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Defining your Project 6 Important Considerations!

Defining your project is all about ‘scope management’. Scope management is the process by which the deliverables and work to produce them are identified and defined. Identification and definition of the scope must describe what the project will include and what it will not include, i.e. what is in and out of scope. APM’S BODY OF KNOWLEDGE

The scope of the project is comprised of what has to be delivered (the project deliverables) and what work has to be done to deliver the project deliverables. Scope management should be continually addressed throughout the life of the project and includes regular monitoring and controlling.

The high level scope of the project should have been defined and documented in the business case. The depth and detail of the scope will develop as the project progresses and will be a breakdown of the original scope held in the Project Management Plan.

The scope can be broken down and refined by using a variety of break down structures:

• Product breakdown structure (PBS)

• Work breakdown structure (WBS)

• Organisational breakdown structure (OBS)

• Cost breakdown structure (CBS)

• Responsibility assignment matrix (RAM)

(Click on each of the above, for a definition and example)

So here are 6 Important things to consider when defining your project:

1. Stakeholder agreement – It is important to agree what is not in scope of the project, as to what is. Defining the project scope sounds obvious in principle. However, it is easy for assumptions to be made by various stakeholders on what is included in the scope. The easiest way to avoid this is to ask the project stakeholders to literally sign the WBS (or PBS). Being asked to sign their agreement against the scope will force a careful analysis of the requirement which can save a lot of time and cost later.

2. Don’t jump to the planning stage too soon – without a clear knowledge of the scope, planning will be ineffective. It is tempting to make assumptions and jump too early into the planning stage, rather than painstakingly agree the detailed scope of the work. Shortcutting will only lead to more problems later.

3. Involve all those who know the work – The development of work and product breakdown structures gives the project team an opportunity to engage with anyone who knows the work better than they may do. Those who have previously been involved in similar projects will readily spot missing elements of scope using their experience. This stage is also an opportunity to engage the wider project team in working together – effectively team building but at the same time creating a common vision of the work involved.

4. Ignoring time – creating a work breakdown structure allows the project team to define the work or products in a logical way, without being distracted by the timeline which comes later in the planning stage. By ensuring each step of defining and planning your project is done methodically, it will lead to a better result, and increase the chances of project success.

5. Pre-planning benefits – Developing the responsibility assignment matrix (RAM) before the planning stage allows the project team to avoid the distraction of reality at too early a stage. It is too tempting to modify resource requirement because of assumptions about availability instead of simply and methodically agreeing who should have responsibility for what work. It is also important to keep the distinction between responsibility (at this stage) and resource allocation (who will do the work – agreed at the planning stage).

6. Programmes and projects – There is often much confusion between programmes and projects, and even the job titles of project manager, programme manager, project director and programme director. It should be clear at this stage. Project management is like juggling three balls: time, cost and quality. Programme management is like a troupe of circus performers standing in a circle, each juggling three balls and swapping from time to time.( Source Geoff Reiss)