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Gather Requirements

Learning Objectives

After completing this unit, you will be able to:  

  • Define project scope.
  • Explain the difference between needs, wants, and expectations.
  • Recognize and avoid scope creep.
  • Explain how scope definition impacts time and cost.

This module was produced in collaboration with Walden University.

Before You Start

Before you start this module, make sure you complete Project Management Essentials. The learning here builds on the concepts in that badge. 

Get to Know Walden University

Trailhead is excited to collaborate with Walden University on this trail about project management. Walden University, an accredited university, was founded in 1970 to support the academic needs of working professionals. Walden was among the first universities to launch online programs, and today they’re continuing to evolve what education can be, finding new ways to give students flexibility, support, and top-level education.  

On this trail, you walk in the footsteps of project managers to better understand their role, explore practical project management tools, and apply approaches to real-world examples, highlighting skills and knowledge you can apply immediately to your own work.

Let's get started!

Map the Project Journey

Project Journey represented by a path with checkboxes, destinations, and a target

Walden University lets us know a project is very much like a journey.  

The destination is the delivery of the expected outcome, or result of the project, as defined by the sponsor and key stakeholders. How do you determine the destination? How will you reach the destination? How will you know when you are there? In the context of project management, you must map the journey, and that begins with planning the scope of the project. 

Define the Work

Project scope defines all of the work that must be done to deliver the expected outcome or result of the project. It comes from project requirements provided by the sponsor and key stakeholders. It describes precisely what is and what is not included in the project. 

In traditional project management, the entire scope of a project is defined before the project begins. Agile methods use an iterative approach in which requirements and scope are continuously defined and refined. Regardless of the method, it's critical for the project team to understand stakeholder requirements and how those requirements apply to the total scope of a project.

Scope planning is a collaborative effort between the project team and key stakeholders. They meet to define, discuss, and document the requirements for the project. In the end, they must reach consensus on the requirements. The requirements must also be sufficiently detailed so there’s no misunderstanding about what the project will deliver.

Scope planning is critical because the scope is the primary source of information for the project manager. It helps them develop the schedule and cost estimates. Scope planning is also an important element of project performance measurement.

Tell Me What You Need

Gathering stakeholder requirements can be challenging. Stakeholders may not know exactly what they need, want, or expect. They may have difficulty articulating their requirements. The project team helps clarify the requirements and prioritize them by separating needs, wants, and expectations into categories.

Needs are the essential requirements. They’re the functions and features of the deliverable that must be included. The essential requirements form the initial definition of the project scope and are the highest priority.

Wants are the desired requirements. Wants are certain functions and features stakeholders want to include, even if they are not essential or required. Stakeholders may be adamant about including everything they want in the scope of the project, but some of these requirements may be negotiated out or deferred if the scope becomes too large.

Expectations represent the stakeholders’ vision. Expectations involve how stakeholders see the deliverable working and how and when they expect to realize business value. Capturing stakeholder expectations can be difficult, but it's important for the project team to do so. Gathering requirements associated with stakeholder expectations can add requirements that are needed or wanted.

Think Inside the Box

Project Scope, with a box containing icons labeled Browser compatibility and Payment processing, and icons outside of the box labeled Mobile App and Customer service chat app

What typically happens when you take too many detours on a road trip? The journey requires more time, you likely spend more money, and you may even get lost along the way. The same fate awaits project managers. Project detours result in scope creep.

Scope creep is a major cause of failed projects. It happens when unauthorized changes are included without approval. Traditional project management methods avoid change once the scope is set. They require a formal change management process of review and approval before changes are implemented. Agile methods expect and manage changing requirements. Allowing unlimited changes, however, results in higher cost and longer timelines.

How do project managers avoid scope creep? Like any other traveler, they should stay on course.

The project team must be sure stakeholders understand what’s included in the scope of a project and what’s out of scope. One technique used by project managers is to draw a box on a whiteboard. As stakeholders explain their requirements, those that will be in scope are written inside the box. Those out of scope are written outside the box. This visual is a very effective way to confirm the project scope and manage stakeholder expectations as the project is executed.

If it’s not in the box, it’s not in scope.

Scope and Performance: Your Landmarks Along the Project Journey

Scope, schedule, and cost are often referred to as the triple constraints. It is important to manage these constraints to deliver the project on time, on budget, meeting customer requirements. Changes to the scope impact the project schedule and cost. Likewise, changes to the schedule or budget will impact scope. It’s a balancing act.

Let’s look at an example.

An organization is implementing a new application. The execution is well underway when the sponsor announces that some significant requirements were overlooked during the planning stage and they must be added to the scope of the project.

How does this impact the planned schedule and cost? One of them must change. If the schedule is fixed, the only option is to add resources that will increase the cost of the project. If the cost is fixed, the only option is to defer the overlooked requirements.

By properly managing a project’s scope, project managers ensure everyone knows exactly where the project journey is going while avoiding the dangers of an arrival that’s over budget or late. In the next unit, Walden University reviews scope and schedule in more detail.

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