The Practical Project: Defining Scope
Managing projects can be tough, even for a trained project manager. Without a process, tools, or training, teams sometimes just “wing it.” But in doing so, individuals and teams to run the risk of failing in the process. Some estimates indicate that 37% of corporate projects ($74M in investment) are at risk of failure at any given time – for early stage companies, the numbers are likely higher.
Entrepreneurs often find themselves in the role of managing projects without much training or experience. But creating a clear plan and managing effectively isn’t rocket science, and with a basic understanding and tools, entrepreneurial teams can get farther, do more.
Our series “The Practical Project” is intended to help you increase your basic understanding of project management and the basic tools you need get your startup from point A to point B. As part of our effort to contribute to the community of entrepreneurs, we’ll cover the basics – no PhD required!
Projects can be overwhelming. Can be. But they don’t have to be.
Suppose that you’re getting your startup off to a roaring start. You’ve formed your team, you’ve secured some funding. Heck, you even have an office space secured and ready to go. Your cracker-jack idea that will change the world is crystallized in a tantalizing elevator pitch. But all of your goals won’t be met with much success unless you and your team have a strangle hold on project scope.
Why, you ask?
The answer is quite simple. Whether you are using Agile methods, or other models, defining your project scope gives you and your team a common understanding of what you are building, and how it relates to your vision. It also can be used to generate a birds-eye view of the progress that you and your team have made, along with a heads-up of what you can expect in the future.
We consulted the Project Management Body of Knowledge to understand more about scope, and how it’s importance relates to you, and your idea.
Before we begin, what is scope? A wonderfully minty mouth rinse? …Indeed. Though, in this context, the scope has been defined as:
“The work that must be done in order to deliver a product with the specified features and functions.”
In our last project management post, called The Practical Project: Cost Management we highlighted the importance of using what you know about cost, resources, and time in order to create a cost estimate. The entrepreneur must understand that in completing the project, there will, at some point be a tradeoff between three key factors: time, quality- and of course, cost.
When it comes to your project scope, it is important to understand that even a small change to the defined plan, will in turn require more time, more capital, or higher quality, which can put a strain on your resources.
There are 5 easy steps that you can take to define, and manage your project scope, and we’ve explained them all below.
“Committing the organization to begin the next phase of the project.” -PMBOK
If you’re reading this, chances are that you’ve already somewhat completed this step. Initiation, just as the name implies, is the cut-and-dry, “yes”, or “no” to the question of whether a new project exists or not. Note that projects going into their next stage of development are also subject to initiation.
In some cases, the firm may want to conduct a preliminary analysis in order to decide on launching a new project.
Projects are often initiated on the basis of market demand, a business need, a customer request, a technological request, or a legal requirement. The decision of how to respond to any of these issues is a determining factor for an initiation.
How to do It: As with most phases of any project, communication is key. With initiation, be sure to have a clear, written description of the projects’ details. You’ll also need a strategic plan that answers as many questions as you’ll expect to receive. Better safe than sorry!
2) Scope Planning
“Developing a written scope statement as the basis for future project decisions.” -PMBOK
Suppose the project that you’re beginning to work on is for a customer. In order for the project to be considered a success, each party would want a fair deal. A scope is necessary in this situation, because it outlines all of the boundaries of the project. The scope plan is a great resource to refer back to if the client requests that a new feature or requirement be added to the project. Remember that even the smallest changes can impact your resources.
How to do It: When planning your project scope, expect every party to have a different interpretation of what should happen, now, and over the course of the entire project. As an outcome to planning, be sure to have established a scope statement, with a detailed scope management plan.
3) Scope Definition
“Subdividing the major project deliverables into smaller, more manageable components.” -PMBOK
In order to follow your scope plan correctly, you must break it down into manageable parts and create a a work breakdown structure. Besides simply defining responsibilities, moving the project deliverables into smaller components will improve the accuracy of your resource estimates, while establishing standards for performance measurement and control.
How to do It: Perhaps one of the most sensible ways to define your scope is to imagine your project scope as a box. You’ll need to document and describe what you will be willing to include in the box, as well as the things that will not be allowed to be included.
4) Scope Verification
“Formalizing acceptance of the project scope.” -PMBOK
As an entrepreneur, the success of your start-up is imperative to your ability to be a team player. Verifying your scope is all about including those who play an essential role in the projects’ success. This includes sponsors, clients, customers, investors, etc.
How to do It: Scope verification is essentially an inspection of the project in order to ensure that the project deliverables meet the requirements. Give each group of stakeholders a chance to review the outcomes of the project, and to share their thoughts.
5) Scope Change Control
“Controlling changes to project scope.” -PMBOK
Imagine, for a moment, that the project that you’re working on is a piece of software, or an application. If a bug were to occur, the engineer might be able to fix it rather quickly, however, failure to report that fix to the project manager can cause some upsets in documentation, deliverables, and resources. Scope Change Control is a safeguard against this type of issue. By requiring communication, there is little opportunity for something to go unaccounted for.
How to do It: In order to encourage the team to communicate, make the documentation for the project scope easy to access, and changeable on the fly. It helps to use a service like Google Docs in order for everyone to be aware of changes. Also, consider meeting with stakeholders regularly in order to motivate the team to keep all documentation up to date and relevant.
Over to You: So there you have it! A simple guide to getting your project off to the right start with your project scope. What are your thoughts/ questions on Project Management?