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Managing Scope in Project Management
By John Filicetti

After the basics of managing the schedule, managing scope is the most important activity required to control a project. Many project failures are not caused by problems with estimating or team skill sets, but by the project team working on major and minor deliverables that were not part of the original project definition or business requirements. Even if you have good scope management procedures in place, there are still two major areas of scope change management that must be understood to be successful—understanding who the customer is and scope creep.

Best Practice: Ensure that the sponsor approves scope change requests

In general, the project sponsor on the customer side is the person funding the project. While there is usually just one sponsor, a large project could have many stakeholders, or people who are impacted by the project. Requests for scope changes will most often come from stakeholders—many of whom may be managers in their own right. One manager might want one set of features for their area. Another might want an exception to the features already created. It doesn’t matter how important a change is to a stakeholder, they cannot make scope change decisions and they cannot give your team the approval to make the change. In proper scope change management, the sponsor (or their designate) must give the approval after the change has gone through the change request process; since they are the only ones who can approve additional funding to cover the changes and know if the project impact is acceptable.

Best Practices: Guard against Scope Creep

Most project managers know to invoke scope change management procedures if they are asked to add a major new function or a major new deliverable to their project. However, sometimes the project manager doesn’t recognize the small scope changes that get added over time. Scope creep is a term used to define a series of small scope changes that are made to the project without scope change management procedures being used. With scope creep, a series of small changes—none of which appear to affect the project individually—can accumulate to have a significant overall impact on the project. Many projects fail because of scope creep and the project manager needs to be diligent in guarding against it.

John F. Filicetti, PMP, MBA
John Filicetti is a Sr. Sales Engineer/PM-PMO-PPM Consultant with a great depth of experience and expertise in enterprise project management, project management methodologies, Project Portfolio Management (PPM), Project Management Offices (PMOs), Governance, process consulting, and business management. John has directed and managed project management teams, created and implemented methodologies and practices, provided project management consulting, created and directed PMOs, and created consulting and professional services in such areas as project portfolio management, Governance, business process re-engineering, network systems integration, application development, infrastructure, and complex environments. John has enjoyed many years as PMO Director for large corporations in the Seattle area and leads the PMO Roundtable discussion group and forum.

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