A complex project will require a set of tools, used correctly, to effectively manage scope, budget, resources, and quality, and you want to deliver great results to the team and your organization. What are some of the project management tools you can use to improve your chances of project completion and success, and how are they used? This three-part blog series will explore the usage of 1) Scope Management Tools, 2) Risk Management and Scenario Planning Tools, and 3) Communication Tools. This blog series is an introduction for first time project managers and hopefully a good recap for well-established project managers.
Part I: Scope Management
I have observed projects that failed because: 1) project scope was not defined and agreed upon by all major stakeholders in the beginning (Note: stakeholders have different levels of influence in a project, and not all stakeholders are equal) and/or 2) scope boundaries were not respected throughout the project. Thus, projects became too unwieldy to manage and end goals were always changing. When this happens, project timelines lengthen, project budgets widen, and stakeholder and organizational tolerances shorten.
There are several tools project managers can use to define, unify, and communicate with project stakeholders about scope:
- Statement of Work
- Project Charter
- Phase Gates
- Change Review Boards.
Statement of Work
A Statement of Work is a contract or agreement between a project manager/team and the project sponsor(s). A Statement of Work should be prepared, reviewed with the project team and approved prior to initiating any project work. A Statement of Work can include the following (Note: this list is not exhaustive):
- A brief description of the project background (purpose, history, business case for change) so that all readers understand why the project is being initiated,
- Project Scope (what is in scope and out of scope) and applicable documents or references
- Goals and/or objectives (should be specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-bound)
- Project Requirements (can be categorized by priority, e.g. “must have”, “nice-to-have”)
- Deliverables (can be organized by project work stream or by project phase)
- Additional project needs (e.g. physical resources, human resources)
- Anticipated period of performance or calendar length of project
- Project Entry (e.g. approved Statement of Work, approved budget)
- Project Exit Criteria (e.g. sponsor acknowledgement of completed deliverables)
- Project Manager specific deliverables (e.g. project plans, tracking of action items, dashboards / scorecards)
- Project Sponsor specific deliverables (e.g. access to training, tools, timely review and feedback)
- Project Budget
- Project Change Requests (see Change Review Boards paragraph below for more detail)
The more time spent up front defining the Statement of Work, the less headaches and finger pointing there will be throughout the project.
The Keystone Tech Corner Series previously featured a blog about project charters; for more detail, see here.
To guide and influence scope, project teams can participate in Phase Gate reviews with project stakeholders to ensure that deliverables are being shaped and completed according to the Statement of Work, i.e. to ensure there are zero “bad surprises” at project completion. Stakeholders can identify risks or opportunities in these reviews and can help steer the team to more favorable outcomes. Usually, a project team cannot move forward until Phase Gate follow-up items or action items are addressed with a satisfactory level of detail and planning. A Phase Gate can take the form of a status update presentation, or can be more interactive, e.g. a Table Top Workshop or Solution Design Review. Phase Gates can be scheduled after critical milestones are achieved or on a reoccurring basis, e.g. quarterly.
Change Review Boards
It is inevitable that there will be change requests on a project, e.g. a request to include something new in the final output which impacts the timeline, a request to switch vendors, a request for additional funds or resources, a request for different solution requirements, etc. A Change Review Board is simply a means to formalize, document, communicate, and manage these requests, and get stakeholder buy-in to the change. Change Review Board members typically consist of stakeholders that hold great influence and/or interest in the project outcome. All Change Review Board topics for discussion must pass a defined set of criteria; otherwise, they will consume resource time and energy unnecessarily. Criteria can be project specific and be defined by the Change Review Board. Without a Change Review Board, large scope changes can be implemented without accounting for downstream impacts.
Keystone Scientific, Inc. is in the business of connecting clients with the right people having the right skills to meet their project needs. How can we help you achieve your goals and solve your project problems? Please feel free to reach out to our team by calling 814-205-3393 or contact us online.