How a project manager can protect their project from scope creep

, Thursday, November 1st, 2012

Most consultants have run into scope creep on their projects. If communication, planning, oversight, tracking, and/or monitoring is loose or incomplete, scope creep is an almost certainty. When it happens it can cause confusion, project delays, and/or cost overruns and ultimately damage client relations. How can a project manager protect their project from scope creep?

Communication:

Communication is your best defense for keeping projects on track.  Weekly client meetings, complete and shared meeting notes, and weekly status reports can go a long way in documenting conversations and decisions made around functional expectations.

Planning: Clear Requirements

An effective project planning process is based on a thorough requirements assessment. For typical Content Management System (CMS) builds, the burden of guiding expectations for site/CMS features is on the consultant. Typical methods for clarifying requirements may include a Features Workshop, specification documentation and/or multiple CMS demo sessions. Documentation should be written in language that can be understood by nontechnical staff and reviewed thoroughly with the client. Demos should be tailored to show specific requested out-of-the-box functionality and/or focus on areas of the CMS which may be best understood through a demo. The goal of having clear requirements and reviewing functionality in a demo setting is to set expectations for the entire team on how pieces of the site will likely function at launch. A scope matrix is developed as the final step in design.  This matrix typically has several hundred lines broken down into task areas, and effort estimates for each – forming the baseline for development tracking.

Managing Change

Good project managers know that scope creep, if properly identified, communicated, and managed can be an opportunity. If a change is identified after approval of the scope matrix, the change and impacts should be communicated immediately to the client.  The communication should include a detailed description of the requested feature/functionality, It should be clearly articulated why it is considered a change in scope and what the impacts will be if the expansion were adopted into the project – timeline, cost, and impact to dependent pieces. This allows the client to make an informed decision around whether to push the out of scope piece to a later phase or to move forward with a change order.

Monitoring & Tracking

Using the scope matrix as a baseline, individual development tasks should be tracked by estimated percent complete and hours spent. This ensures clarity around how development is progressing in terms of time and budget. Detailed monitoring ensures that the project is accomplished on target, on time, and on budget and when overages occur they are isolated and the impact clearly seen.

To recap, scope control and management comes down to clear communication, proper planning, effectively managing changes in scope and regular development monitoring and tracking.  Employing these principles will guard against the reality of changes in scope derailing your project.

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