Project Practitioners > Seeing Clearly with Scope

Seeing Clearly with Scope

By Jerry Perone

Upon starting a recent project, my team and our clients gathered for discussion. We wanted to talk about this new project and collaborate about scope. For the clients, we were simply having our first project kickoff meeting. For me, this was the most valuable time of project initiation. As they expressed their wants and needs, their expectations for the project, I was able to gather facts and see the scope. Once my team and I returned from our meeting, we were able to discuss in depth the needs of the client and define our scope.

It's a fact! Without defining project scope or implementing a scope management process, projects almost certainly will fail. I have never managed a project where a change in scope created greater project success. When we change project scope, time and cost are affected, quality can suffer, and risk increases… break out the Tums!

If I'm going to risk anything, I want improved quality for the client. It is imperative that my customers see benefits if the team is implementing project changes. Sometimes, this means I might have to issue a kind "that might not work so well" to my client. But, it's for the good of the project. Scope gives us all some boundaries, a fence to play in so we don't get run over by a car.

Keeping scope in place is important. The more planning we do for the project, the less likely scope will change. Many times, scope doesn't change. It's simply that client, and/or team, expectations did not map to the understood truth about the project and deliverables. In order to limit the need to change scope, I wanted to provide my top five recommendations.

  1. Develop a close relationship with the client. Learning and understanding your client will allow you to take into account their wants and needs, closely. That way, when you are developing your project plan and defining scope, you will communicate with them better.

  2. Listen closely to the needs of your client. As the project manager and subject matter expert, they will rely on you to interpret their needs and help them see the true scope of the project. Often, individuals don't understand the scope of an effort or what is involved. It's our job to help.

  3. Develop a clear project plan with clearly defined objectives. This means thinking about the project at both the macro and micro levels. After creating a vision for the project, develop a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS). The WBS should clearly and specifically identify deliverables. Defining the project by creating the WBS will provide boundaries for the project manager, team members, and clients. Preventing scope creep is for the clients benefit. By creating boundaries, project managers help ensure project success.

  4. Create a structured change management plan. A change management plan should include: change identification and classification processes, a change submittal process, a change request analysis process, a change decision process, decision-making thresholds and change decision communication processes.

  5. Know that change in project scope is inevitable. When scope changes, we will have two choices. We can either accept the change and help it along or become miserable by trying too hard to fix or prevent the change. If we help ensure a smooth ride through the changes of scope, our projects will more likely succeed.

There are many more tips and recommendations for managing scope. Please blog in with any scope management secrets that you would like to share or questions. It's the creation and careful management of scope that helps us see clearly the necessary boundaries that ensure successful project completion, satisfaction for our clients, and the customers our clients serve.

Thanks for stopping by,
Jerry Perone

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