Scope creep is often cited as a reason why projects run over budget and behind schedule, but in same cases, the scope was never well defined.

shutterstock_193266596-150x150 Scope creep versus Failure to Scope
Ensure you capture the scope of your project!

Capture your scope

The key to a successful project is understanding the requirements and creating a project scope that reflects the true resources, time, and quality of the the product being produced.  The project scope is a delicate triangle and adjustments to one leg of the triangle impact the other two.  If the scope is not well defined and codified in the project charter, the project is destined to be fraught with problems.

There is an old phrase that you can have it good, fast, or cheap; but it is impossible to have all three.shutterstock_193266596-150x150 Scope creep versus Failure to Scope

Read more about refining your scope at CIO. 

  • Define the Resources
  • Capture the Quality
  • Set firm Dates

Budget Overruns

When the scope is not well defined from the beginning the project will have continuous cost overruns.  In IT project management, users always want more from a system: faster data rates, more features, and more storage.  All of the additional requirements add up quickly and can cause a project to go over budget.

shutterstock_193266596-150x150 Scope creep versus Failure to Scope
Budget Overruns

As a project manager it is important to have the cost established from the start of the project.  Use a proven cost estimating technique such as bottom-up, top-down, analogous, parametric, or expert.  Using the appropriate technique for your project will give you a solid foundation as you begin your project.  Every project is unique and it is important to have an emergency or reserve fund from project inception and to rigorously account for the use of these funds.  When developing your risk matrix, you may want to create a trigger point for when you have reached a critical point of using your reserve funds.

  • Use an appropriate budgeting technique
  • Use EVM (Earned Value Management) to track project costs
  • Have strict change management

Running Behind Schedule

Time is our most valuable resource, once used, it can never be replaced.  Good budgeting is directly related to good scheduling.  In today’s complex business environment it is essential to work across or organizations and often with outside vendors to develop a project schedule.

shutterstock_193266596-150x150 Scope creep versus Failure to Scope
Behind Schedule

In order to do a proper task hand-off it is critical to know the resources involved and work with the supervisors of other resources in matrixed organizations.  One vital resource in an organization that is assigned to multiple projects can hold up your project.  Ensure that the manager of that resource is aware when you will need the resource and develop an effective way to implement reminders as the time grows closer.  Supervisors can be frustrated when they don’t feel they had enough warning time that a resource is needed and will almost always choose the success of their own project over yours.

I wrote an article about how to use RACI charts and Swim Lane diagrams  for effective resource use, these tools can be used together to streamline your resource management and keep your project on schedule.

  • Use an appropriate scheduling technique
  • Use EVM (Earned Value Management) to track project timeline
  • Have strict change management

Overwhelming Requirements

Often as a project manager you can feel overwhelmed and your stakeholders may have more desires than you can ever meet.  In order to cope with new requirements you need to implement strict change management to your initial scope.  When a change is required it needs to go through the change process and either the budget or schedule will need to be adjusted and validated by the change management board, or it doesn’t get approved.

shutterstock_193266596-150x150 Scope creep versus Failure to Scope
Overwhelming requirements

Some changes are essential and must be incorporated, if they are regulatory for example.  Most change is due to stakeholders wanting more than the originally agreed upon requirement.  The project scope needs to contain enough detail to enforce quality standards and identify an actual change.  For example, in an IT project there can be significant differences in data storage requirements; this is a requirement that should be identified in the original scope, or it will cause significant problems later.

  • Strict change management
  • Offer alternatives such as future upgrades
  • Enforce trade-offs

Life is a Project!

When we fail to scope things can be overwhelming, before blaming scope creep, determine if you captured the full requirements in your initial scope.  Even in the execution or monitoring and controlling phase, it is not too late to go back to the original charter for guidance.

Teaser: Coming soon – identifying key stakeholders.

This video focuses on scope creep versus failure to scope for project managers!

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