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How to clearly define the scope of your project?


ProjectScopeHave you ever wondered about …… What exactly does the ‘scope of a project’ mean? …..I have…. I kept on hearing this term from the time when I started my career. Though I have learned its meaning over the years; people around me still describe the term vaguely. Thus, I am  going to provide you with some simple tips, which can help you to clearly define the scope for your project.

The deliverables: Let’s say, you are one of those project managers whose projects are very complex, and you don’t know where exactly to start for defining the scope of your project. If you are not sure about how to move forward with this process then you should at least try to define the deliverables of the project. Don’t stress yourself too much. Ask your customers to provide you with tangible (I mean tangible) deliverables that they would like to see at the end of the project. Once, you figure out the final deliverables of the project, you can then go ahead and try to define the interim project deliverables. These defined deliverables will tremendously help you to better understand the project.

Project boundaries: Once you got some handle on how the project should look like through its deliverables, you should now define how it shouldn’t be looking. For example: Chris is going to look for a software third-party provider within the US. In this case, third-party software providers from China are out of scope. If Chris was considering the needs of the entire global company, this would not have been a good boundary statement since he could not have stated a good out-of-scope statement.

Project Features: Once you have described the deliverables and the boundaries, you have completed high-level scope. Now, it’s time to describe the physical characteristics of the deliverables, called features. If you were building a software framework, for instance, most of the functionalities would count as features. These might include the number of GUIs (graphical user interface), number of APIs (application interface), etc. So, follow the top-down approach and start defining project’s features from its well defined deliverables.

Project Functions: Once you finished describing project’s features, now you need to describe how people interact with a deliverable and how a deliverable interacts with other deliverables. For example, if you need to change invoicing and billing transactions, most of the requirements could end up being process oriented. This would include how billing transactions move from orders to invoicing to accounts receivable. Basically you are defining the information flow in this phase. Thus, make sure to involve all the stakeholders, who will be affected by this information.

I hope these simple tips will help you to better define the scope of your project. Let me know, if you have any other ideas through which you can make this process simpler. Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi.

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How to reexamine your project estimates without any major changes to the project?


ProofReadHave you ever been in a situation, where you had to revisit your estimations and adjust them accordingly? I have. Few months ago, I have created a roadmap for some of my projects. However, I didn’t have the time to perform a detailed effort/cost analysis for those projects.  Thus, I estimated those projects at very high level, and thought of validating those estimates once the actual project starts. Yesterday, I ended up creating a WBS (work break down structure) for one of the projects, and I found that it might go 60% over our allocated budget. That type of increase will either not be funded at all, or the additional funding will probably require another approved project to be cancelled. Thus, I reassessed my estimations. With this blog, I would like to share my experience through which you can reassess your estimations.

Verify your estimates: Before digging up deep and cutting unnecessary costs, you should verify your estimates. I mostly use Microsoft Project or Microsoft Excel for estimating my projects. If you are using these tools, then I would recommend you to recheck all of your formulae. You should also keep an eye on your resource rates and non-labor costs. Make sure, they are reasonably accurate. If you are convinced that your math is accurate, then you might want to apply another estimating technique to see if you can get down the project cost without making any major changes to the project.

Find other alternatives: Once you are done verifying your estimates, you should then find other less expensive alternatives for all of your resources. For example: if you are counting on contract labor resources, you should see whether they could be replaced with company’s employees. Or if you are proposing new software/hardware as a part of your project, you should see whether your company already has something that will work for you. Or find out opportunities of automation, so that you can reduce the overall cost of the project without compromising on functionalities. And yeah! Make sure to take help from other experienced people in the company. Sometimes, they might come up with the solutions that you might not have thought about.

Negotiate scope of the project: Let’s say, you have tried your best to eliminate any unnecessary costs, but your project is still going over budget. What would you do then? Don’t panic. You can negotiate the scope of your project with your stakeholders. You can talk with your stakeholders, and find out activities/tasks that you can eliminate without majorly affecting project’s deliverables. I would recommend you to start this process by looking at the priority list first. If you recommend to eliminate lower priority items from the project, then your stakeholders are more likely to be in favor of your decision. You might want to defer some low priority tasks/activities, before you can get more funding. This will ensure that you can deliver similar level of functionality without compromising on quality.

I hope these tips will help you to adjust your project estimates properly. Let me know, if you have any other ideas through which you can better adjust your estimates in the project. Thanks. – Bhavin Gandhi

 
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Posted by on January 23, 2012 in 21st Century, Leadership, Management

 

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