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The outcome of a project is only as good as the work we do upfront. Over the years, we’ve worked with many companies re-attempting their IRM solution after a failed design with another company. It’s a costly mistake to make, not to mention the added challenge of getting users on board again. Yet, there is a way to bounce back—and skillful project scoping is the first step.

Scoping delves into the customization and end-project required to ensure all stakeholders understand what needs to be delivered. IRM solutions are unique to each company. Yours will share the same software platform that’s used by other organizations, but it is the customization to suit your unique workflows and processes that will make it work really well.

Let’s go over the elements of project scoping, and best practices for determining these business requirements.

What is Project Scoping?

First, what is scoping? Simply put, it means defining what your organization wants to achieve with the project. This likely includes specific activities and deliverables from the project, who will benefit from the results of the project, how you will measure success in the end and verify and/or validate the output, and more.

Identify the Project Needs – Your What and Why

Documenting the ‘what and why’ of a project may seem unnecessary, but in our experience, they are a critical part of scope documentation. These are essential for making a strong business case for the project, and they can help keep the project on track if new stakeholders enter the project mid-way through. Of course, they also set the groundwork for tasks to follow. You’ll need to ensure the outcome aligns with the what and why, while also satisfying end-users’ expectations, the timeframe and budget.

Identify the Goals and Objectives of the Project

As you work to define the project scope, it’s helpful to follow the SMART principle as follows.

Specific – Specificity means stating accurately what the project will help achieve. That is, what, why and how you will accomplish all tasks. The clarity in goals and objectives reduces the chances of ambiguities and misunderstandings, lowering the risk of failure.

Measurable – Are your goals and objectives measurable enough to elicit feedback, facilitate tracking and be accountable for? What we measure, we can improve.

Achievable – Can your project’s objectives be realistically achieved, given the resources on hand? Don’t set yourselves up for failure by setting unrealistic expectations of your team and project without investing enough into them.

Realistic – Are the laid-down goals and objectives easy to produce, especially if you face complications down the line? Will any slight hurdle (often inevitable) reduce the overall quality of the project’s outcome and/or cause overspending and stretching the set deadlines?

Time Frame – Can you meet your project goals and objectives within the allocated time frame? Is it a critical requirement to meet these deadlines?

Pen the Project Scope Description

Clearly define the functional and non-functional requirements that form the bedrock on which you will build subsequent features of a product or service. Functional requirements are any capabilities that the product or service must exhibit for the project to be successful for the end user, including any user expectations and acceptance criteria.

Non-functional requirements, such as performance, scalability, availability, and reliability are implicit and technical. They satisfy qualitative needs such as the quality of experience and the accuracy of results for the end user.

An efficient project scope description accounts for both functional and non-functional requirements.

Identify Constraints, Assumptions and Risk

Roadblocks are a fateful reality when we set out to achieve a predetermined outcome with a project. Identifying the potential limitations upfront helps to minimize problems that may delay or constrain your ability to achieve the desired effect.

Whether these hurdles are rooted in assumption or uncertainty, looking out for them throughout the project’s timeline further reduces the risk of failure. Identify potential constraints early and keep a tab on them throughout the project to continue to monitor and prevent risks.

We strongly advise avoiding reworking the scope of your project, as it means investing more time, money and resources. However, sometimes change is inevitable and necessary. Where possible, limit changes by factoring in perspectives of customers, stakeholders, and employees involved in the project. Document assumptions and risks as this will minimize disagreements and misunderstandings, should you introduce change later on.

Why it’s Important to Spend Time Getting the Scope RIGHT

Setting a clear project scope will allow your team to manage it well and ensure that you have a happy customer–be they internal or external.

Start your project on the right foot by carefully defining the scope. The aim of scoping should be to steer the project in the direction of successful outcomes, satisfying end-user expectations and timely, on-budget project completion. By documenting the scope, the team you’ve assembled for the project can work toward a mutual goal. This is particularly important with IRM solutions because the team typically spans multiple functions.