Defining the project perimeter, also called the scope of a project, is a challenge that project managers always meet when they first work on a new project.
Project scope is the part of project planning that involves determining and documenting a list of specific project objectives, end results, features, duties, tasks, deadlines, and costs.
- The significance of defining the perimeter of a project
- How do we set the perimeter of a project?
- 1. Identify project needs
- 2. Confirm project objectives
- 3. Definition project perimeter
- 4. Expectations and acceptance
- 5. To identify constraints
- 6. To identify required changes
- Tips for project perimeter management
Simply put, it is what needs to be done and the work that needs to be accomplished to realize a project.
It is important to define this perimeter in the early stages of a project’s lifecycle as this can have a significant impact on the planning and/or costs of the project along its way.
A well-defined project scope is mandatory to ensure the success of any project and we have already discussed this in this article about Scope management.
Without it, no matter how efficiently, how effectively and how hard a project manager works with their team, generally speaking, they will not be able to get the job done successfully.
The significance of defining the perimeter of a project
Here are the benefits that the definition of the perimeter of a project offers to any organization:
- Defines what the project involves so that all stakeholders can understand what is (or is not) involved in the work;
- Provides information that project managers can use to assign tasks, plan jobs and budgets accordingly (a perimeter in fact), within which project managers can plan;
- Helps team members to focus on common goals;
- Prevents projects, particularly complex ones, from growing beyond the established vision – beyond the perimeter.
The perimeter of a project provides a solid foundation for project management and helps to ensure that resources are not redirected or wasted on elements beyond its scope.
This will allow the project manager to allocate activities more efficiently and provide guidance to team members so that the project can be delivered on time and on budget.
How do we set the perimeter of a project?
The following steps can help the project manager to effectively define the perimeter of a project:
1. Identify project needs
When you are definitely able to identify the needs of a project, you are more likely to establish a solid point of reference from the beginning.
Understanding the “what and why” of a project will allow the project manager to set specific, achievable goals.
The identification of project needs also allows establishing the basics for which activities should be followed and how they should be performed.
2. Confirm project objectives
The establishment of a project perimeter should imply that the objectives are those that follow a SMART guideline; i.e. specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and completed within a given period of time.
Let’s see them in detail.
- Specific is what it means to state precisely what the project wants to achieve. That is, what, why and how it will be accomplished. Openness will reduce the potential for ambiguities and misunderstandings.
- Measurable: Are the objectives objectively measurable?
- Achievable: Is it possible to achieve the project objectives, given the resources available?
- Relevant: the objective must have a – positive – impact on the organization’s business.
- Temporary: Can the objectives of the project be achieved on schedule?
3. Definition project perimeter
As project leader, one must be clear about the features and operation required for the product or service that will be the project output.
That is, what certain qualities will be required to successfully achieve the final goal of a project.
4. Expectations and acceptance
Successful projects are those that meet the end user’s expectations.
End users can be either customers or the project team or some other entity within the organization.
For customers, this means the price, value and quality of the products/services as well as the availability, delivery and return policies.
For employees or internal figures within the company, this includes, for example, the effectiveness and efficiency of new operational processes.
Finally, the scope of the project is the one that should be in accordance with the best results to anyone who can be the end user.
5. To identify constraints
There are always obstacles – more or less significant – on the way to achieving a certain goal, and this applies to projects as well.
When one is aware of possible limitations along the way, this can help to minimize problems that could delay or limit the capability to achieve the project result.
These constraints can be caused by environmental conditions, technological problems and/or lack of resources.
Communicating such problems to team members in a timely manner and adopting measures to overcome these obstacles will reduce delays in project completion and keep expenses within budget.
6. To identify required changes
It is always best to avoid redesigning the project perimeter, as this implies investing more time, money and resources.
However, sometimes these changes are unavoidable and necessary, so the key is to limit them as much as possible.
Tips for project perimeter management
Here are some tips for the project perimeter management, which can help to avoid some of the most frequent problems that can occur during the project lifecycle.
- Ambiguity: Ambiguity in the scope often leads to unnecessary work and confusion. To avoid this, the perimeter must be well defined and specified.
- Incomplete definition: A not fully defined perimeter leads to incorrect scheduling leading to cost overruns. To avoid this, the project perimeter must be complete and accurate.
- Transience: A transient perimeter is the main cause of late deliveries and “endless” projects. To avoid this, the purpose document must be finalized and remain unchanged for the duration of the project.
- Non-cooperative environment: An inadequately prepared project perimeter causes misinterpretations. To avoid this, the document should be shared with all stakeholders at every stage of the perimeter definition process.
The management of the project perimeter is not difficult to implement; however, it requires effort, time and patience.
When it comes to project planning, the definition of the perimeter of the project is one of the most critical steps.
If a project is launched without knowing precisely where the boundaries are, there is little chance of success.
The main purpose of establishing the perimeter of a project is to clearly describe which area will be under the control of the project.