Three Steps to Managing Project Scope

Project management  has many challenges. One of the most challenging things is the management of scope. There are many challenges to scope. Within the life cycle of a project, I would like to focus on the initial development of scope. When do you develop scope, and how do you develop scope?

Scope is developed in three main stages. The first stage of development takes place when you create the project charter during project initiation. This is the first key document created by the project. It’s used to outline the purpose of the project and get approval to start the project.

Once approved, full blown planning is needed. During planning, the project manager often employs the help of a project team and some subject matter experts (SMEs). Together they will comprehensively describe the objectives and deliverables of the project in a project scope statement. This is the second key document in the development of project scope.

The next step required is the complete decomposition of the list of deliverables into work packages. This is done through the creation of a work breakdown structure (WBS). By starting with the list of deliverables, each deliverable is further broken down until the project manager has work packages that can be delegated to individuals or teams and effectively managed. Typically these work packages each constitute one or two weeks of work. The aggregate of work packages constitutes the entire scope of the project. The WBS is the third essential document in the development of project scope.

The last and final step is the decomposition of work packages into activities for estimating purposes. This is the final step that enables the project manager to create an estimated schedule and estimated budget.

Sounds easy enough, right? But there are a few variables to consider. First of all, project philosophy suggests that planning is good, and that you should do the planning as early on as possible.

In real life, projects often neglect to plan early, and/or neglect to involve all the necessary stakeholders. Real life is always messier than virtual reality. In addition, people have to deal with politics, time constraints and many other complications.

To help project managers with the practical challenges of scope development, Learning Tree has some key courses that combine a blended style of learning between lecture, and hands-on project work. Check out Learning Tree’s wide spectrum of Project Management courses.

Larry T. Barnard, PMP, PMI-RMP, IISPM Practitioner
CEO and Principal Architect
IISPM, International Institute of Sustainability Project Management

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