Marco GerussiMarco Gerussi Project Scoping – Aligning Expectations

07/01/2008 by Marco Gerussi

Projects often fail to be successful due to diverging, badly aligned expectations
Dozens of statistics seem to suggest that there are dozens of reasons why projects fail to be successful. However, a great deal of them are attributable to vaguely defined objectives, problems related to technical architecture and a lack of management support. These causes, in turn, are in most cases due to either too optimistic or diverging expectations of the parties involved. Very often, projects are initiated without having identified and documented expectations as well as requirements on the part of all expert and management key roles.

Scoping: Efficient approach to defining project content
This is where scoping comes into play. This approach is extremely helpful when it comes to describing the functional requirements, defining project content and an adequate proceeding, and designing the technical architecture. The scoping phase targets at mapping the relevant context, ideas, requirements and prerequisites of all parties involved in the project in a well-structured way, reaching an agreement upon the project scope and establishing the project guidelines. Fixing an order of priority and laying down a clear structure makes the demanded objects transparent, well-defined, and synchronises the expectations of all persons involved. Experience has shown that syntonized expectations are one of the most important factors to ensure the success of a project.

Scoping Ansatz

Scoping phase in practice
Several steps are necessary to reach these goals. Most of them must be executed in close collaboration with the client. This includes:

  • Defining a common objective and selecting relevant persons for workshops and interviews
  • Informing or training the project team members in order to create a common basis
  • Recording of business-related and functional requirements, needs and ideas during workshops and interviews
  • Understanding the technical requirements and challenges, the system landscape, and the necessary integrations
  • Prioritization with regard to quick wins and a high payback
  • Attending to a common understanding and identifying the points where the project gains momentum
  • Elaborating a detailed implementation roadmap, including time management and organizational planning, split up in iterations optimized by quick wins
  • Presentation of the results to the management

Implementation Roadmap
One of the most significant results from the scoping phase is the roadmap for implementation. The roadmap includes not only project content and proceeding, but also a time schedule and organizational planning, and provides a basis for the project. It is recommended to split up the project scope into several implementation iterations in favor of a clearly structured step-by-step planning and in order to immediately provide maximum benefit to the project client.

Core factor of success
Principally, scoping should be a closely integrated part of the project methodology. If, for example, there are no interviews, this will cause lead to a sign of alarm at the quality gate. If necessary, this item must be re-worked – or there is a clear decision not to do so.
Experience has shown that the choice of persons involved in the scoping phase is of great importance. The key roles might vary depending on the task and the context, but it is indispensable to involve the client, the top management, the users, and the experts as regards content and technical issues. As soon as the participants are selected, the core factor of success are their availability as well as competent scheduling. We also recommend to have two persons hold the interviews in order not to loose sight of important aspects and to ensure complete documentation.

Scoping is a good way of fine-tuning project ideas and analyze the approaches to solution finding. Preferably, the scoping phase is an integral part of the typical procedure of all projects. As all information is collected by relevant key roles, the required data can be accessed, translated into requirements, and given a defined level of priority. From this, the concrete implementation roadmap is derived. Thus, the project idea is clearly defined, and the project scope is fixed with consideration of processes, organization, systems, including required system integrations, and other dependent processes. All persons involved in the project have a common interest in and are focused on the same issues. Their expectations are synchronized. The momentum gained by this common basis is the most significant stimulus for all to make the project a success story.

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