I’ve worked as a Project Manager for over 20 years, predominately using the traditional predictive approach, better known as Waterfall. This discipline has five distinct phases: Initiating, Planning, Executing, Controlling and Closing. Each phase is dependent on the previous one being achieved.

The Project Manager is fundamental in leading and guiding the team to achieve successful completion of each phase. This involves detailed planning and scheduling, focusing on dependencies, comprehensive risk assessments and an agreed budget to achieve strategic objectives and goals. The overall scope of the project is agreed prior to the execution phase with key milestones throughout each phase agreed and documented.

The Project Manager is ultimately accountable to deliver on time and within budget. However, there can be many surprises along the way that will impact the timeline, scope or budget and which threaten those key milestones.

The risk of scope change exists for any project and – if not managed properly – can significantly increase the complexity, causing a project to fail or run well over budget. It can happen as a result of poor due diligence during the initiation phase or a change in requirements. Managing the scope is key for any Project Manager – if scope changes are allowed to happen without the PM’s oversight, the project is said to suffer from Scope Creep – uncontrolled change in the project scope.

To avoid Scope Creep, it is crucial to engage and communicate regularly with project stakeholders/sponsors. Having a common understanding of the overall project goal and what business requirement it needs to satisfy should be clearly defined in the project charter. Clearly spelling out what is not in scope can be as important as defining what is in scope.

Typically, scope changes to the overall objectives will impact project time and cost. The Waterfall approach can be quite rigid and usually requires much justification for changes with a lot of resistance to break through. It predominately follows a top-down approach and once the plan is final, it is final!

Instead, an Agile approach is intended to embrace uncertainty in the project scope, and allows the project team to take a bite-by-bite approach to delivering the project, instead of needing to devour the whole thing in one bite.

Author: Orla Commerford, Project Manager, Aspira.

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