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7 Scope Questions to Ask at Project Initiation
By Mark Norman

There are many scoping questions that the project manager must ask during a project. Below are a series of questions I use during project initiation:

  1. What is the objective of the project

    Preferably this should be recorded in a single sentence and reflect what your sponsor wishes to achieve. Everything you do in the project should be able to be referred back to this statement.

  2. What are the deliverables

    All projects produce something, these are the project deliverables. These need to be defined early in the project, clearly and have a measure of quality that can be used to judge their fitness for purpose.

  3. Are you solving a problem or building a solution

    This defines whether you are working to deliver a prescribed solution or working to find a way to solve a problem with, as yet, undefined deliverables. The answer to this question will drive how you allocate resources and manage the project.

  4. How will you measure success

    This is a fundamental question that should ideally be covered in the project brief or project charter. It sets the context along with question 1 for the rest of the project. We know the objective and we know how we are going to measure success at the end of the project. Having this clearly defined allows you as the project manager to steer your project through the inevitable challenges ahead.

  5. What potential is there to negotiate on actual deliverables

    This is useful if and when difficult decisions have to be made during the lifecycle of the project. Being aware of those areas with some flexibility helps the project manager make decisions, this can prompt the conversation with the customer. Key to watch out for are gold plated requirements which could potentially be over engineered, a sub question is how good is good enough?

  6. What constraints are there on the project

    The project context is important. As a project manager it is useful to gain a wider understanding of the business environment your project is in. Are there commercial, legal or market constraints that could impact on your project. What budget, time, cost and quality constraints are influencing your project and impacting your descision making.

  7. What implicit assumptions exist

    This is one of the most important things to bear in mind as a project manager. Communication is a 2 way process and we need to reflect back to the customer what we think he or she is telling us. Through experience the project manager should learn to confirm an reaffirm his or her understanding back to the customer to reduce the potential for misunderstanding, try to avoid the situation where, later in the project, the customer utters “…but I thought you understand what I meant when I said….”

What questions do you ask? It would be useful to get your feedback to see what works and what does not…

Mark Norman is a leader, project manager, part time archaeologist and mountain climber. You can read more from Mark on his blog.

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