Scope Control

Project Scope Control - ToolsHero

This article describes Scope Control in a practical way. After reading you will understand the basics of this powerful project management tool.

What is Scope Control?

Scope control is part of the Monitor & Controlling Process Group and focuses on project management. It’s the process of managing changes in projects and has been deemed a method by PMBOK (Project Management Body of Knowledge).

Scope Control consists of Project Scope (size of the project) and Product Scope (size of the product). Project scope shows the total amount of work to be done, in order to achieve the desired outcome. Product scope is about all the functions related to the end-result, such as product features, functions, service and quality. In short, it’s about quantity and quality.

Scope Control example

A plan to build 100 new homes on a vacant lot can be considered a complicated project.

First, the surface has to be prepared for building, the foundations need to be laid and the sewer system needs to be expanded before building can start brick by brick. If each house has its own lay-out and design, the project becomes even more complicated, requiring many things to be considered. The general contractor will first have to map the building site so suppliers, builders and others know exactly what is part of the project. That map corresponds to the scope of the project.

In addition, it’s the general contractor’s responsibility to determine exactly what jobs need to be done, in what order and how long each part will take. This is about the size of the project and all sub-tasks. He creates a detailed plan with all this information, that will tell everyone what is expected of them.

As project leader, the contractor will obtain formal approval from all stakeholders. This leads to clear and well-defined tasks and requirements that can be used to work towards a common goal.

Project changes

It’s, of course, possible that changes are made to the project along the way. It’s important not to respond too rigidly when that happens, but to go along with the changes. In the example of the construction project, it might happen that they switch to different construction materials, which may turn out to be more sustainable. It’s the project manager’s task to evaluate the effects of the proposed change. The following basics are needed before he can start analysing the change.

Project Scope Statement

This document describes the size of the project, including the most important deliveries.

Work breakdown structure (WBS)

This indicates the scope of the project and is used to determine which tasks change and are influenced within the project and what this means for the delivery date.

The WBS dictionary provides definitions for tasks, unique identification codes for every component and milestones. That helps to define the total scope of the project and determine how a change might influence the outcomes.

Project Scope Management Plan

This describes how the scope can be managed. If it turns out that the proposed change will reduce project performance, corrective action needs to be taken.

Approved change requests

With these requests the project scope can be expanded or reduced. Only changes that have been processed in accordance with the agreed upon procedures can be implemented.

Work performance information

This provides information about the status of changes, including deliveries, corrective and preventive actions and possible repairs.

Scope of the project

To identify the scope of the project, you need the requirements of all stakeholders. Gathering this information can help to come to an accurate definition of the scope. The bigger a project, the more time, effort and resources are needed to gather requirements. That’s exactly the reason why determining the scope is so very difficult. Scope definition makes clear what has been included in the scope management plan.

Extra additions to the project (gold plating) are not allowed. All knowledge areas or project management should be taken into account for scope changes, including time, costs, risks, quality, resources and customer satisfaction. Scope management is only possible when the objectives are clear. The components that need changing will also need to be determined at an early stage. Only then will Scope Control lead to a positive project outcome.

Monitoring project changes

If a process change is necessary, it’s wise to monitor those changes. The following instruments and techniques are available to monitor Scope Control changes.

  • Configuration management system – this is a subsystem of project management and describes a collection of documented procedures used to record and identify possible changes in the features of a product. This system also contains a method for validating approved changes.
  • Changing monitoring system – this contains formal procedures that determine how the project deliveries and records are managed and changed. This relates to submitting, evaluating, tracking and authorising proposed changes.
  • Analysis of variance – In order to manage a project, it’s necessary to measure its progress. Information in product performance reports can be used to evaluate potential variants. Project managers use this information to decide if corrective measures are required.
  • Re-planning – A new plan might be necessary if there’s a chance that the proposed changes will influence existing project records. A new plan requires the records in the WBS dictionary to be updated.

Focus areas

Random changes can cause a project leader to lose control over a project. By adequately controlling changes and modifications, project managers can guide all stakeholders and deliver the project on time and on budget.

There are a number of focus areas that can help to review changes correctly:

  1. Updates Project Scope Statement – after the changes have been approved, the Project Scope Statement needs to be updated so that possible future changes can be evaluated right away.
  2. Updates WBS dictionary – the WBS dictionary needs to be in line with other planning records in which all approved changes have been documented.
  3. Updates foundation of scope – the foundation needs to be updated because it comes back in every aspect of the project’s management, including cost predictions and schedules.
  4. Integrated Change Control – it’s important to properly handle scope control changes. Integrated Change Control specifies how the changes should be handled and executed.
  5. Corrective actions – some changes arise from problems with project performance. After these have been identified, corrective action is required to get the project back on track.
  6. Updates database – by documenting reasons for deviations and corrective action in this database, the manager can help prevent similar situations from occurring during future projects.
  7. Updates project management plan – the project management plan will need to be revised if changes influence the basic documents. These changes will need to be tracked by the Integrated Change Control.

Balance

A proper balance between project and proces scope is crucial for Scope Control. It’s therefore necessary to critically evaluate all phases of project management and the balance needs to be constantly monitored. On the one hand, Scope Control monitors the changes in the scope of a project and, on the other hand, every change needs to be properly described in an integrated Change Control Process. Every change in scope influences the operational structure.

In addition, project management is about the relationship between project time, the delivered quality and the costs of the project. Scope Control needs to manage every project scope change to prevent budget overruns or serious time overruns. Society is constantly changing and that means that changes are acceptable and allowed in a project as well. However, they do need to be checked before they are integrated into the existing project.

It’s Your Turn

What do you think? How do you apply Scope Control on your project- or product management? Do you recognize the practical explanation or do you have more additions? What are your success factors for good project management / product management and Scope Control?

Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.

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More information

  1. Burke, R. (2013). Project management: planning and control techniques. New Jersey, USA.
  2. Clark, K. B. (1989). Project scope and project performance: the effect of parts strategy and supplier involvement on product development. Management science, 35(10), 1247-1263.
  3. Project Management Institute. (1987). Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK). Project Management Institute.
  4. Turner, J. R. (1993). The Handbook of Project-based Management: Leading Strategic Change in Organizations. McGraw-Hill.

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