Learn from London 2012 and nail down the scope

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Second guest blog in the 'top tip for project management series' by Paul Naybour, Business Development Director of Parallel Project Training.

I have been following with interest the project management lessons learned from 2012 Olympics, both the APM and Olympic Delivery Authority are to be commended for making a deliberate attempt to capture the lessons learned from this project and communicate them to a wider community of project managers.

 The paper by Dennis Hone, David Higgins, Ian Galloway and Kenna Kintrea on Delivering London 2012: organisation and programme demonstrated how the principles of good project management can be put into practice. This is further consolidated by the event run by the APM on delivering the greatest show on earth, which is also available on video and podcast. It is good to see the APM being involved in capturing these lessons and communicating them to project managers who didn’t have the privilege to be involved in this project. There is much to learn from the 2012 programme but for me the real focus was on establishing the scope baseline. They call this the original baseline budget or “Yellow Book”.   All projects within the yellow book were defined by

  • Scope; the project’s required outcome, plus the assumptions and exclusions which defined the project boundaries.
  • Schedule; placing all scope activities by time, duration and interfaces, usually within a logic network, with relationships to other activities identified and coded.
  • Budget; an estimate of costs associated with an individual activity or a grouping of activities.
  • Risk; identifying the level of uncertainty/certainty in initial budget assumptions and detailing all significant externalities that may impact cost, schedule or scope during the life of the project.

Many projects I have worked on in the past lack this clarity about the project scope and baselines, of these I believe the scope in the most important and difficult to pin down.  Time, cost and risk all depend upon a clearly defined scope. Without a clear scope the other two baselines are very difficult to establish. So I thought it worthwhile seeing what the APM BoK says about scope management, to quote it says:

“The scope of the PMP is defined in the product breakdown structure (PBS) and work break down structure (WBS).

  • The PBS defined all the products and deliverables that will be produced. The lowest level of the PBS is a product
  • The WBS defines the work required to produce the deliverable. The lowest level of detail shown in the WBS is normally a works package. “

The APM Bok has much more to say on the definition of time and cost baselines. Is this because they are easy to measure and evaluate?

Scope definition is much more difficult but to my mind even more important. To the APM BoK maybe we need to add more guidance on the questions to ask in defining scope such as:

  1. What are the specifications for the products?
  2. What are the acceptance criteria for the products and how will these be demonstrated?
  3. What constraints apply to each of the products?
  4.  What quality assurance processes need to be applied for each products?
  5. What assumptions and external dependencies apply to a product?

Without these questions being answered can we really say we have defined the scope?

I would welcome your feedback on how you “nail down the scope”?


Posted by Paul Naybour on 26th Apr 2012

About the Author

Paul Naybour is the Business Development Director for Parallel Project Training. He is a well-known speaker in the APM Branch Network, a Project Management Trainer and Consultant.

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