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The Impact of Scope Management on Project Success

Very few projects are ever completed according to the original plan and budget. Change is inevitable, but mandating that proper change control processes are in place can help minimise their impact.

Poorly managed or un-controlled changes can harm your project severely; including missed deadlines, budget overruns, and even project failure. Adding extra work and the requirement for extra budget and resources may impact your ability to deliver on target.

To emphasise this point, poor estimates in the planning phase (39%) and changes in scope mid-project (41%) were reported as the top two reasons for project delays in the 2014 Global PPM survey by PwC.

Fortunately, it doesn't need to be a major issue. So long as the initial scope is clearly defined, all changes during the lifecycle of your project are well managed, and you utilise powerful project management software, that provides change control features, then it is still possible to deliver projects successfully.

Defining Your Project

Defining a project scope that is specific, clear and attainable and ensuring any scope changes are carefully controlled is key to capital project management success.

Deliver projects on time and on budget with our guide to 'The Five Immutable  Principles of Project Success'

Investing the time and effort in detailed project definition at the beginning of the project, before costs and deadlines begin to pile up, can remove headaches further down the line and help keep the project on-track in terms of time and budget.

A project's scope is formed of all the work that must be accomplished to successfully deliver a product, service, or result. Ask the question: what work do we have to do to deliver the required capability and what effort does it take?

At the outset of your project, effort should be made to ensure that there are no gaps in the statement of work that can lead to scope changes later in the execution phase.

Project scope management includes the processes required to ensure that the project includes all the work required, and only the work required, to complete the project successfully. Failure to define what is part of the project, as well as what is not, may result in work being performed that was unnecessary to create the product of the project.

Change Control

When changes occur, for whatever reason, a tight change control process can help you keep the project on track. Once the changes are made, there is almost always an accompanying increase in the budget and/or extension of the schedule. However, we have seen that on some projects even high numbers of changes and a severe amount of scope increase have been added to the project without any schedule extension given to perform the same work. To make matters even worse, schedule impact has not been assessed as part of the change process.

It is vital that all changes are assessed in the dimensions of the budget plan, the resource plan, and the project schedule. Also, remember that if extra work is added to the project it is not self-funding and more budget should be added to cover this increase in workload.

Scope changes can come from internal or external sources, but if requests for change are frequent and numerous it can be a clear indicator of a poorly-defined project scope and a poorly defined project baseline.

Timing of Scope Changes

Everyone seems to understand that the further into the project life-cycle or phases, the costlier the scope changes get and the financial impact of even a small scope change can be quite large because it may involve reversing previous decisions, making completed work obsolete.

Another critical factor involving timing is whether the scope changes are radical changes. When radical changes happen, it can be caused by new regulations or laws or it can be a radical change that provides operational savings for many years ahead. Savings that far exceeds the extra project development cost of the radical change.

Haunted by Scope Creep?

Scope creep is what happens when changes are included in the project scope of work without a proper change control process in place. Unfortunately, many project managers are facing projects where scope creep is a real issue. In order to avoid scope creep, and stay on schedule, you need to follow these tips:

  1. Ensure that the scope of work is well defined and that the schedule and the resource plan is focused on the deliverables and how to complete the deliverables described. Work that is not part of the defined scope, should not be included in the project schedule.
  2. Verify scope and project execution plan with all stakeholders.
  3. Set the project baseline at the planning stage and measure performance against it.
  4. Set up a proper change control process, ensure that scope, resource requirements and schedule impact is assessed and improved before including new activities into the schedule.
  5. Any change in work should be accompanied by funds in resources and budgets.

To stay on top of the work, avoiding scope creep and managing changing requirements, project managers need a software solution that offers change management features, schedule impact analysis, and allows you to perform proper scope, resource plan, and schedule control. To find out for yourself how Safran Project can improve project planning, as well as execution, request your free trial here.

The Five Immutable Principles of Project Success