Monday, December 3, 2007

Two Crucial Components of a Project Definition

In the early phases of a project, once the vision and scope have been clarified, it is important that the definition of the project is documented and shared with the client and project team. One of the first tasks a Project Manager will tackle on any initiative is to develop the Project Plan, which, once signed, becomes the project. It is critical that two distinct components are defined in the project plan - the project scope and the product scope. In this posting, I will explore what each of these components refer to, and why you need to consider both as you define the project for the larger team.

Project Scope: Project scope relates to the work effort required to deliver what was agreed upon. Project scope may encompass things such as planning and requirements gathering, design and development, testing and deployment, and even project management. Work effort will vary from project to project and from industry to industry, but the ability to identify what resources will contribute to the project and how intensive their involvement will be is a crucial element of project definition. A thorough description of this must be included in the Project Plan. Project scope will help demonstrate the breadth and depth of your work process, which can instill a sense of confidence in clients who have not worked with your company in the past. Ultimately, project scope can help justify the cost of doing business with your organization.

Product Scope: Defining product scope is equally important, and cannot be negated as the Project Plan is developed. As opposed to work effort and time allocations, the product scope identifies exactly what the end deliverable will be. For example, in the interactive space, product scope may mean a 25 page, single language website with two data-capture forms, a SQL database and a refer-a-friend email component. At a high level, this describes the end result of the project scope. It is what you will deliver to the client at the completion of the engagement. Product scope can be supported by numerous documents, including system architecture, database design, storyboards or wireframes. Anything that will help manage the expectations of the client can be used to round out the product scope definition.

Making a simple distinction between these two project components may help you break down and focus the definition of each. Relate these two concepts back to any project you are tasked to define, and you will ensure the team works through the solution prior to beginning any tangible work for the client.

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