Managing project scope remains one of the most important responsibilities of any project manager who works on a project of larger than trivial size. A successful project is a project that is completed on time and within budget; and completed means that the scope of the project is delivered to its stakeholders as expected.
To be sure that this goal is indeed achievable, a project manager needs to have absolute clarity on what is in the scope of the project, and especially, what is not. Failing to see the difference often results in projects falling prey to scope creep, that is, when requirements get added to the scope without modifications to schedule or budget.
There are multiple tools and techniques to define and manage scope; almost all of them are based on the divide and conquer principle. That is, the scope should be broken into individual, smaller deliverables. PRINCE2, for example, calls them products and specifies a dedicated product breakdown structure tool that is a part of overall project planning.
We have reviewed such scope management tools with our existing customers, and after adding a few modifications to make them easier to use, we introduced this project management best practice to Exact PSA.
In an nutshell, the sequence of steps that a project manager will take looks like this:
1) Once a project is created in Synergy Enterprise, the project manager will define the scope by entering one by one deliverables that will be built. Sometimes they are very easy to spot, like reports, or installations of equipment and software, or agreed milestones.
2) Sometimes deliverables are less tangible, like testing or integration, and need to be broken down further — into smaller deliverables. The rule of the thumb is that a project manager should stop when he can comfortably estimate the amount of work and material it will take to deliver the deliverable.
A resulting parent-child structure in Exact PSA will similar to this:
In this example, in a project to implement Synergy Enterprise, there is a main project deliverable — the overall outcome of the project. It is called Complete implementation and it’s lifespan is the same as the lifespan of the project.
This main deliverable is broken down into three other deliverables: Requirements analysis, Onsite implementation and Final testing & acceptance. Each of these deliverables has its own start time and start date, that will define the schedule of the project.
The project manager considered Onsite implementation to be still quite large, and split it into two more deliverables: Hardware installation and Software installation. He also decided to that work on this large deliverable should be managed via a child project, since different team members will be writing hours on it.
All this information is displayed in a single screen, so that the project manager to see the complete scope of the project in one glance. (Special columns like Item, WBS cost and revenue, and Margin we shall discuss in the next articles).
In release 248, to allow project managers to using deliverables to scope the project, the administrator should enable a central switch in the settings of Exact PSA. However, based on customer feedback, in release 249 we delegated this choice to project managers, since they know best when to use deliverables to manage scope and when not to.
Often, in small projects centered around realizing, approving and invoicing a few billable activities, there is little incentive for a project manager to actively manage scope. However, interviews with customers showed that many disciplined project managers use deliverables on all their projects, regardless of size, so that they have the scope very clearly defined and managed.
In the next article we will discuss how the project manager can define individual activities and tasks that are needed to build an actual deliverable., and how he can track their progress. Stay tuned!