Parthenon Software Group

Why Scope Matters

If you've ever thought about a project, be it an app, software or what have you, you know how all kinds of ideas can pop up, but are they all realistic to the kind of product you’re looking for? This is where scope becomes not only a necessity, but a means by which the process can be made simpler both for those generating ideas and for those developing said ideas. Scope lays out all the information needed to take a project from layout to requirements and so on. In other words, you can get a project from start to finish that much more easily and realistically.

One of the biggest question marks I've run into in my years of sales work has been a lack of good scope documentation. Clients will come to me with an idea or concept and ask how much it will cost with little thought as to scope, wireframes, feature lists or user cases. Software estimation is probably one of the most difficult tasks in a business and the lack of defined scope makes it that much harder. You are essentially putting together historical data and guesstimating the amount of time it will take to build something that has never been built before. Thus, the better the scope documentation, the easier it is to bid a project.

The second biggest question is whether a project will fall into a waterfall or agile approach. For a company to provide a fixed bid on a project with incomplete scope documentation is like taking a blindfolded man and having him throw darts at a dartboard with dollar signs after he has been spun around 3 times. It is highly inaccurate. A bid formed from this kind of scenario is only going to cause strains in the client relationship as it will often lead to scope creep. The incomplete documentation will undoubtedly lead to changes in scope which will require more code and cost more money. Then the client is going to wonder why the project that was estimated at $50,000 is now billed out at $55,000. If the client had thorough scope documentation with wireframes, feature lists and user cases in place from the beginning this would help alleviate a lot of the anguish.

Having trouble getting started? There are many different tools out there that can help you create good scope documents, or often times for a fee your development shop will help you create good scope. They do this because it will make their job easier in the long run. It is 100% easier to bid a project with proper documentation than having a client call up and say, “Hey we would like a mobile app, how much will that cost?” Bright Hub PM or Microsoft Office are two sites that will help you with scope documentation. A couple options for creating wireframes are Balsamiq or MockFlow. To create a feature list you will want to outline what all you are looking to do with your site/app. A good idea is to look at what competitor companies are doing and see what functionality they have. User cases can then be taken from this feature lists. You can now outline the typical interaction that your customer is going to have with the software.

Once your scope documentation is in place, the estimator is able to get a good idea of what it is you are looking for in terms of your software. As such, you’re going to get a more accurate estimate as well as decrease the chances of scope creep.

The estimation process has the estimator breaking down your project into smaller tasks. They then use expert advice from the developers along with historical data from previous projects to put a timestamp on how long these tasks will take to deliver on. Having thorough documentation allowing more through understanding of all the tasks that it will take to complete your project.

The takeaway? Make sure you have your scope requirements laid out and well documented as you go through the planning phase. Once that’s accomplished, you can clearly specify what’s needed for your project and thereby make things easier on yourself and those who develop the project for you. Not only will this potentially save you money, it will also relieve all kinds of stresses.

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