Projects used to be mostly linear processes. Managing project scope simply meant making sure tasks were done on time.
Today’s projects are more complex. Modern projects are fluid, and agile. Tracking progress may mean measuring one task against another, across a supply chain, with a third impacting the process for good measure.
Scope creep is a bigger threat today than it used to be, too.
It used to be a simple: the stakeholders would agree on a scope agreement document, and it would define the project in its entirety. Today’s projects are so complex, and have so many moving parts, that such a “set in stone” document may prove to be impossible.
Think of a software development project, as an example. You can try to lock down an application in writing for a scope agreement…but rarely does it happen that reality bends itself to what you signed. The best you can hope for are some parameters, but there will be gray area in between them.
Project Scope Management in the Modern Project Environment
Project scope management begins with expectations, and ends in delivery. Managing that process means a constant dialogue with stakeholders.
This starts with your first meeting. Defining the project goal is not always enough. Detailed parameters, at this stage, are important.
After agreeing to those detailed parameters, you’re going to create your project plan. Meet again with the stakeholders, and go over the plan together. Now that the goals and parameters are fleshed out into an actionable plan, the project plan can become the scope agreement. This also provides the added benefit of a time and schedule agreement. Each milestone becomes a check in date with the stakeholders for further discussion and changes to the project plan. Stage by stage, together, the project moves from conception to reality.
Benefits of the Project Plan Scope Agreement Approach
Using a project plan as a project scope agreement is not without its possible problems. It runs the danger of inviting a stakeholder to micromanage the project plan, for example.
But this approach has three main benefits over the pre-plan scope agreement document approach.
- Communication and Collaboration: using the project plan as the scope agreement increases communication and collaboration between stakeholders and the project team from the beginning. It literally puts everyone on the same page from day one.
- Flexibility: Milestones become chapters of the project book. At those stakeholder meetings, discuss proposed (or needed) changes in the plan, and decide upon the agreed plan for the next stage of the project. Time estimates are off? A new feature is possible? There’s now a set method for change discussion, and change implementation too.
- Clarity: There is no room for misunderstanding when each stage of the project is discussed between stakeholders and project team and mapped out. There is a clarity of purpose and a clarity of method in this approach, where what is being delivered is exactly what was planned from the beginning.
Instead of ambiguous documents, using a project plan as your scope agreement can increase collaboration and communication, flexibility, and clarity for a project.