When a project manager begins work, they want to make sure all steps in the process are accounted for.
But have you considered that it’s also a project manager’s job to ensure extra work is not included in a certain project?
Project scope management is a knowledge area within the PMBOK, or the project management book of knowledge. It is the process of ensuring only tasks necessary to a project’s completion are included in that project. Project scope management eliminates redundant or unnecessary work.
Think of it like you’re making a cake. You’ll check over the list of ingredients in your recipe to make sure you have everything you need. But if you see that the recipe lists pickles as an ingredient in your chocolate mousse cake, you’re going to need to do some evaluating.
This is an oversimplification of the project scope management process. Project managers who are managing a project’s scope look at the steps involved not only to ensure they’ve included all steps, but also to confirm they’ve excluded any unnecessary steps.
As with most project management processes, project scope management can be broken down into simple, digestible steps. What can I say? Project managers love to compartmentalize processes.
Let’s go through the six steps one at a time to help you understand how proper planning can save you and your project team from performing redundant or irrelevant work.
The whole goal of the scope management process is to develop a scope management plan at the end. If you’ve already done this for other projects, you will find that one scope management plan can serve as a template of sorts for other projects. There will not be much variation so look to past plans as your guide
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If you haven’t done this before, this step is relatively simple. You’re responsible for speaking to all project stakeholders and executives to develop a cohesive understanding of the project’s scope. You’re gathering this information to inform you and your team as to how you should define, manage, validate and control the project’s scope.
This plan should also include information as to how you’ll respond to roadblocks and constraints, how you’ll determine project success, and how you’ll come up with other vital elements of the plan.
Now that you understand your scope management process, it’s time to gather all other requirements for this project. What are your concrete deliverables? What deadlines need to be met in order to be successful?
You should look to both your stakeholders and consumers for this answer. Consider sending out surveys or bringing people in for a focus group. Outside eyes on a project or initiative can provide helpful insight that your team has failed to consider.
Project managers love to get things in writing. In this step, you’ll clearly define the scope in writing for overall project clarity. This includes stating what is in and out of scope for your project. Your project scope statement is a vital reference point throughout the duration of the project.
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Why is it important to include what’s not included in a project’s scope? Because you don’t want your employees doing redundant or irrelevant work. If someone is asked to perform a task that is outside of scope, you have it in writing that they shouldn’t comply.
Essentially, you’re creating an authoritative reference point for your team and anyone involved in the project. If something is not involved in the defined scope, it does not need to be completed in association with this particular project.
A work breakdown structure is the document that breaks down the work and assigns tasks to responsible parties. This document or chart tells teams and individuals what deliverables they are responsible for in what amount of time.
For this part of the project scope management process, you may want to go to digital and use a work management tool to assign tasks, clarify their importance, and assign deadlines. This way, you can easily log into the tool and look around to see what all your team has accomplished at any given time.
This helps you manage issues as they arise, as opposed to having to course-correct after a prolonged period of mistakes.
The next step in the process is getting all of your work approved. The deliverables and scope you’ve recorded need to be presented to stakeholders and project executives, who can then give you the green light or ask for changes.
It’s important to have your scope validated because, should things go wrong, you as a project manager are not solely responsible. Having higher-ups review and approve your work means a pair of experienced eyes have given you the go-ahead, and any failures are shared.
You can also choose to get scope validated digitally with a work management solution. Certain tools allow you to submit your deliverables for approval individually, meaning they can be approved in real-time and not weeks after the fact.
During this step, you and your stakeholders have agreed on what makes a deliverable a success. Once everything is approved, you, as the project manager, are in charge of accepting any changes and applying them to the project scope statement.
Once the project is executed, it is the project manager’s duty — among other things — to ensure the project stays within the defined scope.
If things change, as they so often do, it is also up to the project manager to confer with stakeholders and adjust scope accordingly. One simple way to control scope is by looking at weekly or bi-weekly performance reports to ensure all teams are tracking to succeed.
Part of controlling project scope means being ready to make changes when necessary, and not hesitating to jump in when goals are not aligning.
It’s can be a lengthy process, but it’s worth it in the end to make sure only the necessary steps are completed. In project management, time is money, and overdoing it on projects will literally cost you.
Avoid all of the hassle by going through the project scope management process to create an effective project scope management plan.
Wondering if a project is right for your company at this time? Learn how to conduct a feasibility study that can save you time and money.
Grace Pinegar is a lifelong storyteller with an extensive background in various forms such as acting, journalism, improv, research, and content marketing. She was raised in Texas, educated in Missouri, worked in Chicago, and is now a proud New Yorker. (she/her/hers)
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