Insight From The PMO Manager: The Dreaded Scope Creep

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Having a conversation regarding going over the scope of project is the last thing Project Managers and clients want to do. (Coming in at #2 is the “we’re not going to meet our date” conversation). This is the arm-wrestling match over scope essentials relating to the “must haves that should have been part of requirements” and the “not included in the requirements (or estimates).” The conversation usually goes back and forth and could result in blame…you didn’t tell me…well I thought I did….we didn’t include it in the plan…but that’s what I meant….and on and on.

No one has a crystal ball or has the ability to read the other’s mind.  This is where good documentation and communication come into play.  Even so, this conversation is guaranteed to come up and we have some suggestion on how to handle it.

One way to tackle these types of conversations is to focus on the facts and take the conversation away from blame.  The net result is that the item in discussion is not included in the estimates. The client needs to be made aware of the repercussions surrounding the item as early as it surfaces and what this would mean for the cost and the schedule.  This way, the client can make an informed decision as to accepting the scope with the related impacts to the project or sign off on a change order.

This is why it is so important to have a clear understanding of the scope, get sign off on requirements, and provide details as to what is in (and out) of scope. Project estimates must tie to the scope definition and the associated theories. Diligence up front saves time in what can be a difficult conversation later. There will always be scope discussions, but being precise in requirements management and documenting estimates allows the conversation to focus on the facts.  Make sure the change orders are documented and signed off on as well.

Weekly status meetings make sure everyone is talking and keeping the lines of communication open.  If you hear about something early enough, sometimes you can squeeze it in, but it is good to get in documented and a change order signed off so everyone is aware of what is in and out of scope.

Having dedicated project managers armed with a solid methodology, such as Microsoft’s Sure Step, ensures that all projects end up on time and under budget.

By Melissa Ryba, Implementation Manager, at the Chicago area Microsoft Gold Certified Dynamics GP Partner, Crestwood Associates.

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