Best Practices for Scope Management

January 1, 2014 Marcus Varner

The knowledge area of Scope Management is all about making sure that the project includes only the work required to complete the project successfully. To be effective at scope management, you must learn to control what is and what is not in the scope of the project. Below are some of the best practices for successful scope management.

1. Collect Project Requirements
2. Define the Scope
3. Create a Work Breakdown Structure
4. Verify the Scope and Get Feedback
5. Monitor and Control the Scope

Collect Project Requirements

The ability to define and then effectively control the scope of a project depends a lot on the goals and requirements of the project. For this reason, you need to gather the necessary information up front, before you ever start the project. By clearly understanding the needs of the stakeholders and the capabilities and constraints of your resources, you have a higher chance to succeed.

The easiest way to collect the project requirements is to perform interviews with the key stakeholders. Ask questions about their views of the finished product, the deliverables they expect to receive, and the schedule of the project. Once you have the information you need, you may want to create a Scope Management Plan to define the processes that will be followed in defining scope, documenting scope, verifying and accepting scope, and managing change requests.

Define the Scope

The scope of a project typically consists of a set of deliverables, an assigned budget, and an expected closure time. The previously collected project requirements will help you define the scope. Be sure to write down exactly what the project will entail and what it will not entail. Any amount of variation in the scope of the project can affect the project schedule, budget, and ultimately the success of the project. Getting a clear and concise definition of the scope will help you manage changes as they occur. With a clear scope definition, you can simply ask the question, "Does this change fall within the scope of the project?" If the answer is yes, then vet and approve the change. If the answer is no, then put a pin it and save it for another time or project.

Create a Work Breakdown Schedule

work breakdown structureA work breakdown structure or WBS is a graphical representation of the hierarchy of the project. The WBS forces the project team to think through all levels of the project and identify the major tasks that need to be performed for the project to be completed on time. By starting with the end objective and then successively subdividing it into manageable steps or components in terms of size, duration, and responsibility, the WBS provides a high level view of the entire project. Furthermore, the framework makes planning and controlling the scope of the project much easier since you have a graphical chart to reference point for the tasks and subtasks needed for each phase of the project. As a general rule of thumb, no task within the WBS should be less than 8 hours or more than 80 hours.

Verify the Scope and Get Feedback

Because projects are expected to meet strict deadlines, verifying the scope of the project is critical before and during the project cycle. Scope verification can be done after each major task or phase is completed or if it is a smaller project, after the project has been completed. To verify the scope, meet with the project customer or stakeholder and get him/her to formally accept the project deliverables. This includes getting a written acceptance of the deliverables and requesting feedback on the work performed.

Getting feedback from the customer is an excellent way for you to improve processes and make sure the customer is happy with your work and the status of the project. The most important thing here is to communicate well and often. Verifying the scope and getting feedback will help you focus on customer acceptance, quality control, and verifying that work performed meets the definition of the scope of the project.

Monitor and Control the Scope

Now that the Scope has been clearly defined, a work breakdown structure has been organized, and the customer has formally accepted the scope of the project, it is time to actually manage and control the scope to avoid scope creep. Scope creep refers to the incremental expansion of the scope of the project, which may include and introduce more requirements that may not have been a part of the initial planning phases, but add costs and time to the original project.

To effectively monitor and control the scope of the project, make sure you have an established process for managing change requests. Any and all requests should be vetted and approved before they get introduced into the project. The budget and schedule of the project should also be altered to reflect the new changes. These changes should get a formal signoff from the customer or key stakeholder before proceeding. It is important that you closely monitor and control the scope to avoid disgruntled customers, higher than expected costs, and projects that aren't completed on time.

About the Author

Marcus Varner

Marcus is a content strategist and producer who loves helping brands craft content that improves customers' lives, builds brand credibility, and demands to be shared. For the last 10 years, Marcus has worked in every type of content—from writing to video production to design—and is currently a senior content marketing manager at Workfront, where he oversees all corporate- and awareness-level level content. When he's not producing content, he's consuming it, in the form of books, movies, and podcasts.

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