Whether you’re managing a large or small project, you need to deploy robust scoping strategies – not only to avoid scope creep but to ensure you hit your project targets, on time and within budget. Here are 7 ways to get started.
Allocating the right amount of work required to successfully complete a project and keeping the ogre of scope creep at bay requires a deft hand. Next time you’re starting a project, keep these tried and tested scoping strategies in mind:
1. Define your project’s main objective
Every member of your team and every project stakeholder should be able to clearly understand the project’s main objective in measurable terms. An easy way to tackle this is to deploy the SMARTA methodology:
If you get bogged down in the details, sit down with your team and ask them: “What is this project really hoping to achieve for the business?”
2. Agree on definitive acceptance criteria
Much like the project’s objectives, these should be measurable. Acceptance criteria are facts that must be signed off at the project’s end as having been achieved. They should also be signed off as and when they are completed through a project’s lifecycle.
The list of acceptance criteria should be referenced to ensure the project is always travelling in the right direction.
3. Clarify your deliverables
Your deliverables are the specific outputs, products or services you need to design, make, create, or implement as part of your project’s success.
It might seem obvious to list out and clarify all the major items in the project that can be clearly described. But assuming everyone is on the same page can quickly lead to confusion and create roadblocks to progress.
4. Outline exclusions
Speaking of assumptions, you might be surprised by how many stakeholders take for granted exactly what you are going to do for them in a project. Don’t risk last-minute additions and changes to the project’s direction – make your intentions clear from the outset.
What is within the boundary of your project and what is outside of it? Document it and share it with all stakeholders. This will also help kick-start conversations around any ‘grey’ areas that could potentially see the project bogged down in future. Be a good communicator and get these out into the open and clarified up front. You don’t want to find out suddenly later that an integral part of the main deliverable is ‘assumed’ as being included, rather than out of scope, by your customer.
5. Spell out any of your own assumptions
Look inward and get clarity on any expectations you have from team members and stakeholders – particularly around resources or inputs that should be in place for the project to succeed.
Without doing your own due diligence, you may find yourself with unexpected delays because you took it for granted that you would have access to something or someone integral, or that it/they would already be available and ready for you.
6. Acknowledge any limitations
These are also known as constraints. It might seem obvious, but any limitations around the project must be documented and agreed on by all stakeholders.
Clearly examine these constraints with your team, as they may need to be negotiated upfront via trade-offs.
7. Document your scope and get buy-in from all stakeholders
Remember the old adage: “If it isn’t written down, it wasn’t said”? A clearly documented project scope will ensure you are set up for success, but more importantly it will provide evidence that you are doing exactly what was agreed on – no more and no less, unless under clear change control procedures.
If changes are made during the life of the project, communicate these to stakeholders to ensure everyone is on the same page.
Taking the time to adequately scope your project can save you an incredible amount of frustration and lost hours in the future. While every project will have different moving parts, how you approach it should always start the same way: with a clear vision and plenty of preparation. Then follow this with regular check-ins on the health of the project to ensure it stays on the right path.
For more help and advice on the topic of scope management, you may find our checklist on ways to avoid scope creep helpful. This downloadable resource shares 10 keys tips for managing, monitoring and controlling scope from the outset of a project.
PM-Partners has a number of accredited courses designed to teach best practice project management skills. To find out how we can improve your chances of project success, speak to our experts today or call 1300 70 13 14.
This article is based on a blog post from Jan 2020. It was updated on 10th December, 2022.