Setting and managing project scope is one of the most important factors for project success. Here are three techniques that will help you be more successful.
Freeze Scope Change Requests Late in the Project
The later scope changes occur, the more they tend to impact schedule and budget. You might think that as long as the sponsor is willing to approve increases in budget and time to make the change, they should be able to do it.
This is normally true – but only up to a point. There comes a time in a project where it just doesn’t make sense to make additional scope changes. That is the time to gain a commitment for a change freeze. Not only are new changes expensive to implement, they are a distraction to the project team.
Depending on the nature of the project, this freeze is usually implemented as the team is getting ready for the “drive to implementation”. At this point, the team is focused on implementing the solution. At that point in the project, scope change requests are not only costly, but they are also very disruptive. The team can lose focus and become mentally deflated. You may find that the next time there is a “drive to implementation” the team will get sloppy and make mistakes, since this would be the second time they performed these implementation activities.
The better approach is to hold these changes on a backlog and deal with them as enhancement requests after the solution is implemented and stable.
Track Valid Change Requests that are not Approved During the Project
It is possible that the sponsor may not approve scope change requests during the project, but they may be viable requests that can be done at a later time. These types of change requests should be captured on a backlog list. After the project is completed and the solution is moved to the operations and support organization, there may be opportunities for enhancements or a Phase II project.
Do Not Use Estimating Contingency for Scope Changes
One of the steps in the estimating process is to add contingency hours, budget and schedule to reflect the level of uncertainty associated with the estimate. (For instance, if the effort hours were estimated at 5,000 hours, you might add 500 hours for contingency, which reflects a 90% confidence factor and 10% uncertainty.) Once the contingency is approved, there will be pressure on the project manager to use the contingency to absorb additional requirements. The client might say, “Why do we need to invoke scope change management for this 100 hour enhancement. You have 500 hours of contingency built into your estimate!”
The project manager must resist the temptation and the pressure. The purpose of the estimating contingency is to reflect uncertainty in the estimates. There will be plenty of opportunities to utilize the contingency when activities take longer than expected. Do not use the estimating contingency to absorb extra work.