Project management professionals love the idea that they should be able to define project scope up front – at the beginning of the project and then never change it again during the project’s life. This strategy certainly makes the project manager’s job easier but is it a realistic expectation? Is it in the company’s best interest?

At the beginning of a project the scope should be documented in such a way so it establishes clear boundaries around what is “in scope” and what is “out of scope”. It also should include as much detail as is possible at that time regarding the characteristics of the end product, services, or results. Take notice of the phrase “as is possible at that time”. As the project progresses the scope has to evolve from a high level chunky description to a very granular and detailed vision. This is the only way the project scope can become a reality.

Sometimes, when the project scope takes on more detail it becomes obvious that the scope needs to change and move outside its initial boundaries. This is when project managers most often resist changing the project scope. The phrase they most commonly use to malign these changes is “Scope Creep”. The question that has to be asked is, “is it better to deliver the end product, service, or result just as was planned in the beginning or should it change to reflect the new needs?” Not changing the project scope in this case could hurt the business.

So, the short answer is, yes, project scope does have to change over time. Project managers need to get comfortable with the idea that project scope will need to change over the life of a project. Think of it this way: very few things envisioned in the future remain the same. Think about college degrees, careers, significant others, vacations, etc. Why should projects be any different?

To help project managers maximize their performance, Systemation offers project management training courses and project management certification programs. These programs are customized to fit your specific business needs and will help you lead successful projects.