Saturday, March 31, 2012

The secret to managing project scope creep

Why do you as a new project manager need to be very wary of "project scope creep"?

Well, firstly let's go back to some basics. The scope of your project refers to what you have agreed with your client will be the outcomes to be delivered, together with a defined standard of quality.

However, the project scope will always be inter-connected to the time and cost necessary for project completion.

Scope creep refers to the client's attempt to increase, change or add to the project specifications (eg. with systems projects, adding an extra functionality to the software)

Your client may attempt to make other changes to the initial project agreement, such as bringing forward the timeline for project completion - or reducing your budget or the available resources for your project

Dealing with a client who is engaging in scope creep requires good negotiating skills on your part as a project manager. Because if your original agreement in defining the scope of your project was based on realistic estimates all around - then if you simply concede to their request then you may risk creating stress and strain for yourself and your project team.
So an important tip for the new project manager is to look for "quid pro quo" if your client seeks to change any key element of the project scope. Project outcomes, timelines and budget (or available resources) are all inter-dependent - to change one parameter will likely have an impact upon other project parameters.

In other words, if the client seeks to bring the timeline forward for example, then this needs to be matched by a commensurate increase in resources (eg. people) required to achieve the earlier deadline Similarly, increasing the size of the project must lead to either an.associated  extension to the schedule or an increase in resources required.

And speaking of negotiating skills, if your company is looking for some in-house training then have a look at Negotiation Training Melbourne

Once the project scope has been agreed with your client, let's acknowledge that circumstances can sometimes change within a business, particularly within a fluid environment. And yes, you must be responsive to your client's needs.

But don't simply roll over and accomodate changes to your project scope without carefully thinking through what the implications will be for the project cost or schedule. Remember that your initial estimate of the time and cost needed to complete the project outcomes will be affected if the scope is changed. One small change to the project scope may initially seem manageable - but it is the cumulative effect of several of these minor changes during the project that will create strain.

So make sure that you speak up and calmly explain the impact to your client, if they seek a change to the project scope.