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Project Management 101: Project Scope

Managing scope is the way PMs get through a project. If the scope is managed well, the impacts on the timeline, quality, and budget will be understood when the scope changes are requested. If the scope is not managed, you will have scope creep (the process of never-ending additions and changes to what you are supposed to be doing) and you might get to the end of the project and find you haven’t delivered on the original scope. Or, you might never get to the point where people agree your project is done.

An example of well managed scope is building a house.
Your contractor will have you sign the original agreement on how many bedrooms, whether there is a basement or not, and the quality of the fixtures (and many other aspects).

If you decide to add a bedroom, the contractor will assess the impact and tell you how much more it will cost, how much longer the project will take, and what else has to change to accommodate the new room. He will not start the work until you sign off on the change. As the client, you have the opportunity to decide not to add the bedroom if the cost is too great.

An example of scope creep is in planning a wedding.

You and your fiancé agree that a small wedding is your ideal celebration. You want friends and immediate family there. You think the wedding will be 40 to 45 people. Then your future in-laws ask you to invite the second cousin Amy and her partner. When your parents hear about that, they say you should invite Mario, your dad’s old friend, and his new girlfriend. Your uncle Joe wants to bring his three kids along, your fiancé says his boss has been angling for an invitation and wants to bring his mother and father along. After the dust settles, you realize you have sent out 75 invitations and if everyone comes with a guest, your wedding reception can’t be held in the back yard. So your mother starts looking for halls….. you suddenly have no control over the scope of your wedding project.

This might seem like a specific example that wouldn’t apply to your projects. But, take care. If we think about the sample ebook project, it can easily grow to include pictures, links to tools, audio, video, interactive testing, and scoring.

All projects can be subject to scope creep, however, it can be easily managed through Change Request tracking, a feature available in most project management software applications. Change Request tracking will allow you to keep tabs on all sorts of requests and changes that might arise during the lifecycle of your projects. You can then easily estimate their impact on your project schedule and allocate available resources as you see fit, without jeopardizing your project deadlines.

This is an excerpt from our e-book “Project Management Can Be Easy”, written by Perry Wilson, PMP. The entire e-book is available for a download absolutely free.

This post is a part of our on-going Project Management 101 series.

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