9 Tips for More Accurate Project Scope

March 9, 2020 Yoni Barkan

Defining project scope can seem like a daunting task. But never fear — we have nine tips to help you produce accurate project scope. Nailing your project scope has many positive impacts on your project, such as protecting project deadlines, eliminating confusion among developers, minimizing scope creep, upholding the project budget, and enhancing customer trust. 

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How do you make sure you get it right? 

The best way to get project scope right is to pay attention to the details. What should you include? Details, details, and more details. To make sure you include everything to get the most accurate project scope, consider these nine tips to improve your results: 

  1. Identify the correct stakeholders. For best results, include the stakeholders doing the current work addressed in the project. You need to have tribal knowledge of existing workflows and input on desired workflows to achieve the best results. Involving the right stakeholders can help you avoid inaccurate assumptions that can put project deadlines at risk. 
  2. Describe, in detail, current and future workflows. Include how different business teams interact and what information is shared. Noting interactions among teams goes a long way toward preventing scope creep during the Define phase and helps eliminate confusion among developers. 
  3. When detailing workflows, it is just as important to note what is in scope as it is to specify what is not included. Identifying project limitations and exclusions should always be an important step in your process. By spelling out known limitations and exclusions, you decrease the risk of the project getting off track and leading to scope creep. 
  4. Define, in specific terms, what success looks like. Determine how to measure success and get very specific about outlining success criteria. When everyone is on the same page, you eliminate different definitions of “done” that can jeopardize project budgets. 
  5. Include all project assumptions. Don’t assume everyone understands all project assumptions. Spell out everything to avoid confusion and potential delays. This step can really enhance customer trust. 
  6. Determine and document any unique or specific considerations to any aspect of the project. Just like every project is a bit different, projects can have unique parameters or considerations that must be clearly defined. At the end of the project, during “lessons learned” (see “Leverage your experience,” below), these unique considerations should be recorded. Something documented could turn out to be very valuable information in a future project. 
  7. Consider the client's pace and ability to consume new functionality. Ask about previous projects, how long they took, what were the roadblocks, what went well, and what didn't. This analysis helps you get a better understanding of your client’s work history. And that can protect your project deadlines. 
  8. Remember, the number of user types is more important than the raw number of users. For example, four users with very different workflows will take more time than 40 users who basically do the same thing. This consideration can have a big impact on your project budget. 
  9. Make sure the mechanism for decision making is in place. Include assumptions and implications around the speed of response. That delayed decisions will impact a project might seem like a simple thing to understand but spelling out everything goes a long way toward improving trust with your client and keeping the project budget and deadlines on track. 

Leverage your experience 

Remember, as professional services organizations, we go through scoping, estimating, and implementing continuously. It’s what we do. We recommend keeping detailed records of all your projects. No two projects will be exactly the same, but some elements will repeat.  

Keep track of everything from detailed scope items included in major feature groups to levels of expertise required for specific project tasks. Over time, you’ll be able to use your detailed records as an accurate starting point for future projects. 

At the end of each project, conduct a “lessons learned” project review. These reviews are a valuable way to refine your project scope techniques and can even shed light on new topics to address in future planning phases. 

Your experience with what works and what doesn’t will be very valuable as you plan each project. You know what to watch for, so take a proactive role in guiding your clients through the process. Asking the tough questions and including the nine tips outlined above will help you define the most accurate project scope. 

What to know more? Check out Getting Project Scope Right

Related content:

How to Deliver More Accurate Project Estimates in Less Time

About the Author

Yoni Barkan

Yoni Barkan is Appirio’s VP of Products and Innovation and loves to explore new ways to leverage cloud solutions to close the experience gap. Yoni’s work has been focused within the CRM space since 2003 and includes projects ranging from education to manufacturing to government. He spent many years documenting scope, building timelines, allocating resources and pricing projects with Estimator. Yoni now lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn (the land of strollers and dogs), with his two children, lovely wife, and cuddly little 85-pound pit bull. He was born, raised, and educated in California. (Go Bears!)

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