How does a project originate? How can you tell what it should achieve? How can you tell what approach is required? How can you tell if it will be successful or not?
Before the work can begin, there must be a common understanding of the project: purpose, objectives, scope, sponsorship, funding and mission. Without such understanding, the project should never be accepted by a reputable Project Manager.
The project, particularly its purpose, must therefore be clearly defined before the project manager accepts personal responsibility for its success. The first step, after accepting the mandate, should then be to share the project’s purpose with the Project Team and with all stakeholders.
Project Purpose: Why does the project exist?
A project’s purpose explains the reason for its existence, the meaning of what is done, the ambition or dream pursued by the project or the direction it takes and maintains.
The definition of this is essential at three levels: for the project and for all stakeholders.
The scope is to ensure that all actions taken follow this guideline, it is therefore a strategic decision-making tool and a lever of innovation that allows the ambition behind the project to be kept in mind at all times.
For stakeholders, the purpose is first and foremost a driver of motivation and consistency over time.
At a time when the search for the meaning of their work is strongly present, purpose allows team members, for example, to know what they are involved in and give them a good reason to get up every morning.
For an investor, it is also particularly important to ensure a coherent development that not only serves his or her own personal interests.
So, how do you define a project’s purpose?
The following steps can help to effectively define a project scope:
Identify project needs
When you can clearly identify the needs of a project, you are more likely to set a sound point of reference from the outset.
Understanding the “what and why” of a project will allow you to set specific objectives and also establishes the basics for which activities should be followed and how they should be carried out.
Confirm project objectives
The baseline of the project scope should be that the objectives are those that follow a SMART guideline, that is, they must be specific, measurable and achievable.
In addition, they should also be realistic and completed within a given time period and within the deadlines.
Project scope description
The project manager must be clear about the features and operation required for the product or service that will be the result of the project.
In other words, it must be clear what certain qualities will necessarily be required for the project to be considered successful.
Expectations and approval
Successful projects are those that factor in end-user satisfaction. If these are satisfied, the customer will accept the product, service or process derived from the project.
The end users may be customers outside the organization, but in some cases, also the team or other internal departments.
Ultimately, the scope of the project is what should be in tune with the best results to anyone who can be your end users.
There are always blocks or obstacles in the project that come into play on the way to the finish line.
The awareness of the possible limitations can contribute to minimize the problems that could delay or limit the ability to achieve the result of the project.
These limitations can be caused by dynamic environmental conditions (internal and external), technological problems and/or lack of resources.
Communicating such problems to your team in a timely manner and taking steps to overcome these obstacles will reduce delays in project completion and keep expenses within budget.
Whether based on hypothesis or uncertainty, the analysis of their impact along the time sequence of projects further reduces the risk of failure.
Identify necessary changes
It is always best to avoid re-elaborating the scope of the project, as it means investing more time, money and resources. However, sometimes these changes are unavoidable and necessary.
In such cases, it is important to limit the changes as much as possible, involving all stakeholders and thus minimizing disagreements on new solutions.
A sound project management, not only as a result of adjustments, but generally, it takes into account the following considerations:
- An agreement regarding the acceptable level of quality of the project output.
- A budget for the costs that should be sustained (and not exceeded) to deliver the project.
- An acceptable time frame during which the project should be completed.
The three aspects are all interconnected and as such are indicated at the beginning of the project and are monitored throughout the project life cycle.
Every time one of the three elements is affected, it inevitably impacts the other two.
For this reason, these three fundamental aspects of the project should be defined at the beginning and, ideally, no longer be “touched”.
Define and describe a project purpose: Conclusions
Ultimately, the project scope is a bit like the top of the mountain that is observed at the beginning of an alpine expedition.
If everyone identifies and is motivated by the idea of reaching the peak, then it will be possible to make everyone move in the same direction.
You may not know exactly how to climb the mountain in detail or you will have to choose alternative routes along the way, but the whole team will have a good image of the summit and will be determined to reach it, whatever it takes.
This allows the expedition (the project) to remain consistent over time, the team (parties involved) to remain motivated and the leader (the rope leader) able to take a regular step back to ensure that the expedition is consistent with the original purpose.