Defining and Managing Project Scope

The job of a project manager can often be a difficult one due to the large number of “moving parts” that you need to manage at any given time. Any action that doesn’t take the project forward towards completion runs the risk of taking a big, unfortunate step backwards.

One of the best ways to help make sure that you’re going to come in on time and on budget involves both defining and managing project scope. In order to accomplish this seemingly straightforward goal, there are a few key things to keep in mind.

What is Project Scope?

Simply put, project scope involves narrowing down a solid idea of exactly what is required for a particular project to be successful. Every last deadline that you and your team will face, along with every task that needs to be completed, every goal that you’re trying to hit and every deliverable that you’re going to be working towards will all go into determining how “big” the scope of a project really is.

Scope is also one of the most important factors of a project as it will dictate certain decisions that must be made by the project manager or team leader in order to help things go as smoothly as possible.

Managing Project Scope

When it comes to project scope, one of the major things that you need to keep in mind involves the fact that scope is essentially a moving target. As your team members get to work on their responsibilities and tasks get completed, scope has a tendency to change in certain ways more often than not.

Maybe you’ve gotten a significant amount of work done and you’ve realized that you aren’t as close to completion as you thought. Maybe you experienced setbacks in the form of unforeseen risk and now have to play “catch up” to a certain degree. As these variables begin to rear their ugly heads (as they will), the scope of a project will naturally evolve.

One of the most important factors involved with managing project scope successfully involves “rolling with the punches,” so to speak. There will be times where you need to adjust your client’s expectations or even your own based on new information and activities, for example. Being flexible enough to adjust your plan as needed is one of the best ways to see a project through to completion.

When you take the effort to define the scope of a project as early on in the process as possible, a number of other things begin to fall into place. Not only is everyone largely on the same page regarding what they’re supposed to be doing and how they’re supposed to be doing it, but even something like risk mitigation becomes easier. It’s significantly less challenging to identify risk if you know exactly what “success” looks like in the first place.

Key Takeaways:

  • Project scope involves figuring out not only a list of specific goals that you’re hoping to accomplish with a project, but also certain deliverables, required tasks, deadlines and other characteristics that play a role in seeing a project through to completion.
  • Project scope is something that you need to figure out as early on in the life cycle of a project as possible for the best results.
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