No team wants their project to fail. Yet, when multiple stakeholders are involved in a project, it can be easy to increase a project’s scope of work. Unfortunately, scope creep can happen to even the best teams. No matter what project methodology your project team agrees upon, it is necessary to define a project’s scope early in the project’s life cycle.
The scope process helps outline the constraints or limitations of a project. It helps remind your project team of the project’s focus, especially if the project threatens to shift beyond its initial committed parameters. A team that stays committed to the specified scope can successfully overcome this project challenge to produce deliverables on time and on budget.
Defining Project Scope
There are many techniques and actions that can help your team define and clarify the project scope. No matter which approach is best for your team, it is necessary to agree upon the following items when defining a project’s scope:
- Project objectives
What is scope creep?
Scope creep is when additional tasks, deliverables, goals, or features are added to an agreed upon scope of work after a project’s beginning phase. An example of scope creep would be when a stakeholder suggests adding new functionally to an already defined project. This is acceptable, only if you clearly identify the additional functionality and define the level of effort needed to complete the project and all stakeholders agree to the changes. New features will affect your project’s Timeline, which could also impact The Triple Constraints Factors of Quality, Cost and Scope. Changing one of the constraints will impact the other two constraints.
What causes scope creep?
Any project can become a victim of scope creep, even if there is a well-defined project scope. New features added to product designs can increase scope creep, as well as the items mentioned below:
• No clear understanding of the project vision
It is critical to have a clear understanding of the project vision from the Project Sponsor before the project starts. The Project Manager and the project team should have a clear understanding of the process, how technology supports their process and how the stakeholders will benefit from the implementation of the new solution. This helps the team during the systems development life cycle (SDLC) to ensure everyone has a clear understanding of the end goal and deliverables.
• Lack of user involvement
The project stakeholders play very important roles in the project, including the ability to affect the project’s outcome. It is critical to have an open line of communication between the team and the stakeholders, as this is key in delivering a project on time and avoiding scope creep.
• Poorly documented requirements
Requirements are the blueprint that project teams work from in order to successfully deliver business needs. Inadequately documented requirements can lead to poor implementation, design, testing and a product that does not meet the business needs.
• Conflicting priorities and objectives
Most projects have multiple project stakeholders and project team members that often have different priorities and objectives. For example, you could have a project stakeholder from Sales and another from Marketing. Both Stakeholders want the project to deliver the same end result but have conflicting requirements or demands. This can cause an ever moving project scope, and can result in conflicts regarding prioritization of functionality to be delivered.
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The Best Ways to Avoid Scope Creep
The best ways to avoid scope creep are to document requirements, project goals, deliverables, tasks, costs and deadlines. Without a well-documented and monitored project plan, a project can suffer from scope creep, and even result in project failure. Often times it is unavoidable not to adjust the project scope once a project has commenced. However, it is critical to carefully review new requirements that will increase the scope of the project, impacting Time, Quality and Cost. So while adding new phases or requirements may sound like good ideas at the time, remember: it will affect your project’s success!