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

Scope Management

Beware of Scope Creep

Scope creep refers to the change in a project's scope after the project work has started. Typically, the scope expands by the addition of unapproved work to an already approved plan. As a result, the project drifts away from its original purpose, timeline, and budget.

This change in scope often comes about from small, seemingly insignificant change requests that the project team accepts to keep the project stakeholders happy. Eventually, the change requests become numerous enough that they are significant or one of the requests turns out to require much more work than expected. 

Scope creep can come about from:

  • Lack of proper identification of the work required to achieve project objectives.
  • Failure in managing stakeholder expectations.
  • Weak project management or poor change control processes
  • Not involving the beneficiaries in the early stages of the project

When working on unapproved features of a product or service, the project team devotes more time to the unauthorized changes. The work to incorporate these changes must usually be done within the original time and budget estimates, leaving less time for approved parts of the scope. The result can mean that the approved scope of work doesn't get completed, and the deliverables are not what was agreed with the donor, or that time and cost overruns will occur to finish the authorized parts of the scope.

Tips to manage Scope Creep:

  • Set project expectations with the stakeholders and get the buy-in from the beneficiaries.
  • Decide and document the agreed project deliverables in the Statement of Work (SOW) document and requirement areas that are NOT included.
  • Make a flexible project plan allowing beneficiaries and key stakeholders to participate in the design phase and incorporate their suggestions.
  • Introduce a formal change management process that would allow stakeholders to define the requests for change in terms of the project constraints.
  • Do an impact analysis and attach a cost and time for the new required changes.
  • Only implement changes that have been approved by management, the donor, and the beneficiaries.

The change management plan defines how you record, track and act on change requests. Without it, you risk losing track of changes and stretching the project beyond the scope. Whenever someone suggests a change, it is reviewed, approved, or rejected, and if it is approved, then incorporated into the project plan.

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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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