Apply These Three Techniques for Managing Scope
Identifying and managing project scope is one of the most important elements for project success. Saying this another way, a lack of understanding and managing of project scope is one of the major reasons for project challenges. Here are three techniques that will help you be more successful managing scope.
Freeze Scope Change Requests Late in the Project
You might think that as long as the sponsor is willing to approve increases in budget and schedule to make a scope change, they should be able to do it. However, late scope changes tend to impact more than schedule and budget – they are a distraction. When a project team is focusing on implementation, it is time to freeze scope changes.
Depending on the nature of the project, this freeze is usually implemented as the team is getting ready for the “drive to implementation”. At this point, the team is focused on implementing the solution. Scope changes are not only costly, but they are also very disruptive. The team can lose focus and become mentally deflated.
This does not mean you cannot accept change requests after the freeze. However, the changes are held on a backlog and dealt with them later after the solution is implemented and stable.
Track all Scope Changes – Even Small Ones
One reason projects get into trouble is through scope creep. Scope creep refers to small incremental changes than are implemented without going through the scope change management process. This is for two reasons. In some cases the project manager does not recognize a scope change has occurred. In other cases, the project manager chooses not to go though the formal process because the change is small. If you only have a couple small changes, the impact to your project may not be noticeable. However, when these small changes occur frequently, the cumulative effect can be enough to impact the entire project schedule and budget.
The solution is to make sure you identify and track all changes – even small ones. Small changes can still be managed flexibly. For example, small changes may have a fast-track approval process. However, you want to make sure they are all tracked.
Do Not Use Estimating Contingency for Scope Changes
One of the steps in the estimating process is to add contingency hours, budget and schedule to reflect the level of uncertainty associated with the estimate. For instance, if the effort hours were estimated at 5,000 hours, you might add 500 hours for contingency, which reflects a 90% confidence factor and 10% uncertainty. Once the contingency is approved, there will be pressure on the project manager to use the contingency to absorb additional requirements. The sponsor might say, “Why do we need to invoke scope change management for this 100 hour enhancement. You have 500 hours of contingency built into your estimate!”
The project manager must resist the temptation and the pressure. The purpose of the estimating contingency is to reflect uncertainty in the estimates. There will be plenty of opportunities to utilize the contingency when activities take longer than expected. Do not use the estimating contingency to absorb extra work.