You’ve started work on a new project, but what exactly is involved in getting to ‘done’? That question is answered by understanding what’s in scope.
Project scope means the tasks, activities, elements and deliverables that make up the work required to meet the success criteria for the project. When the project scope is delivered and completed, then the project is over.
Project scope management involves three main areas, all of which are covered on our project management fundamentals training course.
Below is a quick overview of the different aspects of scope management.
1. Scope Definition
First, project teams define what is in scope. In scope items are the items that must be delivered in order for the project to be considered successful and complete. Typically, they will be clearly linked to the parameters for delivery. They define what the team will work on and create boundaries for where the edges of the project fall. For example, let’s say your team is developing a new website for clients. The website will be deployed for some of your products but not all of them at this point. When the pilot website launch is complete and client feedback is gathered, the website will be extended to include other products.
In this example, a brief overview of scope items would include:
- Website design and build for first wave products (which would be specified)
- Web hosting including new domain name
- Technical backups
- Security and architecture review and approval
- Marketing literature for clients
- Client instruction manual and ‘how to’ videos
- Client feedback mechanism and results
- Internal communications briefings
And so on.
As you can see, all of the scope items will come from the project requirements, project charter, business case, risk assessment and other documentation that would have been created very early in the project. Review all the available sources of information to make the scope as detailed and comprehensive as possible.
Typically, project managers create a scope statement to document all of this. The project scope statement may include acceptance criteria, assumptions, and constraints as well.
It’s also important to define what is not in scope. Most project managers will be comfortable with the idea of documenting scope exclusions. The list of out-of-scope items makes it very clear to all stakeholders that those items will not be delivered as part of the project. Sometimes excluded items are tabled for inclusion to a subsequent project phase or perhaps as part of another project.
Clear scope definition ensures everyone has a common understanding of what the project will deliver. It’s essential to get the scope definition as good as it can be at the beginning of the project as it has a big impact on the future of the project and the work going forward.
The scope definition helps with planning because you can see the big picture goals and start to break down what’s required into smaller aspects for scheduling.
That brings us on to…
2. Work Decomposition/WBS
The next important aspect of project scope management is the work decomposition. This happens when the project team takes the elements of project scope and breaks them down into smaller chunks. These chunks are called work packages.
A Work Breakdown Structure is commonly used to document and define how those chunks fit together. It is a product-based hierarchical decomposition of all the project deliverables. The WBS can then be used as an input to scheduling work, delegating activities and work packages to team members and as a reference guide to ensure nothing is forgotten.
For many project teams, the WBS becomes the daily ‘go to’ guide for understanding the project. It is used extensively to make sure each deliverable is completed, and to make it easier to follow along, each work package and hierarchy level is numbered.
3. Scope Management
Finally, the scope has to be actively managed. This is normally done by the project manager in conjunction with other colleagues in the team and the project sponsor.
Scope management is the process by which changes to scope are analyzed, understood and planned for.
It’s normal for a project’s scope to change during the project. New requirements might be uncovered. The project sponsor may receive new information from early activities in the project that lead to a slightly different direction for the solution. Technology may move on and you have the opportunity to work in a different way with a more innovative solution.
Scope management allows for all that. You can add items into scope or take them away, as long as the correct process is followed and the changes are approved by the necessary governance groups.
However, it’s also important not to be too easily talked into adding items into scope. The more scope there is to deliver, the longer it takes to complete the project and the more it costs. Sometimes a better choice is to add new items to a ‘Phase 2’ list, complete the current work and then iterate the solution by including more features and those newly identified items later. Think about scope management as being partly the way you manage the scope but also about how the scope is controlled to make sure the project completes on time and delivers something of value… without dragging on forever.
Make sure you have a way of recording ‘good ideas’ that should be considered for project scope at some point in the future. If your project doesn’t deliver these, then another project may want to see the list and incorporate them, or the operational team running with the deliverable after the project closes may take responsibility for getting them done.
Scope management is part of the daily work for a project manager. You should be constantly checking that the scope is actually being delivered and you are moving closer to completing the project. When that’s under control, the rest of the project work will feel much easier!