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20 September 2005

Managing Scope

In project management, scope is the sum total of all projects products and their features. Scope can also mean the totality of work to be done by the project team. Scope sets the boundaries of what work is going to be done by the project team, and what the boundaries of the problem that is being addressed.

A project such as the current project that I am working on is only addressing some of the problems with the exiting business process. Others are uncovered as we investigate the current processes and gradually the scope changes. The management aspect of scope management is called ‘change management’ where changes to the scope are assessed, usually in terms of the benefit to be achieved against the impact to the project’s planned budget and schedule.

Often in business improvement projects (i.e. ones that usually include software development as a key part of the solution) the business client/sponsor does not exactly know the scope of the problem and it gets revealed gradually.

More time spent planning can address the above problem, matched with a good change management system that allows for justified changes. When sponsors and project managers take a too hardhearted approach to change management a tightly managed scope can result is a product that doesn’t deliver a user/customer a satisfying result.

Small things that affect a system’s useability are not considered valuable to a sponsor but are frequently very important to users and customer.

An example I am aware of is a website where customers can change their credit card details according to a bunch of business rules. When scoping the project a customer initiated lowering of a credit card limit was initially forgotten. The cost of building in the changes to the schedule was considered too high and so the website went live without that function. The result is that some of the benefits of reducing customer calls were not achieve, and customers who try to initiate a credit reduction are frustrated as their expectations of the company (an comprehensive and easy to user website) are undermined.