Project Scope IT planningBefore I get into why project scope is the corner stone for IT project planning success and project execution activities that follow, let’s define what is meant by project scope.

There are several definitions available from the PMBOK to many other sources. In simple terms, project scope is the part of project planning process that involves determining and documenting a list of specific project goals, deliverables, tasks, costs and deadlines. For the purpose of this blog, let’s use the Wikipedia definition of scope as it relates to IT project management:

The work that needs to be accomplished to deliver a product, service, or result with the specified features and functions.”

What does Scope address?

During the planning stage of the project, the preparation of a detailed project scope  is critical to the project success. At minimum, the scope or statement of work must:

  • Define the boundaries of the project
  • Build upon the major deliverables, assumptions and constraints that are documented during project initiation
  • Establish responsibilities for each team member
  • Set up procedures for how completed work will be verified and approved
  • Feed the Work Breakdown Structure
  • Provide the bases for defining Tasks and Timelines
  • Define the parameters for estimating the Project Cost
  • Outline existing or inherent risks
  • Elaborate on any additional risks, assumptions, and constraints as necessary

Why is a detailed scope definition important?

IT Project Planning 5The project scope statement provides the basis for planning and managing project schedules, costs, resources, and changes. This process is time consuming and tedious and in many cases not given appropriate importance. The project scope should be defined and described with greater specificity as more information about the project is discovered. During the creation of the statement of work/scope there should be no assumptions made if possible. The more detailed and specific the projects scope, the higher the chance for success and lower the chance for scope creep”, a situation in which one or more parts of a project ends up requiring more work, time or effort which will create increases in cost and time overruns.

The time spent defining the project scope will pay handsome dividends during the execution phase of the Project Life Cycle.

It is almost impossible to eliminate scope creep. In my experience, any medium to large IT projects will have changes along the way. It is the very reason why the better the project scope is defined at the start, the better the project team can manage any potential change. It is not the sole responsibility of the project team to make sure that the scope is detailed and complete, it is a team effort and all stakeholders need to contribute and be as specific as possible. I cannot overstate the importance of a well-documented and defined project scope. Because scope drives the time and costs associated with the project, it is the major contributor to the overall quality of the project.

Effective scope management requires good communication to ensure that everyone on the team understands the scope of the project and agrees upon exactly how the project’s goals will be met. As part of project scope management, the team leader should solicit approvals and sign-offs from all stakeholders prior to project execution.

Who benefits by having a detailed scope definition?

The simple answer is, everyone associated with the project. The project sponsors will better understand what will be delivered, when and for what cost. The end users will see what features and function the project will address and have an opportunity agree or make changes prior to execution. But the biggest benefit will be accrued by the project team. The scope document will help the project team remain focused and on tasks and will guide the project team in dealing with decisions about change requests during the project and minimizing the effect of scope creep.

Devoting the necessary time and effort to address project scope will lay a solid foundation to build on and contribute to a good IT project plan that will drive project success.

In my previous blog I wrote about the importance of Senior Management Support as it relates to IT project planning and IT project success.  In my upcoming blog I will address the importance of Realistic Project Timelines and its relevance to IT project planning success.