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One great tip to help control scope

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Source: mparkes

As project managers, controlling scope can be very challenging.

You’ll want to avoid scope creep but if managed properly, scope changes can mean more budget. At first glance, this seems like a good thing, and in a way, it is. But there are a few others aspects to verify.

Be careful

For example, you can negotiate more time to the schedule, but this can result in the project dragging over a long period of time, and actually never end.

Another aspect to watch out more is as scope changes, team motivation diminishes. People need to close down projects and move on to the next challenge.

Still in the subject of team members, depending on how your organization work with resources, team members may not be available past the initial deadline planned. This may result in resource switches that add risk or cost to your project.

Projects should have goals too, and often goals are tied to a time-sensitive subject like an event, a new product, a contest, etc. By dragging these projects, the project goals may not be met.

So the tip? Negociate a scope freeze!

A great way to protect the project is to negotiate a scope freeze with stakeholders. This means that nothing gets changed until the current scope is completed. This doesn’t mean that planning for the next phase cannot start prior to the first one being done, it’s even suggested to start planning phase 2 while phase 1 is being completed, assuming you can secure the necessary resources of course.

Not every stakeholder may approve of this, they might feel secure with the idea that they can ask for any change any time, so it will be important to be diplomatic when discussing this and avoid forcing it upon them. Focus on the success of the project and the dangers of allowing constant changes.

Keep a backlog

If changes are requested or mentioned, it doesn’t mean they should be ignored. Anything that his discussed, even if a scope freeze was negotiated, should be noted in a backlog and reviewed when planning for a future phase.

It would be a great waste to forget all of those ideas.

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What’s scope creep and tips to avoid it | Part 2

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Source: grietgriet

Scope creep is a very important subject, something every project manager is challenged with.

In my previous article What’s scope creep and tips to avoid it, I listed a few tips to help people face those challenges, and that article was very popular, so I thought it would be great to add more to it and focus on the team:

Scope creep can be 100% an internal issue, so watch out!

Often we are under the impression that scope screep is something we forgot, or something the client asks for and we have no choice but to accept for whatever reason. But, you know what? Sometimes, it’s simply an internal thing.

Often, what will happen is that scope is defined in a certain why, and then, from there, you will create the estimate, and work will get started. Everything goes well, and as you discuss with team members, they sometimes casually mention some stuff like “Yeah once that is done, we’ll need ‘this’ done and then we’re good” or “we need this because we have ‘this’ and ‘this’ to do”… All the while in your mind you are telling yourself: Where does this all come from?

The reality is, no every team member will be “connected” to the budget as you are as a project manager. This is completely normal because they are focused on their own role and you should be focused on yours. The impact of this is some small tasks (or bigger) will be neglected in the documentation or even in the estimate but here and there you will find out that it MUST be done.

Why? Well, it varies; it could be a client expectation not shared with you, it could be a technical requirement mentioned absolutely nowhere…Or something else!

Regardless, this is tricky, but there are things you can do to help prevent this!

Focus on the long term

So, when it happens and you are “stuck” with the request, you may think this is the end of the world, your project is going bad because of it, and nothing can be done; whether this is true or not for your current project, you can focus on the long-term, which are your future projects. How? Well, by discussing a specific issue and adjusting for the future.

For example, if client expectations around different deliverables were not clear and were “implied” somewhere, talk to the person responsible of managing the client and explain the impact of those expectations being “hidden” from you. The thing is, that team member may have the best intentions in the world towards the client, but he may not realize the impact of the added work. So, the best way to make him understand is to explain gently to him the impact by showing underage caused by the added work he didn’t share in the beginning.

Manage team expectations

We’re always talking about managing the client’s expectations, but what about the team’s expectations? There is absolutely nothing wrong with telling team members that anything other than what’s inside the estimate will NOT be done so “be careful”.

However, it’s very important to consider that whatever you say “will not be done” may be an absolute “must” to your project. This means you have to use a specific vocabulary with your team.

Try using:

  • Are you sure we included everything we need for the project?
  • This here is what we’ll be doing, we won’t be able to afford anything else, are you sure it’s accurate?
  • Are any other client expectations forgotten here?

Avoid:

  • We won’t allow anything else than what’s included here
    • what may happen is that some “things” will come up that will literally prevent your project from being functional if it’s not done and you won’t be able to tell your client you “forgot” this
  • Saying nothing
    • people may think whatever they are holding back is “implied” in the documents

Manage team expectations… again!

Repeating myself? Well there is more to it than what’s above!

Scope creep can surprisingly be with team members spending more time on certain tasks because they thought they could so they made the design or the feature “more awesome”. It could be considered gold plating in a way.

You have a tight budget? Poor or no contingency? Well, tell your team! As much as they are not “budget focused” as you are, if they are remotely committed to the project’s well-being, if they understand the budget being tight or being in a horrible shape, there is nothing wrong with letting them know and reaching for their cooperation.

This will have a huge effect on how they make decisions or how they plan their work.

For example, a designer may take less time to search for a “miracle” image for his design and settle for one that’s just plain great. A developer may take half the time to code a certain feature because he’ll plan his code a different way.

Regardless, your team must know the situation and they will take it into consideration before taking more time than planned to do the work.

In conclusion

As you can see, the way you communicate with the team can have a tremendous impact on how scope creep affects your projects. Take the extra time to your team members, even if it’s too late for this project, it may be very positive for future projects.

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What’s scope creep and tips to avoid it

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Source: lucasmalta

Scope creep is the one of the worst enemy for any PM if not managed properly. It includes anything that was not part of the initial scope of your project and got added without properly going through any processes.

One little scope creep may not have much of an impact, but if they stack up, or if one is a major one, the project can severely go over budget, off schedule, or end up….never ending! There are a few sources of scope creep: client request, team members gold plating (adding more to the project than they should), unknown project requirement that got identified, risks that became issues, etc.

Here are some tips to prevent those scope creep:

Manage stakeholder expectations

This is important, no matter how great what you deliver is, if expectations are above what’s delivered, than you will spend all the budget adjusting, and will end with an unsatisfied client. Those adjustments become scope creep and will devastate the budget, the schedule, and potentially the whole project.

To manage those expectations, it is important to always be very clear with the client from the start by communicating what’s expected to be delivered but don’t forget to discuss what’s excluded too.

Another little tip, is to not be afraid to say ‘No’!

Change management process

It is important to know what is the process when you think a scope creep is coming up. Do you have to talk to an account manager? Is there a change management board for the project? Do you have to manage it yourself?

Whichever it is, you have to make sure that is clear. Once it is, at least you’ll know where to start if a scope creep is coming up. Makes it easier! So once a scope creep is on your radar, you can go ahead with talking with the account manager and discuss the battle plan with him, file a change request to the board, or you can analyze the impact of the scope creep and talk to the client.

Communication within the team

Gold plating can add a lot of unplanned costs to your project, and add to your client’s expectations, which can have a chain effect throughout your whole project as your client will always expect the gold plating on his project.

So to avoid this, you have to clearly communicate the scope to your team. Also, let them know that ideas are welcome but to discuss them before executing anything. If they communicate their ideas, you can potentially obtain more budget and the client will appreciate the added ideas instead of taking all of it for granted as gold plate.

Mitigation plans

Risks becoming issues are considered scope creep, and the impact can vary from minor to horrible. By planning ahead to avoid anything becoming an issue, you can prevent those scope creep.

It’s always good to have some budget aside to manage this, but that may not always be possible, so at least keep an eye on those risks, you may use some budget you do not have, but it will still beat those risks becoming issues.

In conclusion

Scope creep can make the difference between a successful project and a project failure. So manage it properly and be pro-active!

Do you have any bad memories with scope creep? Or want to share more tips? Feel free!