What is Project Scope Management and Why It's Important

What is Project Scope Management and Why It’s Important?

Last updated on 14th Oct 2020, Artciles, Blog

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                  Part of being a successful project manager means understanding exactly what is needed to achieve the objectives in a project and mapping out how to get there. For every project, no matter the size or complexity, it is the responsibility of the project manager to ensure it stays on track the entire time. The simplest way to do so is to define the scope of the project.

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What is a Project Scope?

Developing a project scope is the initial phase of the project planning process. It typically involves drawing up a list of everything needed to create the framework of the project. This can include:

  • Project goals
  • Deliverables
  • Features
  • Functions
  • Tasks
  • Deadlines
  • Costs

The statement of what the project objectives are, what they are expected to produce, any limitations, dependencies and assumptions, are all factors that form the project scope. Once the project is accepted, scope management is the first step in planning its success.

Project Scope Management :

Scope management ensures a project’s scope is accurately defined and mapped and costs necessary to complete the project. This is primarily concerned with what is and is not part of the scope. The three processes involved in project scope management are:

  • Planning: This includes capturing and defining the work that needs to be done
  • Controlling: This step focuses on scope creep, documenting, tracking and approving/disapproving of changes
  • Closing: This includes an audit of the project deliverables and assessing the outcomes of the original plan

Another critical component for scope management involves defining the scope in a statement. Once the processes are understood, a document must be drawn up to delineate the project.

Scope Statement :

Creating an accurate document that outlines the goals, deadlines and relationships that shape the project is called the scope statement. Including specific elements within this document will help build an effective scope statement that will minimize the risk of change orders and disruptions, while staying on budget. The following are some must-haves in the scope statement:

Business CaseWhy the project is required and what benefits are expected to be delivered.

Project DescriptionAn overview of the project’s final deliverable.

Success Criteria- The key components that will constitute a successful project as pre-agreed upon with the clients and stakeholders.

LimitationsAny resources or technology related issue that may limit the project.

AssumptionsAny assumptions that have been made and will affect the final outcome.

Once a project manager has defined these factors within the framework of a project, the scope will be much easier to manage. Staying on top of project scope is critical to success and losing track is one of the biggest mistakes a project manager can make on a job.

Why is Project Scope Important?

Managing the expectations of clients and stakeholders can be one of the most difficult tasks a project manager can face. With a distinct scope, it helps everyone to stay on the same page throughout the life cycle of the project. A well-defined scope can help to avoid common problems like:

  • Requirements that constantly change
  • Requirements that need a rethink mid-project
  • The final outcome not being what the client expected
  • The budget overrunning
  • The project is way behind schedule

Effective scope management can help to avoid some of these issues by clearly defining and communicating the scope to all parties involved in the project. Project scope helps to distinguish what is and is not involved in the project and controls what is allowed or removed as it is executed. Scope management establishes control factors, that can be used to address elements that result in changes during the lifecycle of the project.

Project scope is critical because without it project managers would have no clue what time, cost or labor was involved in a project. It forms the basis for every decision a project manager will make on a job and when it needs to change, proper communication will ensure success every step of the way.

Project scope management process

project-scope-management

Let’s discuss the six process involved in accurately identifying the project scope management:

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1. Planning scope management

In the first process in project scope management, you create a scope plan document that you can refer to in the later stages. The document mainly helps in defining, managing, validating, and controlling the project’s scope.

It includes:

  • Detailed project scope statement
  • Breakdown of all the project requirements
  • Expected project deliverables
  • Change control process

The document doesn’t have to be very detailed, it just has to fit the purpose. You can also use a previous project’s scope management plan as a reference for this.

2. Collecting requirements

The next step is to workout stakeholder requirements and expectations. You will be required to document all the project requirements, expectations, budgets, and deliverables through interviews, surveys, and focus groups.

This is a rather important step because more often than not, stakeholders can have unrealistic requirements or expectations and the project managers would be required to step in to find a solution that is acceptable by everyone from avoiding project delays.

At the end of the collection requirements stage, you should have the following:

  • Functional as well as non-functional requirements
  • Stakeholder requirements
  • Business requirements
  • Support and training requirements
  • Project requirements

3. Defining the scope

At this step, you need to turn your requirements into a well-detailed description of the service or product that you are trying to deliver through the project. You will then have a project scope statement that you can then refer to throughout your project.

While it is important to list what is in the scope of the project, it is just as important to note down what is out of the project scope. Any kind of inclusions to the scope would then have to go through the entire change control process to ensure the team is only working on things that they are supposed to work on.

With a defined scope, you get a reference point for your project team and anyone else involved. In case there is something that is not involved in the scope, it doesn’t need to be completed by the team.

4. Making a work breakdown structure

A work breakdown structure (WBS) is a document that breaks down all the work which needs to be done in the project and then assigns all the tasks to the team members. It lists the deliverables that need to be completed and their respective deadlines as well.

You can use project management software for this step of the process to assign and prioritize tasks which will make it easier to track the entire progress of the project and avoid any unnecessary bottlenecks.

5. Validating scope

In this step, the scope and deliverables that you have recorded need to be sent to project executives and stakeholders to get the necessary approvals. Scope validation needs to be done before starting the project to ensure that if something goes wrong then it is easy to find where it went wrong.

6. Controlling scope

Project managers need to ensure that as the project begins, it always stays within the defined scope. In case there are some things that need to change, then the proper change control process should be followed.

How vital is Scope Management for Project Managers?

I will start with an example straight out of our daily lives. 

How many of you buy groceries and then come back only to find that you’ve missed out on some items you really needed, and actually bought some items that you already had in stock? I’m sure most hands are raised up at the moment! 

You end up spending more money on unnecessary things, which blows up your budget. This is what happens when you do not scope the project. If you had made a list of all things you wanted and set out a budget before heading out to a grocery store then you could have saved the extra dollars and time. 

Moving on to the importance of scope management for project managers, it is a fact that some disruptions (scope creep) always spring up in the course of the project execution. Scope creep is a matter of grave concern for project managers. 

However, by managing the scope of the project, the project manager can document all resources that are required to accomplish the project goals and avoid or minimize the possibility of scope creep. 

A well-defined project scope can help project managers avoid problems like: 

  • Constantly changing requirements
  • Overspending that leads to exceeding the allocated budget
  • Delays, time wastage, and failure to meet deadlines consistently 

Poorly managed scope can hamper your project growth severely.  This process helps project managers in determining and regulating what is a part of the project and what isn’t. 

Without it, project managers would fail to make an accurate account of the amount of time, money, and human resources involved in a project. 

5 Tips for an effective project scope management. 

  • Involve the entire team in the process of scoping the project 
  • Involve all the stakeholders during the requirement gathering phase 
  • Confirm the deliverables frequently with the customer to avoid any last minute change 
  • Try to Include all the deliverables in the WBS 
  • being careful about the changes that were not part of the original scope and gold platting. 
  • Ensure that the project scope goes through Change Control process. 

Conclusion: 

Scope management seems to be easier. But remember, poor project scope management could lead to project failure. Many times, project managers are caught by scope creep and realize the impact only at the end of the project when it’s already too late. ‘Back in 1994 a whopping 80% of 160 IS professionals surveyed by Computerworld said scope creep “always” or “frequently” occurs, while only 20% said it seldom happened.  

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The job of the successful project manager is to ensure that the project has a clear scope. Project manager should also make sure that the project is in line with the scope and does not encourage the scope creep or gold plating. He should continuously check on the progress of the project.

Project management training would help to understand much more about project scope management. It’s much easier to manage the scope of your project in several proven ways: using effective customer client communication throughout the process, staying within the limits of your team, properly documenting important events in the development process and staying within the guidelines provided are all great ways to manage your scope effectively. Proper scope management greatly improves your team’s ability to stay within budget and use time effectively. Above all, the most important aspect of the process is coming up with an end result that satisfies the customer. 

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