How Do You Know When the Project is Done

Take one part engineer, one part artist, one part architect, and one part writer, and just a pinch of good business politics for flavor, mix these ingredients together to assemble the skills needed to develop a good comprehensive scope statement. Another way to look at it is to draw a picture of your project's outcome in words. This is essentially, what a scope statement represents. In the absence of these ingredients listed here, a common viewpoint for project managers is to attempt to establish an agreement as to "what done looks like." "Done," of course, being the operative word as in how will we know when we have achieved the project outcome.

Scope Statement1Credit: Cory Stophlet

The first place to start is with the Project Charter (see article in this series on Project Charter). This should provide you with at least a small amount of material (if a project description was included) to begin describing what it is that the organization is expecting as an output from the project management effort. Also become very familiar with any economic analysis, return of investment analysis, and feasibility studies developed for this project. These studies should be packed full of descriptive information as to what the expected outcome must be to achieve or exceed the original project vision.

After gorging yourself on all these initial analysis documents, go back to the originator or customer user of the project's outcome: make sure that there is a clear view of what the project is to produce. Document this picture in both quantifiable and qualified statements using a format such as that shown in these next few paragraphs.

The Scope Statement should be done as an iterative process, building in detail and content over a period of time to ensure that it is a comprehensive statement, or set of statements, that clearly and measurably represent the project's outcomes. There are five elements that should be addressed: Project Justification, Project's Product or Service Description, Project Deliverables, Project Objectives, and establishing what is Out-of-Scope. It's crucial that this document is as accurate and complete as possible. It will be used as a basis for any Statement of Work (SOW)[1] items that have to be further contracted out to other departments or outsourced to vendors. The Scope Statement also serves as a basis for verifying the final product or services or serves as a scope verification resource tool.

Scope Statement 2Credit: Cory Stophlet, 2014

1. Project Justification

The Project Justification must answer "Why did we feel the need for the project, i.e. what is the Business Need?" Explain the back-story including the business need, the project's outcome purpose, and the vision for conducting the project. Include project goals that are not necessarily quantifiable (although they will need to be converted to objectives at some point).

2. The Project's Product or Service Description

This must be a brief summary of the features, functions, and characteristics of the product(s) and or service(s) in enough detail to support later more defined project planning.

3. Project Deliverables

This is a list of the product's first level sub-products, as in a breakdown of the major deliverables.

4. Project Objectives

Objectives must follow the tried and true standard of specific, measurable, quantifiable, realistic, and attainable, and can be used to determine the level or measure of project success. Objectives should include overall project schedule or time/duration estimate, cost estimate (can be a variance window, such as completed within 5-10% or less cost/schedule variance).

5. Out-Of-Scope

What is out-of-scope? There’s no clear-cut rule on how granular to get on this topic. Just remember, anything not specifically listed as “out” has the potential of creeping into the project at a later date. Here’s a simple example:  A construction project to build a new addition to an existing building:  is setting-up new furniture inside the facility in or out of scope; is exterior landscaping in or out of scope; is new signage for the entire building in or out of scope; new photographs of the building for marketing, is it in or out of scope.

Scope Statement 3Credit: Cory Stophlet, 2014

The Importance of the Scope Statement

The results of this effort to create a good quality Scope Statement will feed into the follow-on task of developing a Project or Product Scope Definition. We usually accomplish this through the development of Project Breakdown Structures, Work Breakdown Structure, Organizational Breakdown Structure, SOW's and any of the other organizational structuring tools used to display the disassembled project product and deliverables. It also helps to direct the change control process, aiding the project manager in keeping the project headed down the original designated path. Without a strong scope statement, that includes a clear vision for the resulting product or service of the project, most projects will skew off course from time to time and in some cases, what comes out of the project is not what was originally intended. As stated at the outset, the scope statement must provide a clear picture of what "done" looks like as in the resulting product or service meeting the original intent of the project.