12 Best Practices for Effective Project Scope Management

Editorial Team

project scope management tips

Project Scope Management is the practice of delivering a project, with the most optimized and efficient work schedule.

It’s all about how to effectively plan your project. It helps you deliver your final or service product, without incurring unnecessary delays or wasting a lot of time with unwarranted work.

That sounds impossible, doesn’t it?

Understanding what your client wants is sometimes hard enough, let alone accurately planning and delivering a project. But don’t fret. There’s no magic involved so hold off searching for that crystal ball.

If you follow these 12 best practices you’ll be planning the un-plannable in no time, and building your reputation as a Project Scope Management genius.

1. Understand the Project Scope Management Process

Project scope management doesn’t begin with the project scope. Instead, there are five important planning steps involved. Before you even begin your project, it helps to know exactly what they are.

This is because a client will often ask you what process you use and how you will plan your project. Be warned, this is not the same as a project plan.

If you don’t know what the five Project Scope Management Steps are, start making notes now:

  • Collect Requirements. This is the process of talking to your client, your team and other necessary stakeholders about the information you need when defining your project’s scope.
  • Define Scope. This involves you and your team setting out the outcomes and deliverables of the project.
  • Creating a Work Breakdown Structure. This is a plan in which you consider the high level outputs of your project and drill them down into manageable, step by step tasks for your Project Team to follow.
  • Scope Verification. This is the process in which you agree all of your project       deliverables with your client.
  • Control Scope. This is how you monitor the scope of the project and oversee the change management process. This happens once the project has begun    and wards against scope creep, keeping your team focused on meeting the project’s deliverables.

Understanding and following each of these steps in order is vital for you to deliver effective scope management of a project.

2. Methodically Collect Project Requirements

Now that you understand the process, let’s start with the basics.

This may seem obvious, but it can’t be labored enough. You can’t start scoping a project until you understand its requirements. A good understanding of project requirements is the only way to deliver successful projects. Period.

However, collecting project requirements can be challenging. As a seasoned project manager, there’s no doubt that you know this already. More often than not, your first meeting with a client will not provide all of the information you need to deliver your project.

Yet, to even start understanding what you need to deliver, you need to have that very first meeting. When you arrange it, call it a scoping meeting. This is not when you should be agreeing to do the project, instead this is a fact finding mission for both you and the client on whether you are suitable for the project. It doesn’t matter who the client is, whether they are external, or within your company.

Ask them to outline exactly what they want. Ask the probing questions that you can, and take extensive notes. You cannot rely on the first client meeting providing you with all the information that you need to scope out a project, so don’t worry if it doesn’t.

3. Get Your Team To Research Project Requirements

Once you have an initial grasp of the project, leave and promise to get back to your client once you’ve ironed out the details.

When you’re back at the office, take time to write out everything you know about the project. After you’re satisfied, share your work with your team and talk through what your expectations and goals for the project are.

With your rough sketch of the project, start listing out the project’s requirements.

Depending on your area of work, this could be anything from the cost of timber in Oklahoma, to how many calls your sales staff can make in one day. Remember, the more information you have now, the easier it will be for you to clearly set out the project’s scope, so it’s worth spending time on it.

There will be lots of information that you will need to research and a lot of information your client will need to provide before you can even begin to start defining the scope of the project, so develop a comprehensive list of questions and requirements before you meet with your client again.

Given that this is a lot of work, get your team to help. Assign team members to research specific tasks and set them deadlines for coming back to you with coherent answers.

4. Consult, Then Consult Some More

It’s always best to involve stakeholders from the outset, even before you’ve defined your project scope. This is because your project scope is to an extent a finalized document about what your project will deliver.

While you will have a client who commissioned the project, make sure you also consult other interested parties before defining the scope. This is extremely important when you have been tasked with an internal project for your company, or something that could impact the surrounding community.

When projects are internal, make sure you talk to representatives from every relevant part of the business to establish end users’ requirements for the project. This could include customer service representatives in your organization, or other teams who may need to migrate from one technology platform to another.

Extensive consultation will factor positively into your project scope, and arguably ensure buy in from colleagues that you may need support from in the future.

5. Define Your Project Scope

Once you are comfortable that you fully understand your project requirements, it’s time to define the project scope.

This is where you set out what your project will deliver, what it won’t deliver, the assigned budget for the project and expected duration.

The collected project requirements should empower you to define all of these aspects of your project scope. If you are unable to define your project scope at this stage, identify where information is missing and find it. Should you be unable to find the information, consider whether you can establish realistic assumptions. While it is sometimes fine to work with assumptions instead of hard facts, it’s preferable to have all of the available information.

If it is a large project, it is very helpful to work with your project team to develop the draft scope. Invite them to scrutinize it. This process will help you identify deficiencies with the project scope before you return it to the client.

While the Project Scope Document may change, this will become the definitive document explaining what your project will do.

6. Always Check Project Scope With The Client

When you are satisfied with the draft project scope, present the Project Scope Document to your client. Use this opportunity to clearly explain your project’s outcomes and deliverables. Share the expected budget and project timeline.

After the initial Project Scope Document has been developed, it’s vital that you check that the client is satisfied that the project you are proposing meets their expectations. Do not just share the estimated timeline and budget with them. Go out of your way to make sure that they understand the outcomes, and if necessary, project assumptions.

A good understanding of the project requirements will be useful here because it will allow you to explain your decisions, assumptions and early costings.

Good practice recommends that you do this before assigning individual responsibilities for tasks within your team, and before you have developed a Work Breakdown Structure. This prevents you from wasting time breaking down tasks for a project that won’t proceed.

Related Articles:

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  5. 12 Best Practices for Effective and Successful Project Execution
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7. Develop A Work Breakdown Structure

Achieving sign off on your Project Scope Document isn’t where Project Scope Management ends. Instead, once you have the client’s endorsement of the project, you should create a Work Breakdown Structure.

A Work Breakdown Structure is an analysis of all of the tasks required to deliver the Project Scope Document. This is where you break down each objective into manageable tasks for your project team. Creating a Work Breakdown Structure allows you to further scrutinize the accuracy of your estimations on project duration and budget.

The process also allows you to assign responsibilities for each task and to assign accountability for specific tasks in your project team.

You should consult your team while developing your Work Breakdown Structure, to confirm that everyone involved is happy with the tasks assigned.

A good Work Breakdown Structure will enable you to identify all the tasks that will be required to deliver the Project Scope, and avoid overlapping work streams, which if left unaddressed could lead to duplication in your team.

Where possible try to include all of the project deliverables in the Work Breakdown Structure.

8. Validate Your Scope

Using your Work Breakdown Structure, you can validate your Project Scope. This means that all of the breakdowns in your Work Breakdown Structure should correspond with the estimations, timeline and outputs in your Project Scope Document.

It’s important that you go through and check your Project Scope Document, and where necessary adjust it to align with your Work Breakdown Schedule. This gives you confidence that your plan will work, and that your team are able to meet your client’s expectations.

9. Always Get the Client to Sign Off the Work Breakdown Structure

Don’t worry if the development of your Work Breakdown Structure has highlighted inaccuracies in the Scoping Document. This is because your Work Breakdown Structure is the plan that your client should agree to before the project is given the go ahead.

This allows you to address any of the unforeseen challenges that were not clear during the creation of the Scoping Document.

If your client is happy with your Work Breakdown Structure and agrees to go ahead with the project, ensure that they confirm this in writing. This will provide you with a binding agreement to proceed with the project.

10. Never Stop Scrutinizing the Scope

Even after the project has been agreed, you need to ensure that you check your Project Scope Document against the actual delivery of your Work Breakdown Structure. This will help you compare actual time taken on the project to estimated time, giving you a clear understanding of how well the project is progressing.

You can do this by setting up regular review points in the form of a Project Review Board.

Keeping the original Scoping Document in mind will help you prevent project scope creep and help you remain focused on the project’s deliverables.

11. Establish a Robust Change Control Process

Projects have a habit of changing. Sometimes clients need to adapt their specifications part way through, or an unforeseen event renders the initial Project Scope impossible.

While you can’t prevent the project from undergoing changes, you can set up a robust Change Control Process to help you manage them. You can do this with a ticketing system, or by implementing robust processes and accountabilities within your team.

Remember, if the Project Scope changes it is good practice to change the Work Breakdown Structure. Also, it is important to ensure that clients and stakeholders are notified of the changes if they did not request them.

12. Beware of Project Scope Creep

Project Scope Creep is when additional requirements, whether outputs or deliverables are added to a project without adhering to the relevant change control process.

With a robust change control process, you can minimize the occurrence of project scope creep, however it is worth remaining vigilant as it can derail the best projects.

The easiest way to do this is to closely monitor the progress of each task on your project. Make sure you also have regular catch-ups with your team to ensure that you are confident that their work is in line with the original scoping document.

Project Scope Management Mastery

Mastery of project scope management begins at the start of the project. It ends when the project is delivered.

To be truly exceptional at project scope management, you must prioritize communicating with your client and your team, while maintaining constant oversight of your project.

While there isn’t one simple fix to effective project scope management, if you adhere to these best practices you will plan and deliver projects that are well within scope and budget every time. More importantly, you’ll have very happy clients.