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From the Archives: Benefits of a Scope Management Plan

By design, Project Managers (PMs) like structure, organization, and progress, and when there are deficiencies in one of these areas, we have a strong desire to jump in, correct it, and get the job done.

In our quest to identify issues, and find and implement mitigation options during the control and monitoring phase, we sometimes overlook the use of a key document developed in the planning phase to help manage the chaos: the Scope Management Plan (SMP). This document is a best practice, but is often forgotten once a project transitions from the planning phase to execution or monitoring and controlling phases due to of the number of activities needing a PM’s attention. The following tailored scope management plan is based of PMI and CMMI standards.

What is a Scope Management Plan

  • Documents the process to evaluate whether or not a request is within the contract’s scope
  • Defines how approved requests are prioritized and scheduled
  • Explains the roles and responsibilities for each participant in the scope management process

Benefits of a Scope Management Plan

When used properly, an SMP helps effectively manage the triple constraint elements (time/schedule, budget, and quality) as well as other factors:

  • Applicable to public (government) and private organizations and projects
  • Helps prioritize and reduce ad hoc work requests, which can save time and money
  • Allows for quantitative analysis to validate the need of an ad hoc request
  • Facilitates productive communications with stakeholders and their team
  • Serves as a tool to manage client expectations, work load balancing, and team morale

Applicable Contract Types

The SMP can be used on most contract types and has significant value if the project’s contract type is firm fixed with broad scope and general requirements (which can lead to many ad hoc activities).

Key Areas of a Scope Management Plan

  1. Defined roles and responsibilities
  2. Developed process

The following table outlines general roles and responsibilities involved in the scope management process.

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*Note: The COR and CO roles and responsibilities may be combined based on an organization’s structure and contracting policies.

Next, the process should be simple and easy to understand by all stakeholders. The figure below provides a high-level graphical view of the scope management process. Although the client may choose to terminate consideration of an ad hoc request at any point, boxes shown in yellow represent key decision points. Each step in the process is described in the sections following the diagram.

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Step 1: Initiate Request
The process begins when a client formally or informally requests an ad hoc activity. Note that any client may request ad hoc support. No work will be performed until the remaining steps in the process are followed, including reaching agreement that the work is in scope and gaining the COR/CO’s authorization to proceed.

Step 2: Document Details
To allow each request to be evaluated effectively, a standard set of key information is gathered and documented in a standard scope analysis template. The expected outcome, task performance expectations and a requested delivery date are among the information that will be gathered for each request.

The template is still incomplete during this step. Several pieces of information need to be added in step 3 and other information may change as the request proceeds through the scope management process (e.g., the task’s priority).

Step 3: Evaluate
The PM adds the following information to the template:

  • Initial assessment of whether the request falls within the contracted scope of work
  • Number of resource(s) required to perform the work
  • Level of effort (LOE) estimate of the required work in hours
  • Initial determination of the scope request type

Once this information is added, the PM meets with the COR to discuss the request. If both parties agree (a) the work is in scope and (b) it is sufficiently defined, the process continues to step 4.

If there is disagreement about whether the work is within the contracted scope that cannot be quickly resolved, either the COR or the PM may request the CO be engaged to help resolve the issue.

If there is concern the work is not sufficiently defined to allow an effective outcome, the process will return to step 2 to document additional details.

Step 3.1: Evaluate – Request Type Determination
The determination of the request type is critical to its overall assessment and management. The request type serves as the reference point for the COR and PM to decide if the request is within the scope of the current staffing capabilities or not. The following information identifies and defines these request types:

  • In scope – no impact to team resources’ activities
    An in-scope request that can be supported by the current level of team resources and no reprioritization of current activities is needed.
  • In scope – impact to team resources’ activities
    An in-scope request, but current activities being supported by existing team resources require reprioritization to support it.
  • In scope – requires additional team resources to meet the requirement
    An in-scope request requiring additional team resources to support it. The client prepares a statement of work and negotiates with the PM for a contract/project modification to meet the requirement.
  • Out of scope – no work will be performed
    The CO, COR, and PM agree the work requested is outside of the scope of the contract and will not be performed.

Step 4: Prioritize
The COR prioritizes all ad hoc activities. These priorities provide a foundation for estimating the task’s delivery date.

Step 5: Estimate Delivery Date
The PM estimates the task’s delivery date based on factors including:

  • Priority relative to other ad hoc tasks
  • LOE estimated
  • Skills required
  • Current team members’ skill sets and availability to support ad hoc activities.

Once the delivery date is estimated, the PM and COR discuss it and, if necessary, the COR works with the PM and the appropriate client staff to refine the task’s scope or change the priority to enable a more aggressive target delivery date.

Step 6: Authorize Work
The COR provides authority to the PM to perform the requested ad hoc activity.

Step 7: Perform Work
The PM assigns the appropriate team member(s) to perform the work and designated formal and informal progress reporting methods are used to keep the client apprised of the activity’s status.

Concluding Thought

A scope management plan is a great management tool to effectively handle and “flex” to a project’s time/schedule, budget, resources, and activities to ensure they align with the agreed upon contractual boundaries

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