Scope Management

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What is scope and what is the difference between a requirement and scope? 

This may seem like an obvious question so why do I ask.  Requirements and scope are commonly viewed as synonymous.  There is a big difference and this difference must be understood by project teams and stakeholders.

Requirements are the collective set of outcomes, functions, and specifications associated with an initiative.  Scope is the collection of requirements that have been selected for inclusion in a specific project or phase.  Splitting requirements across phases or projects is quite common and must be clearly articulated in the project documentation.

The other source of confusion regarding scope comes from emerging details.  PMI calls this process “progressive elaboration”.  Early in a project, it is normal for requirements to be described at a high level while additional details emerge during later stages.  The refinement of requirements details does not constitute a change in scope.

Scope documentation should include the sub-set of requirements that are included in the scope and a list of excluded requirements.  Additionally, all assumptions used to define the scope should also be included.  Assumption examples include mandated completion dates, availability of staff, and dependencies with other projects.

What does constitute a scope change?  There are various types of changes that are considered scope changes.  They include:

  • Changes to the expected business outcomes that require additional functionality
  • Addition of new functional requirements
  • Addition or removal of functional requirements that were previously included or excluded from the scope
  • A change to the technical specifications which alters the basic foundation or assumptions of the original design (this does not include changes that were the result of an error in the original specifications)
  • The imposition of a new completion date can also be viewed as a scope change since the approved plan was based on having sufficient

Now that we understand scope, what is scope management?  While there are many tasks associated with scope management, the following major activities are required for scope management and they reflect the scope life-cycle.

  • Scope Definition – The initial definition and documentation of scope.  It is critical that the scope is also cross-referenced to the requirements.
  • Scope Approval – Acceptance and approval of the scope and the underlying assumptions by the project team and stakeholders
  • Scope Change Management – Recognizing scope changes, documenting the change, and obtaining the necessary approvals.
  • Confirmation of Delivery – A critical component of scope management is the confirmation that the in-scope requirements were delivered.
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