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Ideas, suggestions and general thoughts about project management for development.

How do you define the scope of a project?

One of the leading causes for project failure is poor scope definition. It is also the leading cause of scope creep. Since the project plan reflects the work, resources, budget and schedule required to meet the scope, an accurate, realistic project definition is of critical importance.

There are seven essential elements that need to be included in the project scope definition:

  • The definition of the problem and the solution.
  • The measurable benefits of completing the project
  • A list of the major deliverables, including what is in scope and out of scope for each.
  • A definition of the target beneficiaries of the project deliverables.
  • A list of the project dependencies (internal and external)

These project definition components do not exclude other possibilities that can enhance understanding of the projects such as:

  • A concise definition of the project schedule, scope, and budget.
  • A milestone schedule that documents interim deliverables requested by the donor.
  • An impact statement that identifies what can or will be impacted by the project.
  • Strategic risks analysis and contingency plans
  • Project restrictions (environmental, political, cultural, and technological).

The project scope definition is part of the project charter and it can’t be finalized without agreement from all key stakeholders, the project manager needs to make sure they review a draft of the project charter document and get their sign-offs before moving to the planning phase of the project. It is also important that the project stakeholders understand that agreement with the project charter only means they all agree with the definition.

In order to commit to achieving the project’s objectives, detailed bottoms-up planning needs to be completed by the subject matter experts who will be performing the project work. It is only through this detailed planning that the project can confirm that the project scope definition is realistic and achievable.

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What is a Statement of Work?

In project management, the purpose of the statement of work (SOW) is to document the objectives, constraints, and scope of a project. However, it cannot and certainly should not attempt to document every agreement about the project. The SOW should record the objectives and constraints for managing the project. the minimum content listed here gives you an idea of what makes up a good SOW:

  • Purpose statement: A clear description of why the organization is doing the project, a description of the problem the project aims to solve.
  • Project objectives: The specific, measurable, achievable and time bound goals of the project (SMART goals)
  • Scope statement: A description of the major activities of the project in such a way that it will be absolutely clear if extra work is added later on.
  • Key deliverables: A list of outputs the project will produce, including intermediate deliverables, end deliverables, and deliverables related to project management.
  • Budget and schedule estimates: In addition to a budget and a deadline, a description of how flexible the budget is and the rationale behind the deadline.

The principal purpose of the SOW is for managing expectations and dealing with change. Without a good description of scope projects suffer from scope creep, which  refers to uncontrolled changes in a project's scope.  The SOW will also include a section that will detail what is out of scope, this helps manage the expectations of key stakeholders on the limits of the project. When disagreements about the scope arise after the project has started, they can sometimes be solved by reviewing the original SOW. In this case, all stakeholders must understand, agree, and approve to these changes, and the project manager must write them into the SOW or track them through other project management processes such as change orders. The SOW is a living document that tracks all approved changes made during the life of the project.

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