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Project Scope Management

Introduction
Once targets are set, the budget, deliverable, timeline, resources are identified; almost all projects are kicked off in enthusiasm. As they progress, realities kick in. If we look at the available statistics e.g. CHAOS report published by Standish Group in 2009, says 24% of projects failed to complete & 52% of projects cost shoot up to 180+% of their original estimates. Such statistics, really underscore the need of sound project management practices. Such failed, de-railed project causes companies not just operational deficiencies, millions of dollars go waste and credibility goes haywire. Hence, for project sponsors and project managers, its critical to identify what can go wrong in his/her project in meeting desired goals and then work in order to limit project failure. The prominent reasons that can make or break successful project delivery are

1.

Cost

2. Time 3. Resources 4. Scope 5. Risks

Figure 1 Elements that impact project scope As mentioned in previous blog post, the basic building blocks in project that determine the deliverable are further presented as Element Money Resources Time Scope Risks Example Budget, cost, profit, earned value People, instruments, equipment Milestones, tasks, schedule, effort estimates Project objectives, size, deliverables, non-deliverables Risk impact, probability, response strategy
Table 1 Elements that determine project deliverable

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It really tests skills and experience of project managers to balance these elements of the projects. To understand it simple way, consider

If project has any resource deficiency, it impacts timeline (though cost may reduce) If project scope is expanded, it may need additional resources, thus increasing cost
and/or change in delivery schedule and vice-versa time and scope

If project risk is managed well, it can impact all other elements viz. cost, resources,
For successful delivery of the project, project manager needs to balance and manage these five elements throughout the lifecycle of the project. For example, if a construction company is building a new commercial complex, it would decide where the complex will locate, what kind of architecture it will inherit, what all amenities can be provided, what kind of resources, materials, in what quantity will be required and at what cost. This becomes the scope of the commercial complex. If there is any new amenity is to be added or resources are to be deployed, it will impact overall resource requirement as well as cost of the project. Though it is debatable, but in my opinion, the most critical element in project management process is scope. Why? If project scope is not frozen, every other element will be stretched, without a doubt, these elements are inter-dependent. Put it simply, the scope is like defining a boundary of work that project team will deliver to meet goals of a given project.

Importance of well-defined scope


Any practicing project manager or team member involved in projects will agree with me when I say generally changes in project scope are not received positively. Reason team members who deliver feel that they suffer because of someone is not able to outline his/her requirements correctly. There is no denying that project scope is unavoidable in most of the situations, it is important to understand how far one would like to get dragged as and when scope changes. Hence involving right set of stakeholder at the time of defining scope, managing their expectations at every communication, having clear understanding of important aspects of delivery (like deliverables, resources required, cost/budget provision, potential risks, etc) will help.

Initiating a project:
All it begins with identification of a business need/requirements. Once business requirement is identified, organization starts evaluating options to satisfy the requirement. One of these options may become a potential project. At the project identification stage, organization assigns a project manager who can carry out a feasibility study. Assigned project manager performs feasibility study covering Required vs Available analysis in terms of technical, economical, financial aspects.
1. Do we have required resources with necessary skillsets? Or we need to hire/procure those?

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2. Will this project provide Return of Investment (RoI)? What benefits can organization gain

with a given project?


3. How long will it take to deliver the project? What is the estimated cost required to deliver a

given project?
4. How well does this project address/fulfils organization's requirement (cost-benefit analysis)

This feasibility report is an outcome of project initiation phase and considered as a substantial input in making decision of whether to go-ahead with the project or abandons it. The report becomes a guiding/reference document for next phase i.e. project scope definition.

Defining a project scope:


Once you have a feasibility report and the project gets approval, the next step is to define the project scope. You need to identify the participants who will help you in defining project scope. You can invite your team members, subject matter experts, quality analysts, finance

What needs to be delivered (WBS)?


It is clear that if scope is changing frequently, it means someone is not able to identify/understand/communicate what needs to be delivered. And others are getting dragged because of it. Hence to make it clearer, one can define project scope in terms of workbreakdown-structure (WBS). As you break-down the deliverables in to components/modules/ deliverable work items, you get better idea about what to deliver, how easy/difficult would it be? How long will it take, etc? Thus defining WBS is like putting project scope in a framework based on which finer details of other aspects can be determined, like

How many resources are required (Resources)?


Once you figure out what kind of skillset, experienced resources, equipment are required to complete individual work-item as specified in the WBS? You can further ensure whether your organization has all required resource or need to procure/recruit. If you need to recruit them/procure them, you need to plan accordingly. e.g. If the project requires a team of five environmental engineers/consultants; you need to check whether your organization has these resources. If not, is this talent available in the market, at what cost and by when do you want them to start working and how long?

What is the SLA or quality being delivered (Quality)?


What level of service or product quality are we going to ensure through this project? If the business requires sales support 24x7, then what level of provisions do you need to make? If business requires lesser than 5 service/product issues per week, what are the quality control Zilicus Solutions 2012 www.zilicus.com 3 | Page

mechanisms you need to put in place?

How long will it take to complete the delivery (Duration)?


Considering deliverables expected, resources required, and quality desired, you need to estimate what will be timeline for delivering a given project. Here work breakdown structure (WBS) helps greatly. You can take a bottom up approach wherein you can estimate time/duration required for individual/smallest component in the wbs and sum it up in the level to arrive at estimated overall duration for a project

What are potential risks in the delivery (Risk)?


Looking at project scope, wbs, resources available, provision made for budget; you can highlight risks that can potentially occur during the project delivery timeline. You can provide initial assessment of probability of occurrence, severity of the impact if these risk occur, etcl and what could be the possible strategy to tackle it, risk mitigation plan, risk contingency plan, risk transfer plan, risk acceptance plan, etc.

What will be the cost of delivering the project (Cost)?


Based on all above inputs, you can estimate the cost required to deliver a given project. Considering the cost-benefit analysis, your project sponsor may object the budget numbers, he may suggest changes. Having detailed analysis of all above factor will help you in justifying the cost numbers.

Project scope verification


Even though you may define project scope, it is critical to verify it. The objective of project scope is to ensure all components as specified in work-breakdown-structure (WBS), identified resources, delivery timeline, quality levels are aligning with the objective of the project and in turn aligning with the goals of the organization and project scope verification is a good mechanism to ensure that. You can identify internal (team members/SME) as well as external stakeholder (project sponsor, customer) to perform scope verification. You can facilitate meetings to verify scope. You will realize that project scope definition, planning and verification are also interdependent processes. If you organization has a good mix of these processes ensure lesser scope creep.

Monitoring and controlling scope change


Even though your organization may have well defined policies and practices to define project scope, it does not stop from changing scope of a project. The change in scope is unavoidable in most of the circumstances. However scope change is different from scope creep. Scope creep Zilicus Solutions 2012 www.zilicus.com 4 | Page

is unauthorized, informal changes to the project scope. It simply means that project scope is being changed without making any provision for additional resources, budget or timeline. So there is definite need to monitor scope change and control it. These processes can be facilitated by change control mechanism. If during the course of project execution, if stakeholder/sponsor wish to add new element in project scope e.g. new feature, new service request type; the request should be managed through a formal channel. This formal channel ensures all relevent project stakeholders are aware of the proposed change, which can be evaluated further to identify impact(s) and desired addition of resources, timeline, quality, or budget. Of course, one can optimize the change control process by introducing levels of approvals, escalations, etc. You would agree, generally scope change impacts the cost/budget. Hence it is prudent to involve customers, project sponsors, and team members as appropriate to understand and agree on scope change.

Conclusion
Most of us are aware of the statistics that I shared in the beginning of this article. In the survey conducted, project failure rates reported are significantly high. One of the critical contributors for failure has been scope change. If managed effectively, the chances of making a project successful are much higher. So for best results 1. Involve right stakeholders at right time (scope definition, planning, approval, etc.) 2. Communicate clearly and regularly with stakeholders 3. Ensure that sound change control process are in place

This article is a result of amalgamation of series of blog posts on project scope management by ZilicusPM - online project management software by Zilicus. Please feel free to share it in your network. If you have any suggestions please drop us email: support [at] zilicus [dot] com

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