Project Scope Management - Part I


Once targets are set, the budget, deliverable, timeline, resources are identified; almost all projects are kicked off in enthusiasm. As they progress, realities kick in. If we look at the available statistics e.g. CHAOS report published by Standish Group in 2009, says 24% of projects failed to complete & 52% of projects cost shoot up to 180+% of their original estimates. Such statistics, really underscore the need of sound project management practices.

Such failed, de-railed project causes companies not just operational deficiencies, millions of dollars go waste and credibility goes haywire. Hence, for project sponsors and project managers, it's critical to identify what can go wrong in his/her project in meeting desired goals and then work in order to limit project failure. The prominent reasons that can make or break successful project delivery are

  1. Cost

  2. Time

  3. Resources

  4. Scope

  5. Risks
Factors that impact project scope

As mentioned in previous blog post, the basic building blocks in project that determine the deliverable are further presented as

Element Examples
Money Budget, cost, profit, earned value
Resources People, instruments, equipment
Time Milestones, tasks, schedule, effort estimates
Scope Project objectives, size, deliverables, non-deliverables
Risks Risk impact, probability, response strategy

Table Elements that determine project deliverable

It really tests skills and experience of project manager to balance these elements of the projects. To understand it simple way, consider

  • If project has any resource deficiency, it impacts timeline (though cost may reduce)

  • If project scope is expanded, it may need additional resources, thus increasing cost and/or change in delivery schedule and vice-versa

  • If project risk is managed well, it can impact all other elements viz. cost, resources, time and scope

For successful delivery of the project, project manager needs to balance and manage these five elements throughout the lifecycle of the project.

For example, if a construction company is building a new commercial complex, it would decide where the complex will locate, what kind of architecture it will inherit, what all amenities can be provided, what kind of resources, materials, in what quantity will be required and at what cost. This becomes the scope of the commercial complex. If there is any new amenity is to be added or resources are to be deployed, it will impact overall resource requirement as well as cost of the project.

Though it is debatable, but in my opinion, the most critical element in project management process is scope. Why? If project scope is not frozen, every other element will be stretched, without a doubt, these elements are inter-dependent. Put it simply, the scope is like defining a boundary of work that project team will deliver to meet goals of a given project.

Importance of well-defined scope

Any practicing project manager or team member involved in projects will agree with me when I say "generally changes in project scope are not received positively". Reason - team members who deliver feel that they suffer because of someone is not able to outline his/her requirements correctly. There is no denying that project scope is unavoidable in most of the situations, it is important to understand how far one would like to get dragged as and when scope changes. Hence involving right set of stakeholder at the time of defining scope, managing their expectations at every communication, having clear understanding of important aspects of delivery (like deliverables, resources required, cost/budget provision, potential risks, etc) will help.


Initiating a Project

All it begins with identification of a business need/requirements. Once business requirement is identified, organization starts evaluating options to satisfy the requirement. One of these options may become a potential project. At the project identification stage, organization assigns a project manager who can carry out a feasibility study. Assigned project manager performs feasibility study covering Required vs Availableanalysis in terms of technical, economical, financial aspects.

  1. Do we have required resources with necessary skillsets? Or we need to hire/procure those?

  2. Will this project provide Return of Investment (RoI)? What benefits can organization gain with a given project?

  3. How long will it take to deliver the project? What is the estimated cost required to deliver a given project?

  4. How well does this project address/fulfils organization's requirement (cost-benefit analysis)

This feasibility report is an outcome of project initiation phase and considered as a substantial input in making decision of whether to go-ahead with the project or abandons it.

The report becomes a guiding/reference document for next phase i.e. project scope definition.