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How Effective Scope Management Can Save Time on Complicated Projects

21st Sep 20

Posted by Richard Wood

Topics: Management

Trimming even the smallest amount of time off complex projects can lead to significant cost savings. Effective scope management is paramount to saving time and should be a well-used tool in any project manager’s arsenal.

What is Project Scope Management?

Project scope is defined as the complete work needed to deliver a finished project, with all the agreed results and milestones met. Scope management, then, is the act of carefully controlling and documenting the scope throughout the project.

When a scope is well-managed, it’ll only contain the tasks essential for project completion and will account for any potential cost and schedule risks along the critical path.

How to Manage Project Scope Effectively

Managing project scope effectively comes down to your ability to define the scope at the project outset, control the scope during the project, and communicate scope changes to the appropriate parties.

Defining Project Scope

Before undertaking a project, you need to start by gathering all the project requirements:

  • What outcomes are stakeholders expecting?
  • How much do they expect it to cost?
  • What resources will be required?
  • When do they expect it to be delivered by?

Scheduling meetings with all the major stakeholders is the best way to get this information. Be sure to document everything discussed in your project charter.

Next, it’s time to concretize the project scope. It should consist of a set of deliverables, a reasonable budget, and intended schedule – all informed by the data collected previously. Having this clear understanding of what’s expected from the start will make it much easier to manage the scope as the project progresses.

Be sure to get the project scope signed off by the appropriate parties before the project begins so everyone’s on the same page.

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Managing Scope During the Project

Now the scope is set in stone and the project’s underway, the project manager must keep the scope under control and mitigate scope creep.

Scope creep is when the project scope begins to slowly grow to encompasses all manner of additional tasks not agreed to at the outset.

Creep is an unfortunate reality for most projects, and keeping abreast of it is paramount to saving time and money. It’s therefore vital to keep a close eye on the project scope as time goes by, and proactively monitor work being done against the baseline. This will keep the project on track and moving in the right direction.

Project managers must also manage change requests to the project scope. Knowing which changes to approve and deny – and how these changes will impact the project scope – is a key skill to develop. After all, much of what makes up effective scope management comes down to a project manager’s judgments.

All changes must be cascaded down to your teams via an integrated change control process.

Communicating Scope Change

Knowing who to inform when scope change occurs is vital, and communicating scope change effectively can make or break a project’s chances of success.

Smaller changes that are unlikely to impact cost and schedule can be made by project managers, so long as you keep affected parties updated. But larger changes that will encroach on cost and schedule will need to be discussed with relevant stakeholders and team leaders.

Of course, project managers should use discretion here to ensure changes don’t cause needless delay to tasks along the critical path – it’s not uncommon to fall into the trap of allowing bureaucracy to get in the way of getting on with the job.

Any changes to the project scope must be justified with everyone having a clear understanding of the risks at play if they go ahead. There are many justifications for changing project scope, including:

  • Changes in regulations
  • Business strategy changes
  • Changes in the client’s point of view
  • An unforeseen lack of resources

It’s down to the project manager to work through these changes and decide which are worth implementing and which would too-negatively affect the cost and schedule.

Great Scope Management is Priceless

Managing scope poorly can lead to dissatisfied customers, higher-than-budgeted costs, and significant project overrun. Conversely, keeping a tight grip on the project scope will result in happy clients, costs that arrive on-budget, and project competition dates being met on time, or even early.

With so much time, and therefore money, to potentially save, project managers can’t afford to not spend time sharpening their scope management skill set.

The Five Immutable Principles of Project Success