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Developer Digest

What Is Software Project Scope Management?

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Scoping Process of Software Product Development

It is not uncommon for stakeholders or business owners to end up disappointed when a software product fails to meet their expectations. However, this may not be because developers performed poorly. Instead often curial details about the project expectations aren't shared from a business owner with the wider team.

Sometimes, stakeholders may not express themselves well enough for a software developer to understand their expectations. This can lead to confusion and disappointing results.

A software development scope addresses this problem, by explicitly spelling out the project's outcome. It explains to the developer as clearly as possible what they are supposed to deliver when they develop the project.

The scope document also puts the responsibility of delivering quality software that meets stakeholders' expectations on the shoulders of the dev team and gives them a fair chance of success.

This article will cover everything you should know about project management and how to scope your software project effectively.

Key Points 

  • Project management scope refers to the work team members must do to deliver a software product with specific features and functions. 
  • You should know two terms in project management: product scope - the features of a product and project scope - what must be done to deliver the product.  
  • Project management phases include initiation, planning, execution, monitoring, and closing. 
  • Scoping a software project is important because it helps team members to know what must be done and avoid creep. Also, scoping creates a smooth workflow and better decision-making. 
  • Software scoping involves knowing the business needs and defining how they will translate into a product that meets customers' expectations. 
  • The scope statement describes the task team members must do to deliver the project on time and within the budget.

What Is Software Scoping?

When planning software development, you don't want to aim too high or low; instead, you want your development project just the right size to capture all your project deliverables. The best way to ensure seamless software development is to define the extent of your task.

Software scoping involves understanding the business need and defining how it will translate into software that meets users' expectations.

The scope also clarifies what should and should not be part of the development. That is, the work developers must do to deliver a software product with specific features and functions.

Shopping is also a way to set boundaries on the project and state clearly what goals, deadlines and deliverables you want to achieve. Clearly stating your project scope can ensure you meet clients' expectations without delay and overwork.

Defining the extent of software product development isn't a one-person job. For example, developers working on the project will make sure to align with relevant teams from their client's side to ensure they are on the same page.

Project scope management consists of three processes: planning, controlling and closing. 

  1. Planning. This stage involves getting an overview of the work you must do in the development process.  
  2. Controlling. Monitor and control the project development process by constantly approving and disapproving changes. 
  3. Closing. The project deliverables are examined and assessed against the original plan. 

There are two most commonly used terms in project management that you should get acquainted with - project and product scope. 

  • Project scope defines the task of successfully delivering a product with the specified features. For example, scoping a mailing app means planning all you must do to include all the features to make it work. 
  • Product scope defines all the attributes and functions of a product. For example, if the product is a software mailing app, its features may include heatmaps, A/B testing, funnel analysis and feedback collection. 

A straightforward software project scope will help overcome issues like constantly changing requirements, the outcome isn't what was expected, going over the budget and failing to deliver before deadlines. 

Why Is Scope Important in Software Development? 

Managing clients' expectations is crucial for project managers during software development. That is why defining the extent of a software product makes it easy to finish it on time, build a vision among team members and establish a smooth workflow. 

  1. It helps avoid scope creep. Scope creep appears when software development projects are started without stating clearly what should be done and which features should be added to a software development project. Creep occurs when a project exceeds the deadline, leading to misunderstanding and rework.
  2. It creates a vision.The scope is a reminder of why you are doing the project and gives stakeholders and team members a clear vision of the result. Also, it ensures that the different teams working on a project understand the steps needed to fulfil all the deliverables in the task.
  3. It establishes a smooth workflow. Project scope in software development ensures a smooth workflow and gives you better control over the project. It also gives the project manager and the client a better understanding of the deadlines and deliverables, making it easy to evaluate every step, and to see if it meets stakeholders' expectations. 
  4. Better decision-making. The scope document is the primary reference document you can fall back on when unsure of a specific requirement. Every detail is distinctly expressed in the document so that managers and clients can be well-informed about the project's outcome. 

What Is a Project Scope Statement?

There are several documents in project management, but the scope statement document is one of the most important. 

It describes the work team members must do to deliver the project on time and within the allotted budget. It is used to indicate the expected results, constraints and several other factors that affect the delivery of the project. 

The scope statement aims to reduce uncertainty by defining the full extent of the project and ensuring all stakeholders are on board and have a clear grasp of the task.

Here are a few things that a scope statement can include: 

  • The extent of the project,
  • Product features,
  • List of all deliverables,
  • Project exclusions,
  • Limitations,
  • Assumptions. 

Tips for Writing a Successful Project Scope Statement

  1. Make it as straightforward as possible. Avoid using overly complex language or language which might be ambiguous. Since your statement will be shared across multiple departments, it's important to keep your statement clear and concise. 
  2. Keep the document short. Since the scope statement is a document that seeks stakeholders' buy-in, there will be lots of edits along the way. So, keep it short, ensuring the main points stand out, as these will be used for reference later in the project. 
  3. Cover all essential points. The project scope statement should cover all the crucial points the product aims to achieve. It should include all the deliverables, limitations and assumptions about the project. 

Steps to Creating a Project Scope Statement 

You must devise a proper plan and process to develop great software. An organised approach to project management, with strictly defined phases, can help you exceed expectations and deliver each of your deliverables successfully.

Know Why It Was Initiated

Software products are often created for a specific purpose. It is therefore important to meet the specific needs on your end-user.  

Take for example, an organisation looking to develop CRM software to help manage their customer base. Understanding how the organisation will use the software, and what information they hope to get out of its' use, will help define a clear project scope.

Outline the Objective

After understanding why the project was initiated, project managers need to outline their objectives. To help divide plans into actionable milestones, project managers can create SMART goals to guide them. 

SMART means specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-based. 

Be specific: When detailing the software development project's objectives, you should be as specific as possible. Try to provide full details of what you intend to achieve after the project. 

Measurable: Project managers should break tasks into batches to easily measure progress down the line. Gauge each set of goals to determine the speed of the project. 

Achievable: Use available resources and team expertise as a guideline to determine how fast and efficiently you can complete the project. 

Relevant: Every detail in the project, no matter how small, should be relevant to the project's primary goals. 

Time-based: You should set a specific and realistic time frame for the project completion to help you plan the pace of the project. 

Create a Project Statement of Work

The statement of work (SOW) describes the project-specific activities, deliverables, timelines, work location and budget required to fulfil the project. A statement of work can help with defining the role of each stakeholder within the project. 

Identify Major Deliverables

Deliverables are the outcome of a development project delivered to the client or stakeholders. The scope statement established at the start guides the deliverables by ensuring everyone understands the task. 

Examples of project deliverables for a mobile development team can be an iOS application meeting specific functional requirements, or a fully optimised website for a web development team.

Set Key Milestones

A milestone in a project is a specific point within the development lifecycle used to measure a team's progress. It also indicates when the client can expect a particular deliverable to be completed. 

Complex projects can include milestones for specific steps involved in developing a deliverable. It is best practice for project managers to set a specific date to complete each milestone.

Identify Constraints and List Scope Exclusion

Managers should identify constraints that the team will face as it works to complete the project. Constraints can include resources, personnel, schedule and other requirements. 

Aside from that, managers should list exclusions to help avoid creep, which can occur when deliverables not part of the scope are added to the project mid-stream.

Get Confirmation 

After outlining everything in the scope, project managers must get confirmation by getting key stakeholders to sign the document.

This guarantees that all parties are aware of and understand the full content of the task to help avoid miscommunication that can lead to rework during or after the project. 

Software Project Management Phases

The project management has five phases which include the initiation phase, planning phase, execution phase, monitoring phase and closure pages. 

Initiation Phase

The initiation phase is the point of conception where you determine the importance of the project and the client's requirements. Also, the initiation phase is where project managers determine whether their organisations have the necessary resources to deliver the task.

You can further break it down into three other steps.

  • Determine the scope of the project. You have to define the final product to give your team members a clear vision of what they must do. 
  • Come up with a business case. This involves assessing risks, benefits, costs, technical solutions and timelines associated with the project, which can help you determine if it is feasible and worth it. 
  • Create a statement of work. A statement of work defines all the aspects of the software project and lays the groundwork for the plan. It includes the timetable, deliverables and the project pace. 

Planning Phase

The planning phase includes delegating project goals to different stakeholders and defining what team members will do to accomplish them. During this phase, the manager will also often documents the project plan and creates the schedule.

You can further break it down into four processes. 

  • Plan the project. Identify timelines, the tasks your team needs to perform and the constraints that might delay delivery. The project plan should be specific so that team members working on it will perform tasks efficiently. 
  • Create a workflow diagram. Project managers can visualise the development process using a flowchart to ensure stakeholders and team members grasp their roles. 
  • Budget estimates. You must identify all the expenses the development project may incur from the start to the end. It will give managers an estimate of how much is required to complete the project. 
  • Set key performance indicators. Key performance indicators (KPIs) measure how well team members meet specific goals set in the project. Examples of KPIs in a project include resource allocation, deliverables and cost.  

Execution Phase

Execution is the stage developers go into action to complete the task. In this phase, the manager's task is to organise team members, manage timelines and ensure that deliverables are finished on time. 

  • Organise team members. Project managers will form a team of developers with the relevant skills to handle the task. Also, every team member must have the right technical and interpersonal skills to do the job accurately. 
  • Ensure compliance. The project manager must ensure that team members work per the policies outlined in the plan and statement of work. 
  • Disseminate information. Pass information to team members and stakeholders to keep them updated about the latest changes in the project. 

Monitoring Phase 

Monitoring is the stage where the manager observes all the activities related to developing the project to ensure they are on track. 

  • Regularly review the KPIs. Reviewing the key performance indicators can help managers determine if the team is working effectively and are meeting planned milestones. This is when managers may speak with team members to adjust the plan if the KPIs indicate slow progress. 
  • Keeps track of the scope. In most cases, stakeholders can change their minds about the project after work has begun. When this happens, you should determine if your team can sustain an increased workload with the original budget or if you must redefine the scope. 
  • Control quality. It will ensure that the deliverables meet the client's expectations and that your team members are on track to meet the project's objectives. 
  • Build communication. Communication ensures that you keep stakeholders and your team informed about progress. Also, regular clients meeting can help prevent missed deadlines and misunderstandings.

Completion Phase 

This stage, also known as the closing phase, focuses on the project's result. 

  • Formally transfer all deliverables. The development team must transfer all the deliverables to the clients to sign off on the project. 
  • Conduct a review. Team members and project managers can review the project's challenges, failures and successes to determine areas for improvement in other projects. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is a Project Scope in Software Development?

Scope in software project development refers to all the work you must accomplish to deliver a software product that meets the client's expectations. It involves defining the deliverables, goals, tasks, deadlines and cost of a project and how to develop the software product. 

What Is the Difference Between Product and Project Scope?

Project scope refers to the task involved in delivering a product, planning the project, and defining the goals, deadlines, constraints and budget. Product scope refers to the features of a product that you must deliver at the end of the project. 

What Is the Definition of Project Management?

Project management in software development is the application of processes, skills, methods, knowledge and experience to achieve a specific objective in the project requirements. It has final deliverables that are constrained to a finite timescale and budget.