– by Randy Wagner

“Scope Bleed” – It’s the Work That Never Gets Done. Learn How to Prevent It.

Much worry and process is wrapped around the scope creep that happens as requirements evolve during the development and maintenance of policy administration systems (PAS). However, budgets and timelines are finite, and we lose low-impact defects along the way to make room for more urgent items. That loss is what I call Scope Bleed. It’s the work that never gets done. There are a number of ways to limit that bleed and keep items in scope or, better yet, resolve them.

How Do You Reduce a Bloated Backlog of Low Priority Defects and Change Requests that Add Costs to the Business?

Scope bleed is a form of death by a thousand cuts. Low priority defects and change requests that business would like to see materialize, often age out of usefulness and the business bears the cost of manual workarounds.

Nearly every organization has defects or changes that linger, often for years, bloating the backlog. Sprint grooming pushes items out that can’t be merged into other, more immediate changes. Project teams can’t complete everything. That bleed becomes a financial burden on the business side. The system is less efficient than it could be. The project budget is spared but the cost to business is rarely quantified.

None of the clients I have seen actually spend the time to calculate how often they would have to do the work around, but it could be dozens of times a day, every day. Maybe it’s only a second but eventually, the productivity cost outweighs the cost of just fixing it. However, there are some practices that can help solve some of the bleed.

Option One – Fix the Defect When it’s Found and Reduce Overall Time and Effort Spent by All Parties

The first and easiest answer is to fix defects when they are found. Project teams, under constant pressure, or even vendor guidance, can let low-level defects slip until the stabilization phase. At that point, it’s often so long after the initial defect was found that a developer has to “re-learn” what they or another did to understand and fix the problem. The cost can be double the initial effort to fix.

Option Two – Spend that Extra Time Up Front During Requirements to Catch the Edge Policies for Testing

Second, a little extra thought during requirements gathering can help. Too frequently, an acceptance meeting highlights some aspect of the system that was not considered during the business analysis task. That’s not to say the BA didn’t do their job. There are detailed requirements in every implementation where “we don’t know what we don’t know” until they jump up and bite us. On the QA side, one way of catching these scenarios is to start with a list of the common policies and the edge policies that we can use to test. That tactic can be used right out of the gate. You’ll never catch all of them, but you may catch more that won’t later require rework from BAs, Dev, and QA. A quick review of the relevant functionality against those policies won’t take long and it will pay dividends.

Option Three – Take the Time to Quantify the Cost of the Work vs the Cost of the Work Around

The third option is to spend the time to quantify the cost. Cost = work around time x frequency of occurrence x average labor cost. That analysis is never popular, but it might be a choice that the business side makes as a defensive tactic to stay as efficient as possible.

Take the Time to Prevent and Clear Scope Bleed and Save the Business Time and Money

There are certainly other ways of resolving defects before they fade into obscurity. Every project team is full of intellect and creativity, so imagination is the only true limitation. Preventing or clearing the scope bleed saves the business time and money. It reduces the workload of the project team in the long run and makes the end customer happy.


Randy Wagner is Director of Quality Assurance for CastleBay Consulting. He has 20 years of consulting experience across private and public sectors, Guidewire InsuranceSuite, InsuranceNow, and Duck Creek, with specializations in quality assurance, configuration management, and automation.