Scope literally means boundary. In the context of project management, scope encompasses the products, services, and any other deliverables provided by a project at its close. Every project needs to have a well-defined scope that indicates the cost, schedule, deliverables, quality expectations, and other details of the project. In addition, it is vital to define what is not within the project scope to act as a guideline for the project manager. Thus, the success of a project is pegged on a clear understanding of the project scope and the ability to restrain all the aspects of the project within the defined and agreed-upon parameters. Where the project manager does not keep a tab on the scope of the project, many projects fail to deliver results and end up with schedule overruns and a grossly depleted budget.
Project scope management is a competency that any project management professional should possess as it demonstrates their ability to steer projects in the right course to completion and exercise effective scope control in the event of inevitable changes in the project.
To meet a project’s schedule within the required budget and complete the deliverables accordingly, a project manager and his team should manage and monitor all the elements of the project effectively through to the end. Hence the primary goal of project scope management is defining and controlling the project parameters.
That being said, the scope of a project is an outline of the goals and objectives of a project and how they will be met. The scope clearly defines the deliverables, schedule, budget, roles, and other parameters of the project as well as what the project will not deliver. The scope of a project is a matter of interest to all stakeholders in the project including the clients. This is because it provides them with a brief of what the project is about, tasks that should be accomplished, and the process of doing so in a document known as a statement of work. Hence before embarking on the project, all stakeholders ought to be on the same page in terms of the deliverables.
However, even with the most well-defined scope, scope creep is bound to happen. This is why it is vital for the project manager and the project team to exercise diligence in the course of project scope management. Before we look at scope creep, let us first determine what project scope management is.
Project Scope Management
Based on our understanding of the project scope, project scope management then is the process through which all the parameters of a particular project are well-defined and adhered to in the entire course of the project to its completion. The project manager in collaboration with the customer and other stakeholders determines the outputs, outcomes, and benefits of a project and then manages and controls these elements to produce the required results within a stipulated timeline, budget, and other limits.
Scope management is of the essence for any project team as it not only helps to achieve project goals and objectives but is also a vital factor in the success of the project. Project scope management entails working to achieve the highest efficiency level possible by minimizing redundant tasks, keeping the project team on track within their specific roles while still having everyone on the same page as the project progresses. Good scope management will try to eliminate those tasks that do not contribute any meaningful value to the project outcome and strive towards keeping the project within the deadline and on the budget to meet the expectation of the client. For this, a comprehensive scope management plan is required.
The Scope creep pitfall
Among the top documented causes of project failure are:
- Poorly defined project scope
- Poorly managed project scope
- Project managers who lack experience and training
Poor project scope management is bound to yield overrun budgets and timelines resulting in scope creep.
Scope creep literally means additional/unnecessary work or parameters that are neither authorized nor within the budget limits creeping into the project scope. When changes occur in a project without proper management or control, the result is scope creep. Ideally, new requirements and their implications on the project resources should be allowed after being approved by the stakeholders.
Changes in the project can be incorporated and delivered without adjusting the resources allocated to the project and this is usually the most preferred option. Alternatively, the project resources can be altered accordingly to accommodate the changes which require the buy-in of all the parties concerned. Bottom line, there should be prudent control of all the changes in the project and this involves creating a plan for scope creep.
The process of project Scope management
Project scope management entails six essential steps, each with its specific tools and techniques.
Plan scope management
This step involves the development of a scope management plan. This is a document that lays down an outline of how the scope will be defined, developed, monitored, controlled, and validated. It includes:
- How the project scope statement will be prepared
- How the WBS will be created from the scope statement
- How the project scope will be approved and managed
- How the completed project deliverables will be handed over and accepted
With a scope management plan at hand, the second step involves gathering the requirements of the project. This typically includes the deliverables, project timelines, and other expectations and will take the collaboration of all stakeholders to be comprehensive. In other words, this process involves establishing the needs and expectations of key stakeholders.
Requirements are then compiled and a scope statement written. The scope statement defines all the parameters of the project including the project objectives, goals, deliverables, and their features, stakeholders involved in the project, quality expectations, and all others. It also includes what the project does not cover.
The scope statement is a point of reference for all who are involved in the project. The project team uses it as a guideline while the customers use it to measure project success.
Create work breakdown structure (WBS)
A WBS breaks down the project’s deliverables into smaller manageable iterations to help the manager monitor the project progress effectively. The WBS is especially crucial in scheduling project tasks to fit within the time allowed to complete the project.
This process involves getting the approvals for the project deliverables from key stakeholders after getting their feedback and either giving a go-ahead or requesting changes. This typically takes place after every iteration.
This step involves managing and monitoring the progress of the project. Control should be all-inclusive and will encompass monitoring project tasks within each iteration, documentation, feedback and change requests, and scope creep through to the completion of the projection.
Closing the project
Closing the project means wrapping it up, reviewing resource use, assessing the completed deliverables against the requirements, handing over the completed project to the customers who should then accept it as outlined in the scope management plan.