Keeping Scope in control

November 9, 2009
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This is a critical process in any project management. Possibly this is the most critical one. On the one hand you have to plan to a very high precision to increase the probability of success as also to have minimum and predictable costs associated with it. On the other, change is a constant. Changes may be essential because of business reasons, because the requirements were not understood clearly, because the estimates of time and cost were wrong due to an inexperienced team etc. The list can actually be very long. One consequence of all of these reasons is that change in scope is a reality and needs to be planned for. Changes in scope as the project progresses are inevitable. What one needs to ensure is that the changes do not become uncontrolled leading to a run away project. It is thus very important that a change control be drawn up at the time of drawing up the project management plan. This is one of the critical plans that can have a heavy impact on the outcome of a project.

Controlling Change

As always the project management plan is your reference. In particular, scope baseline, scope management plan, change management plan, configuration management plan and requirements management plans are essential documents against which changes are to be reviewed. Work performance information, requirements document and the requirements traceability matrix and organization process assets are additional documents which let you decide, what effect the changes requested are going to have and how best to manage them.

Scope baseline when compared to actual; performance tells you if changes, preventive or corrective, are required. The changes then will have to be managed according to the scope and change management plans. The change management plan also would have been drawn up when the overall project management plan was finalized at the beginning of the project. Configuration management plan defines the items that are part of a configuration of the product and possible configurations of the product. Changes in these may need formal changes. The configuration management should specify how to manage the configuration related changes.

The requirements management plan must specify how requirements changes will be managed, how to get that process started, analyzing the impacts and relevant approving authorities involved. Work performance information is about project progress, what deliverables are available, how much progress has been made on other deliverable and how much yet to be done etc. requirements and requirements traceability documents together help keep track of requirements and impacts of changes, if required. Of the organizational process assets, existing formal/informal scope control policies, procedures and guidelines as well as monitoring and reporting methods are relevant to change control.

Determining Changes that are required

There is only one technique to evaluate if there are variations from the planned expectations. The departure from the baseline and the extent of departure would determine what actions to be taken. It will also determine if preventive or corrective actions are required. The real trick is to be able to proactively flag such departures so that early containment actions can be taken. Project performance measurements that are taken periodically to monitor progress periodically can be used to determine the variance from original scope baseline. You should be able to determine the cause and extent of variance, from the baseline, through whatever variance analysis is appropriate. Take a decision as to preventive or corrective action required.

Outputs of the Process

Work performance measurements are done at specified/periodical intervals to determine the planned vs. actual technical performance and other scope performance measurements. These are communicated to stakeholders.

Organizational process asset updates helps keeps these references current as the project progresses. At a minimum, causes of variances, corrective actions selected and the reasons for choosing the particular course of action, same for preventive actions as well as any other lessons learnt are recorded.

Change requests are tricky and they need to be carefully analyzed. This may result in a change request to the project scope base line or other parts of the project management plans. Preventive or corrective actions are to be carefully studied so that the anticipated problems are resolved with the minimal impact of time and cost budgets. One may have to decide on what kind of defect repair/ rework activity is appropriate. Review of change requests and their disposal9 how exactly to be deployed) will be controlled by a change control plan created for this purpose.

Change orders that are approved trigger changes in the project management plan documents; specifically in the scope baseline and other baselines such as cost and time schedule. So updates will have to be issued if there are changes necessary. Approved change orders can affect the requirements document and consequently requirements traceability matrix document. Updates will have to be issued for these documents too as necessary.

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