Scope Management - Important But Neglected
Achieving the right results, in other words, fulfilling the scope objective, is the primary test of effective performance by project management. It takes precedence over the constraints of deadlines and budgets. The failure to manage and control this aspect of the objectives is a principal reason why projects fail. In spite of its importance and its perceived bearing on project success, the management of scope is neglected in the literature, and likely as well in the practice, of project management.
How important is the management of scope in comparison to the management of time and cost? Brodkorb reports on a survey of several thousand people in the gas and electric utility industry and its major suppliers. An inadequate "definition of requirements (scope)" is ranked as the second most difficult obstacle to project success, exceeded only by unrealistic projections of anticipated cost and schedule performance, in the frequency of responses. Brodkorb defines success as being on schedule, within budget, and in fulfillment of scope (technical performance goals). He is disappointed that unrealistic projections rank as the most frequent difficulty, noting that this is either an indictment of senior project management or a cynical excuse for poor performance by the respondents.
From his own experience as a consultant, Brodkorb supports the high ranking given to poor scope management as an obstacle to success, well above both cost and schedule planning detail and cost/schedule/scope (technical requirements) integration.
Cleland and Kerzner report that, among interviewees in their investigation of critical success factors, the prime indicator of project success for the majority of both executives (62 percent) and project managers (75 percent) was "performance" (meaning meeting objectives and user or client satisfaction). This indicator outranked time and cost in that order.
From a survey of 1,484 respondents working in a variety of project structures, Gobeli and Larson found that planning problems were cited as the most frequent barrier to success. Within this category, unclear definition of goals, objectives, scope, plans, or design was the predominant planning problem, accounting for 50 percent of the reported instances, and was present to almost the same level for all structures.
In examining the reasons why cost and schedule overruns are experienced on software development projects, Genest et al. identify the failure to manage scope as a probable cause. An insufficient definition of the nature and configuration of the desired end product, lack of knowledge of the expected project output, and failure to manage changes in product configuration are described as management errors that drive up the originally estimated volume of work and consequently cause cost overruns.
The findings from research among project owners and managers that scope objectives take priority over time and cost objectives are not surprising. After all, the very reason for initiating a project is to meet a need for a specified end product or capability. The imposition of time and cost limits (while they are legitimate objectives) is secondary to the main purpose. There is great logical appeal to the proposition that, unless the project team can describe what it aims to produce as a result, it cannot prepare realistic strategies (work plans, schedules, and cost estimates) for the conduct of the project. And yet, in the experience of the writer as a member of project teams and as a consultant working on a diversity of projects, the management of scope is neglected in much of current practice. This neglect is mirrored in the general body of project management literature.
In Part 2, Walter Wawruck will examine the treatment
of Project Scope Management in the Project Management Literature.
28. Brodkorb, R.E.
The Most Troublesome Project Practices: Shouldn't We Measure Them Too? Proceedings of the 1986
Seminar/Symposium Drexel Hill, PA: The Project Management Institute, 1986, p4
29. Cleland, D.I., and Kerzner, H. The Best Managed Projects. Proceedings of
the 1985 Seminar/Symposium Vol. 2 Drexel Hill, PA: The Project Management Institute, 1985, CH.
1, 24 p3
30. Gobeli, D.H., and Larson, E.W. The Barriers Affecting Project Success.
Proceedings of the 1986 Seminar Symposium Drexel Hill, PA: The Project Management Institute,
31. Genest, B.A., Nguyen, T.H., Paradis, J., and Smith, J. Measuring Success
in Software Development Projects. Proceedings of the 1986 Seminar/Symposium Drexel Hill, PA:
The Project Management Institute, 1986, 177