the research was scheduled for the end of August, and I believed I’d passed Gate 3 (see my previous post).  But things are never that cut & dried.  Since I’ve started in to the next set of tasks to produce the genealogy books, a few things came up.  Consider the following:

My great-grandfather, Albert RICHARD.  I can’t find any information on his family.  In reviewing his marriage certificate, census reports, birth and death records of his wife and children, and his own death certificate I once again noticed all sorts of different spellings of his last name – RICHARD, RICHARDS, RICHERT, REICHART, and so on.  I do know he was born in Chicago in 1860, and his parents were born in Germany.  The temptation is, of course, to do just a little more research to find his parents.  How long can a little more research on different spellings of his surname take?

And then there’s Albert’s wife, Helen FICHTER.  I’ve just found some research done by another genealogist whose research includes my FICHTERs.  And he has information about the family going back to the 1600’s!  But I need to confirm names, dates and sources, and add this information into my database.

So what do I do?  The little bit of extra research for RICHARD, and the incorporation of the new FICHTER information probably won’t take a lot of time.  (Famous last words…) But it will take time away from my remaining work. 

This is scope creep – those little (and sometimes not so little) extra tasks that come up.  As a genealogist, of course the answer is to do the additional research – it’s fun, it’s exciting, it’ll add value to the genealogy project.  As a project manager, though, the little bits of extra unplanned work can add up and lay waste to the schedule. 

The first thing to do is to acknowledge the extra work; write it down.  Next, take a look at what’s involved, and what the affect will be on the rest of the project.  And what the impact will be if the work is not done.  This is impact analysis. 

More often than not in a project, there is a compromise: some additional work is done, some is deferred to another time, and some may be dropped altogether.  In my case, my impact analysis (the details of which I’ll spare you), I opted for compromise.  For Albert, I decided to spend an additional 2 days looking for his family.  If nothing was found (and sadly nothing was), additional research is left to another time.  I’ll include a note dealing with alternate spellings in the genealogy book, and this research will continue after the books are out.  For Helen and her newly-discovered ancestors, I’ve decided to include the new ancestors in my database, and the source of the new information included with the other genealogist credited.  Any additional verification I’ll leave until the genealogy books are completed and sent out. 

So, I’m now back on track.  At least until a little more scope creeps in.