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Tips for PM Beginners: Defining the project scope (in and out)

Tips for PM Beginners: Defining the project scope (in and out) 03.05.2017 - In each project, irrespective of its scope, it is important to avoid misunderstandings wherever possible. Many arise because some project participants have false expectations about the project in question. In order to ensure that everyone is working on the same assumptions and more or less have the same preconceptions about the setting of goals and the implementation of the project, it is worthwhile defining from the outset what is part of the project and what is not. The project scope must be clearly defined. This step is often referred to in project management jargon as the in-out definition or in and out of scope.
 
What is in and out of scope?
 
The project scope needs to be defined. This involves drawing up a list of issues that need to be dealt with over the course of the project. It can also be helpful to set out once in writing exactly which issues are not part of the project. Both these lists can either take the form of actual lists, or can be presented as a circle that shows all the issues as keywords with those that are in scope inside the circle and those that are not part of the project on the outside of the circle.
It is important to note that these definitions can still be partially changed or deferred during the initiation or definition phases. During the definition phase, the in and out analysis can help to define what is actually expected from the project. This also enables tenders to be prepared more accurately and contracts to be awarded in a more targeted way. However, by the day that the contracts are signed, the exact scope is expected to be fixed so that the project manager can immediately start to focus on the correct aspects and issues.
 
Advantages and disadvantages of the method
 
One of the advantages of the method is undoubtedly that it makes implementation really easy. No one needs to possess any particular specialist knowledge in order to discuss the project scope with other project participants. The scope of the project can be briefly outlined by the project manager, then examined and analysed. The client can define his or her goals and expectations and the other parties, including the project management team, can suggest how these goals should be achieved and the types of methods that should be used. It is therefore possible to quickly discern which elements need to be part of the project and which do not. A fixed budget can also define or limit the scope and be included in these considerations. The main drawback of this method is certainly the fact that particularly in very complex projects, the scope is difficult to define because a list of everything that is part of the project can become too comprehensive and therefore unwieldy. When drilling down into too much detail (which is sometimes unavoidable), it can become difficult to know where to set the boundaries. In addition, no one wants to read overly long lists, which just end up in a drawer somewhere, instead of serving as a useful tool.
 
Procedure for defining in and out of scope
 
The simplest approach is possibly to gather the whole team, including the customer or building contractor, around a table. The project manager offers to chair the meeting and  records the details of all the ideas and suggestions, which are finally sent out as a summary. Initially, a diagram is drawn up that illustrates to everyone in the team exactly what is involved. Everyone is then invited to name different issues that are within the scope of the project. These could, for example, be written inside a circle and may concern  goals, procedures, budgets or figures etc. Finally, issues should also be mentioned that are explicitly not part of the project scope. These are noted outside of the circle. For example, goals can be mentioned that can be followed up in other projects and tasks that do not belong to the project for various reasons. This obviously provides plenty of opportunity for discussion. However, at the end of the session each project participant needs to agree the scope that has been defined together.
 
A few tips
 
As the person responsible for project management, it is important to take on the role of chairperson in a focussed way and to use this opportunity to focus attention on specific issues. This is why it is important to visualise in advance what belongs inside the circle and what could remain outside.
You can provide keywords in order to keep the discussions going and to ensure that all important issues have been considered.
As the project manager, you need to summarise again all the results that have been clarified during this meeting. If you do not wish to send out a visual of the brainstorming results, you should draw up a well structured list. This list will enable you to then very easily create a proposal detailing the services provided by the project manager or a project description. The in and out analysis also serves as a reminder for other tasks. 

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