Scope Statement and Project Management: You Cannot Talk About One Without the Other

Woman Placing Sticky Notes on Wall about Scope Statement and Project Management
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If you aspire to be a powerful manager at a big, impactful company, you will need both conceptual business know-how and experience. To get there, you will probably have to start out as an employee at this sort of company. Having a demonstrable understanding of scope statement and project management will give you a tremendous edge. Both managers and their workers need to have a common understanding of management structure in order to work together.

The Broad Field of Project Management

Project management is what it sounds like; it is the planning and regulation of the actions needed to produce a certain product. Project management is actually a very broad area that encompasses many, more specific management types. Risk, communication, and time management are big subareas of project management.

Risk management involves first pinpointing risks associated with a project, then setting up viable approaches to minimize the chances of unfortunate events occurring; it can also involve planning emergency steps should the worst occur.

Communication management involves planning the way individuals or groups within a project team will contact one another. While this might sound restrictive, it is helpful. A team that is not sure when and how to communicate could end up having multiple people wasting their time sending the same message or, alternatively, having nobody communicate about some important issue or result.

Time management is not usually a permanent management position, but a time management expert could be temporarily hired by a company to sure up their inner workings. Timing is an important part of overall project planning – a decent plan lays out anchors (starting date, dates of progress checks, and end date). Furthermore, demonstrating that you are an expert time manager is a great way to let a company know that, if they hire you, you will not waste their time and money. Furthermore, time management is a great personal skill that everyone should learn. Ironically, many people find that time management promotes, rather than stifles, creativity.

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Why Scope Is so Important

Project scope refers to the set of constraints for a given project. Constraints refer to financial, resource-related, time, personnel, and other limits that a project has. Constraints are not necessarily restrictive or negative; they can just be descriptive. Without precise project definition, it is impossible to be sure whether a project has started, is going well, is actually done or not, etc. Precise definition of goals is critical to proper communication, and so every party involved needs to agree to and be apprised of the scope.

In a similar way, product scope refers to the precise definition of a finished product; this can be a final product that a company sells to the public or to another company, or it can be some sort of product that is used to promote the company’s goals. (A product, in the management sense, can be tangible or intangible.) The target customer group’s desires and/or the desires of shareholders and sponsors impact product scope greatly.

There is a phenomenon known as scope creep, in which a project’s apparent scope changes as the project progresses. This is not good: as you can imagine, it leads to other forms of disorganization. Most of us have experienced divergence from plan in our everyday lives, and many times, it is okay. However, in business inner workings, where many people need to work together efficiently, it is almost never helpful. A good manager keeps this from happening.

Why a Written-Out Statement Is Important

Just recognizing a project’s constraints is not enough, and neither is expressing them at one team meeting. A formal written scope statement is required to be sure that all team members, management, sponsors, stakeholders, and anyone else involved in the project are all on the same page. Otherwise, workers will fall into time-wasting arguments about what the project’s goals are. In fact, there are infinitely many obstacles that can arise due to lack of scope statement.

Another serious reason to have a scope statement is that it defines the project’s end – it is hard to finish a project if you are not even sure what finishing it means. This aspect of the statement is known as the validate scope process; management has to lay out what qualities are desired in the finished product. Aside from avoiding worker confusion, validating the scope is important to making sure that the chosen work process is actually an appropriate path to success. (You have to decide what success means before you can decide how to achieve it.)

A vague or poorly written scope statement is almost as bad as having no statement. Some team members might be so unclear about what they are supposed to do that they will essentially do nothing. Some might become de facto leaders and take on most of the workload as they steer the project in an unintended direction. Redundant, unclear, or otherwise unhelpful communication will almost certainly become the norm; aside from time and energy waste, poor communication makes the work environment more draining and more stress-producing. Serious waste of time, money, and resources is inevitable without a clear scope statement; and project management is, to a great extent, about preventing waste.

Even when there is a written scope statement, scope slide still happens. Therefore, many scope statements actually include a control scope process. This part of the statement recognizes scope creep as a risk, possibly even listing likely areas for creep to occur. Approaches to get the project back on track are also described.

Commonly, written change requests are explicitly required for any change to be made to a project’s scope. A change request is a document expressing some problem with a product. (Here, product just means some result.) Change requests are not instantaneous changes; the manager first assesses the request and then makes changes to the scope statement before proceeding.

Team Meeting
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More Aspects of Scope Management

While the exact sections of a scope statement might vary a bit with the project type, there are some other essential components in addition to those already mentioned: One is a statement of assumptions. In this context, assumptions are relevant conditions that are not reasonably expected to change for the duration of the project.

Another important section is the problem statement. Most projects are ultimately problems to solve; you cannot problem solve effectively if you do not first define the problem. Problem statements also lay out the difference between where the team is and where they would like to be. (How close are they to solving the problem? How big of a problem is it?)

Almost all scope statements have a cost estimate. Ideally, the estimate is based on sound research and analysis. The cost estimate is often a resolution of the conflict between stakeholder demands and financial constraints.

As mentioned earlier, projects almost always have sponsors and/or stakeholders, and these people are often briefly recognized in the scope statement. They generally have considerable impact on the traits that allow a deliverable to be accepted as a finished product. (Deliverable is a general term in project management to refer to any sort of product; it can be tangible or intangible.)

While we often hear the term sponsor as a reference to someone who has paid for advertising, here, it means something different: the sponsor is an executive who puts forth a project and is ultimately responsible for acquiring funds for the project’s completion. Stakeholders are investors – or anyone who has a direct interest in the company or project’s success.

Connections to Other Management Areas

Scope statement and project management are such quintessential business concepts that there are many concepts and methods that closely relate to them. For example, the scope of a project could be considered a summary of the project’s lifecycle. The lifecycle is a very detailed layout of every aspect of a project (timing, resources, workload of team members, definition of goal, etc.)

Work breakdown structure (WBS) is another idea that goes hand-in-hand with scope statement and project management. WBS refers to the individual division of labor among workers or teams, the degree of authority the manager has over different parts of the project, and the parts into which the project will be broken. Many times projects are divided up by milestones, at which pre-specified deliverables are due.

This Is an Excellent Skill to Have

Getting a basic understanding of scope statement and project management concepts is a great way to start your business career. Reading the basics that come up when you make Internet searches of these topics can help you know whether you want to continue, if you are a total beginner. If you are ready to progress, look into online business management courses (or traditional courses, if you would rather).

As you learn more, you can assess whether you would like to specialize in a certain management area or a certain type of business. Perhaps skill in some other area (digital marketing, data analytics, sales, network security, etc.) would also be relevant – depending on what sort of business you would like to work with. Practical experience is critical to advancement, but a great way to get the best opportunities is to come prepared.

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