Identifying Project Scope: Management Basics
Project scope is the part of project planning that involves determining and documenting a list of specific project goals, deliverables, tasks, costs and deadlines. Effective scope management requires good communication to ensure that everyone on the team understands the scope of the project and agrees upon exactly how the project’s goals will be met. As part of project scope management, the team leader should solicit approvals and sign-offs from the various stakeholders as the project proceeds, ensuring that the finished project, as proposed, meets everyone’s needs.
Let us firstly define the main project management terms:
– Project is a collection of economic, organizational and technical measures aimed to create a new product, construct a system, achieve certain goals etc. The project consists of events and activities (tasks).
– Project Management involves planning, organizing, communicating and managing of work activities, in order to lead the project and to fulfill time and budget constraints.
– Activity (task) is clear, certain level of workflow that requires specific time and money.
– Event is a condition – start or finish for one or more activities, or the whole project.
– Milestone (intermediate goal) – it is an event that represents the end of a certain stage of the project.
– Stakeholders (interested parties), people who have some interest in the project (investor, client, customer, project manager, members of the working team, etc.).
Defining the scope of the project can help us to improve the estimation of time, costs and resources needed for the project. Scope definition of the project is the basis for measuring the performance and control of the project and it can help you to define clear business obligations.
Project decomposition, i.e. Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) is a method for grouping of project tasks (aimed to delivery), which will define the total scope of the project.
It is important that work is divided and organized into logical units, on the basis – how it will be conducted.
WBS is a fundamental document because it provides a basis for planning and management: schedule, cost, resources and changes. Some executives believe that business should not be performed, unless it is part of the WBS.
Decomposition can be performed by various techniques and tools, or parsing operations that lead the work to be split into smaller parts. Some software tools can greatly help to make this project decomposition.
To address the implementation of the project, first of all it is necessary to provide the required documentation (for all stakeholders) and to define the scope of the project. The WBS groups the tasks by project phases (stages), and it is usually represented with a sheet, or a graphic diagram.
The detailed WBS is defined by the project managers and the team members. The project scope contains a detailed overview of the tasks related to the creation of the final product, and is used for reviewing the activities at the grassroots level.
It is important to make a connection between the stages of the project, the execution of the project tasks, the WBS and the Gantt’s diagrams, in order to precisely define the scope of the project.
You should involve the entire team, as well as the end users in creating the WBS. People who will perform the tasks should assist in setting up schemes by participating in the development of WBS.
How to create the WBS?
For accurate and efficient implementation of the project – there are a number of approaches to be followed in WBS creation:
- Using instructions
- Using an analogy
- Top-down approach
- Bottom-up approach
- Using Mind maps.
Using guidelines (instructions)
Many organizations develop guidelines and templates for creation of a work breakdown structure, while some use examples from the past projects. Project Management Institute has developed a WBS standard – in order to provide a guide for development and application of WBS in the project management. This standard contains examples of WBS for different projects from different industries (web design, telecommunications, software implementation, etc.).
When you approach creation of a WBS, you should search a pattern of a project with similar content. This pattern can serve as a basis for evaluation of the project. A bad quality of this approach is that errors occur in the application of these patterns, because each project has its own peculiarities. The good side of patterned projects is the development of new projects based on previous experience.
This WBS technique is applied most often. It starts from the highest level, and systematically increases the level of details (coming into smaller items). This technique succeeds if the problem is well understood, when technology and methodology are not new, and if the problem is similar to an earlier project or problem.
This technique starts from the tasks in the lowest levels. Bad quality of this technique is that it is time-consuming, because it goes into every detail of the tasks, and also – for this WBS technique you’ll need a lot of prerequisites (primarily high-quality, professional and experienced staff). Good feature of this technique is the level of details, which excludes a large number of errors in the project implementation, and therefore eliminates the corrections, and heavy losses in the project (time and money).
Using a mind map
This technique of making WBS involves nonlinear graphical representation of the project. Research is needed to generate all the tasks that must be performed. Then, instead of making a list, you can create a non-linear shape, or a diagram (graphic). Implementation steps will be grouped into categories.