Project Management

Coping with Scope: Eight Real-World Strategies

Michael R. Wood is a Business Process Improvement & IT Strategist Independent Consultant. He is creator of the business process-improvement methodology called HELIX and founder of The Natural Intelligence Group, a strategy, process improvement and technology consulting company. He is also a CPA, has served as an Adjunct Professor in Pepperdine's Management MBA program, an Associate Professor at California Lutheran University, and on the boards of numerous professional organizations. Mr. Wood is a sought after presenter of HELIX workshops and seminars in both the U.S. and Europe.

If history has taught us anything it is this: “No matter how well a business application project’s scope is defined, it changes time after time.” Managing the scope of a project is always plagued with some form of scope creep. Scope creep has been the bane of project managers since project management began. The scope of project is somewhat fluid in nature and tends to morph as the project progresses. Like hurricanes, the path followed can only be projected within a certain margin of error. However, hurricane path forecasting utilizes different models, each based on a series of uncontrollable factors that can and do change over the course of its life. The closer the hurricane is to landfall, the more accurate the projections.
Unfortunately, most scope-management frameworks are designed around the definition of a finite scope based on limited knowledge and advocating tight controls to manage change. Scope changes can be driven by many factors, including new ideas, regulatory change, change of needs, poor understanding of requirements, heuristic discoveries, financial circumstances, changes in leadership and more. In addition, in the absence of an agreed-upon objective and quantitative methods assessing the impact that scope changes will have on the success of the project, emotions and politics will most likely rule the day.
The challenge is …

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