A project can only be completed when its scope is defined clearly. Having a clearly defined work scope ensures precise delivery timelines, prevents scope creep and creates the opportunity to achieve the desired results. Furthermore, it simplifies collaboration and provides the team with a clear picture of the big picture. Even so, work scopes are often too vague, despite their importance.
A lack of clarity about scope results in work bloat, frequent and radical changes, and delivery delays – not to mention possible stakeholder conflicts. As a result, misunderstandings arise due to their divergent visions. For this reason, the work scope must be clearly defined. Let us begin at the beginning.
What is Work Scope?
An outline of work is a document that defines the work that you and your team will complete on a project: project timeline, deliverables, milestones, reports, work details, and the end product that is expected from the party carrying out the work.
A proper work scope aims to ensure that stakeholders and project team members have an equal project vision. Survey results show that 52% of projects had their scope changed within the last year, demonstrating the importance of establishing a clear scope of work.
Here are a few reasons why defining an accurate work scope is difficult.
The Work Scope Is Hard To Define
What causes work scope definitions to be too vague? The most common reason is poor project management. Here are some of the sticky areas that can cause unclearly defined work scopes and result in new issues arising during the course of a project.
- Lack of stakeholder identification. It may not be clear enough at the beginning of the initial step who key stakeholders are and what their primary needs are. Inclusion of everything that falls into the category of “might be necessary” creates an unclear and bloated scope of work.
- Lack of prioritization. A lack of thoughtful approach is not uncommon in chaotic and hectic environments, resulting in unclear priorities and scope bloat.
- Unwillingness to say no. Customers and stakeholders often insist on what they want. The inability of the project manager to say no results in the scope of work being extended and scope outlines being blurred.
It is common for projects and requirements to be described in high-level terms, which adds to scope definition difficulties. Early on, the amount of work to be done is not entirely clear, and it’s quite possible that something important could be overlooked. Defining priorities and structuring work processes are difficult. How can project managers accomplish a clear project work scope?
Clearer Work Scope: First Steps
Certain steps help managers clarify the scope, priorities, and results of a project regardless of its size and requirements. As a project manager, here are some ways to reduce work scope uncertainty early on in the project.
Identify stakeholder visions. Communicate with key stakeholders to learn more about their expectations and requirements. Include them in the planning process and utilize their input to define a clear scope of work.
Establish product specifications. Begin with the product’s key features. Engage your clients and stakeholders in the prioritization process by learning about their needs and priorities. Be specific about what you will and won’t do. Defining what will not be done in a project is sometimes as important as defining works that must be done. This eliminates misunderstandings regarding work scope and prevents scope creep.
Utilize historical data whenever possible. You can use the data from previous projects to define work steps, prioritize work, and define reasonable limits. Analyzing historical data faster with your project management tool helps you make better decisions.
Plan with your regular employees. During the course of various work steps, ask them how long they usually take, what are typical difficulties, and what particulars need to be considered. Encourage them to estimate their work using their previous performance data. As a result, you will better understand what to expect from the upcoming work.
Identify the initial conditions, define the upcoming works in terms of areas and steps, and set up a work structure accordingly.
Creating a Clear Work Scope
As important as the work scope analysis itself is documenting the results of your analytical work. Even though the document is mostly descriptive in nature, a clear structure is essential. The following elements should be included in a work scope document:
Objectives. Why is the project being conducted? What problems are being addressed, and what results should be expected?
Requirements. For what will the product be used? How important are certain features, and how desirable are others?
Detailing the outcomes of a project. What is the intended outcome? How will it solve the original problem?
Timeline and milestones. What is the start date of the project? When will its major steps be completed? When will the results of its intermediate steps be delivered?
Task structure. Detailing the tasks performed and the goals of specific tasks within the project. Ensure all stakeholders are familiar with the scope of work and key interests are taken into account. Create your project scope in your work management software immediately (if you haven’t already). Keep track of the progress of the work scope, and use the initial plan as a basis for declining unnecessary changes. This way, scope bloat may be avoided, and initial time, resource, and cost limits may be maintained.
Automate Project Management to Stay On Track
Scope of work should contain an automated method for managing future project steps. If your team is not using a project management tool already, it’s time to implement one. A clear and convenient work environment is achieved by creating the tool’s deadlines, milestones, and work structure. It can be helpful for team and project managers to assign tasks and track results. Smart automation can benefit regular employees in the following ways:
- Providing them with a clear view of their work scope.
- Allowing them to estimate the time and efforts required for tasks assigned to them.
- Understanding their role in the big picture of a project.
Monitoring and management processes can also be automated using a work management solution. It saves time for a project and team managers to receive alerts regarding approaching deadlines and milestones, run reports to find out trends and dynamics, and visualize progress for a faster overview. By automating routine tasks, managers are able to focus on more challenging management processes and spend less time on routine work.
Is Your Scope of Work Accurate?
Determining the work scope for a project can be a tricky task. Almost no analytical process can be successfully accomplished without a detailed plan of steps and actions. Develop a plan that allows you to consider all the relevant requirements, priorities, and interests, and follow the procedures. This way, you will be able to identify the key elements that will influence your work scope definition.