Managing Scope is one of the most important responsibilities of a project manager as well as a business analyst. As per PMBOK® guide, managing the project scope is the sole responsibility of the project manager. Similarly, according to PMI’s guide to business analysis, the responsibility of managing product scope lies with the business analyst, with some amount of overlooking required from the project manager. The knowledge and capability of managing project scope are thus important elements of a project manager’s day to day tasks and an important knowledge area for anyone preparing for the PMP® or CAPM® exams.
What constitutes project scope?
PMBOK® guide refers to scope as the project’s boundaries. It defines the work that will be done during the project lifecycle. The project’s boundaries are defined with respect to specific project goals and objectives, milestones, deadlines and project deliverables, tasks to be performed and resources required and the relevant project costs.
So, what is scope management?
Managing scope entails a set of processes and activities required to effectively manage project scope from start to finish. This includes activities to define project scope and relevant parameters, SLAs in managing scope, planning scope management, controlling project scope elements defined on a daily basis, managing changes up until delivering the project and reporting on project scope. It helps project managers to allocate the correct amount of work and resources required to complete a project successfully.
What can go wrong? What is scope creep?
The uncontrolled growth in project scope at any point after the project has begun is known as scope creep. Scope creep is actually the negative effect on time, cost, and resources, resultant of the addition of additional features to the scope. Project manager deal with Scope creep can occur when a project scope is not properly defined, documented or controlled and is also known as function creep, feature creep, requirements creep and more metaphorically as “kitchen sink syndrome”.
This product scope creep will have adverse effects on project constraints such as time, cost, resources, and quality, and requires to be managed properly.
Scope creep may happen naturally. The client may want more features for the same price where the project manager may just bow down to keep the customer happy. Similarly, the implementation team themselves may add more scope by trying to gold-plate or when they try to make things more visual by prototyping.
So, it’s clear that project scope may increase knowingly or unknowingly.
Importance of managing or avoiding scope creep
It is important for a project management professional to avoid possibility of scope creep in order to increase chances of delivering project on time and on budget. Delivering a project on time will depend on how many features are taken up for each milestone or iteration and how the team can work efficiently to achieve the same.
Managing scope is thus an important competency for a project manager. Predictive projects may follow formal Change Control Processes through a Change Control Board (CCB) to validate and bring in changes. Adaptive agile projects can be more complex with requirements needed to be groomed and managed as a product backlog.
Tips for project managers to avoid or manage scope creep
Understand project goals & objectives
It is extremely important for the project manager to be aware of the client’s vision for the project and for the product. The project manager must understand how the project objectives tie up with the corporate vision and strategy. The old adage goes, as ‘Something well begun is half done’. Thus a good understanding of what the client wants will help define what and how to manage.
Understand solution requirements
Project managers of yesteryears considered that the understanding of the functional and non-functional requirements is not their problem. But now, it is imperative and the project managers understand the requirements and how they are related to goals and objectives so that they can plan the work and manage it properly. Understanding of requirements will allow the project manager to decompose requirements down to task level, identify milestones and resources and thus assist in keeping the project on track.
From day one of the project, the project manager must manage project scope and take necessary steps to avoid scope creep. The project manager tracking the requirements and change requests properly will assist in this case.
Devise a bullet-proof process for managing change requests
A well-defined process to identify changes, report or take in change requests, evaluate them (evaluating the change, effort required, impact of change etc.) and to select and implement them is an important aspect in scope management. The project manager is responsible for defining this process, executing it, educating the team members on the process and on evaluating the process progress from time to time. In predictive or in adaptive projects, it is always good to limit the authority to request and to approve change requests.
Its alright to say ‘No’
Finally, the project manager as well as the team should be capable of saying no to unreasonable or unrealistic requests. The project manager must be able to explain to the requester as to why a certain request is rejected with proper facts. It is always important to avoid gold-plating. If things go wrong or are not possible within the current scope it is always important to say ‘No’ rather than getting into trouble later on.
Sometimes it may be difficult to say ‘No’ to client stakeholders. The project manager’s negotiation and facilitation skills come to the fore-front in this case where he must be able to say ‘No’ with a positive manner as well as be able to convince client stakeholders by providing a prioritized list of features and so on.
As discussed in the introductory section, the responsibility of managing product scope lies with the business analyst. So, await my next article on the business analyst’s as well as the project manager’s responsibilities in managing product scope. Stay tuned!!