29 October 2021

Changing the Project Scope in IT Projects – Changing Your Perspective


Change is inevitable but it can be handled well even in large IT projects - that is, if scoped properly and managed in the right way. As a collaborative piece of work between stakeholders, project manager and the sponsors, successful project scope will not crumble in the time of trial.   

Unfortunately, some IT project scopes tend to have limited descriptions that do not encompass all possible scenarios. And if they do, the project team lacks the expertise to manage the changes to the project scope in a consistent manner.  

Let us explore why this is important, how you can address scope changes in IT projects, and what can happen if you handle them poorly. 

Why managing scope change in IT is important?

As I mentioned earlier, scope changes are an essential part of IT project management. Generally, scope adjustments are the result of thorough decisions or altered requirements of the stakeholders or clients. They can be triggered by budget, schedule, data, or resource shifts. They must be implemented either in accordance with a contract amendment in the case of an external project or in accordance with the company's procedure in the case of an internal project. 

You may also encounter unexpected changes in project scope, known as scope creep, caused by external, non-strategic factors, such as failure to properly define the project scope or failure to meet expectations. 

How to do it?

Keep in mind that the best way is Plan to React. By taking into consideration potential hindrances, areas prone to change and discussing them with management during the planning phase, you can establish a good fundament. 

Before we dive in, let us briefly review how to properly define the project scope. The most important process to remember is to compile a list of functional and non-functional requirements with at least three priority levels: mandatory, important, and optional. Then, based on the list of requirements, you need to create a detailed functional specification of the project along with a high-level architecture. Of course, you also need to explicitly specify what is out of scope. 

Plan, plan, and plan some more!

First of all, it is important to understand the scope before the project begins. The product and project deliverables need to be defined here, as well as the expectations set during project scope management. Since your project and team are bound to encounter challenges no matter how thorough the preparation is, you should explain how you plan to handle unforeseen situations in the scope statement. This is the key to success.  

If you include potential obstacles and areas susceptible to change in the planning phase and discuss them with management, you will establish a good foundation. Later, when an unexpected or anticipated change occurs, you can draw on the well-documented and defined processes for changing the scope of the project to respond appropriately and keep the project from getting out of hand. 

The truth is that the major cause for the failure of projects is unrealistic and superficial preparation

Ideally, you would like to work with limitless possibilities. But I speak from experience that it's best to keep your feet on the ground and define the constraints as early as possible in your project to be realistic and prepared to work within the constraints. Besides, note that planning the project makes more sense in the waterfall method, and in agile you can complement the project backlog "on the fly". 

Establish Change Control practises

As change is bound to occur no matter what, we need to make sure that we regulate and monitor the changes in the project so as not to destabilize it. And the bottom line is that you should have change processes in place and implement them when times get tough, rather than panicking and planning how to deal with a scope change on the fly. 

Identifying a potential change first, then negotiating and finally implementing it is a healthy approach. It's best to manage these things through constant contact with stakeholders, management, and the customer. If you establish an agreement between the parties about the changes to the project scope - defining who can request a change to the project scope, who must oversee and approve it, and what to do in the event of an unexpected change - everything will be handled in an organized manner during an actual crisis. And that's exactly what we want, right? With the right process in place to monitor and inform the team of scope changes, everything can be handled. 

Of course, it would be good practise to set up a monitoring team that focuses solely on the established procedures for changing the scope of the project and meets regularly to discuss them. Such regular meetings of a change control board will help you ensure compliance with the procedures. 

What will happen if you don’t do it?

Scope creep it is! When evaluating the common complications that can hinder the completion of an IT project, perhaps the greatest danger is the scope creep, triggered by a change that was not envisioned in the project's scope. 

When a client's decision or unexpected circumstances bring about scope changes with a simultaneous lack of adequate processes in place, the integrity of the project is at risk. In such a case, projects consume more time, energy, and expenses than originally planned - which can lead to project delays and budget conflicts.  

Instead of working towards a specific goal in predefined phases, the project team ends up chasing the white rabbit and loses the necessary focus. 

All in all

Remember that change does not have to mean failure of your project. Dealing with changing requirements in the right way can help you stay on top of things. So do not waste your valuable time looking for solutions to prevent all possible changes.  

And if you need help creating and evolving your project scope, reach out to us for additional support so you can effectively expand your scope without expensive hiring processes. 

Successfully manage your IT projects

Rene Koelblen
Regional Sales Director /France

Experienced Commercial Director with a demonstrated history of working in the information technology and services industry. Strong business development professional skilled in Business Process, Requirements Analysis, Translation, ITIL, and IT Service Management.