Simplifying Project Scope Management – Part 1

News flash: “Detailed requirements are the lifeblood of any project.”

Yeah, I agree. Not much of an epiphany… But they remain one of the most critical building blocks to any successful project. And once in place, the scope for your project is virtually set!

But I digress…

Scope management is that pseudo-intellectual, ugly two-word phrase which reduces lesser project managers to tears. To some it means saying “no” to the customer when a “yes” would make life so much simpler at the moment. To others it means an endless stream of change orders and rate negotiations because the requested work is beyond what was originally agreed upon.

But we fear only that which we truly do not understand. Scope management doesn’t have to be scary or hard. What it does require is organization and diligence by all parties – including the customer. Even the smallest, simplest, request opens the door to other similar small requests, which over the life-cycle of a project eats away at both the time and financial constraints of a project – leaving both the project management team and the customer wondering what went wrong and pointing fingers. A no-win situation if there ever was one.

So how do we avoid micro-managing our team, and becoming Dr. No in the eyes of the customer?

Simple… Set and manage expectations with the customer.

At the time of project kickoff, it is imperative that: (a) expectations on the scope of the project are understood; (b) how changes to the scope are to be presented and approved; and most importantly (c) what is the definition of a successful project? The project team, the customer and everyone involved with the project should understand how you as the project manager intend to manage scope, document changes and execute towards a successful conclusion of the project. Conversely, the customer must understand their role in the review, approval, and budget processes. Once these items are defined and understood, the probability of a successful project delivery (and maintaining everyone’s sanity) just increased exponentially.

In the next segment of this two part series we will discuss how using weekly status meetings can ensure everyone is on the same boat.

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