scoping

5 must-know keys to scoping a project like a boss

by Shane Howard

True project success—the holy grail. Unfortunately, many projects don’t reach it: for every $1 billion invested in projects, companies lose $97 million due to the project not fully meeting its objectives. But perhaps the problem isn’t the project itself so much as it is the improper setup and staging of the project beforehand. Perhaps the problem lies in the scoping stage. 

Last time, we looked at how to rock the presales stage of your relationship with a new client. Next is scoping, where that first impression and potential for trust and confidence are truly tested. Here are five things to do during scoping to ensure you build the foundation for the success of both the project and client relationship. 

 

1. Gather the right materials

First things first: you have to go into a scoping call with the right materials at hand. This may include organizational charts, user lists, product lists, sample reports of what the client would like created in Salesforce, etc. It’s also a good idea to request any existing business process workflows be documented and sent over beforehand, so you have an idea of how things work already before a project starts. 

Other materials that may be of use as you prepare for scoping: training documentation, source system field lists, service assessments, recording, SFDC data, quote documents, and pricing catalog. These are just some examples of materials you’ll want to prepare with, and not all projects will include all of these items. Just make sure you’re ready with the proper documents and background knowledge. 

 

2. Hit the immediate objectives

Your scoping call can not be considered a success if the immediate engagement objectives are not answered. Through scoping, the following items should have clear answers understood by both the client and consultant teams:

– What is the main purpose of the engagement?

– What are the success metrics of engagement?

– What timetable have you considered?

– What are the critical success factors for the project?

– What are the functional priorities for the project?

Understanding these answers will not only build alignment for the project but also guarantee that your team is confident about the next steps after scoping. Now is also a good time to survey the client about any potential competing objectives or other ongoing projects you are not involved in but may affect the work. 

 

3. Make sure you have the right people involved

The right people for any given project always varies depending on the depth, demands, and functionality of the project, but what doesn’t change is that you must include decision-makers. Anyone who has a say in whether or not the project was a success should be included during scoping. 

It’s especially important to also make sure you have engaged decision-makers from the client backing you. Emphasis on engaged. If you include the decision-makers but they’re not all that interested in what’s happening—if they take on more of a passive role—you’re setting yourself up for failure. Active, engaged project sponsors from the client side are crucial to securing project success: 62 percent of completed projects have at least one. 

 

4. Ask the right questions

Scoping is the time to get detailed and be thorough. You want to make sure you’re covering all facets of the proposed project and any potential obstacles. Anyone can jot down requirements verbatim and deliver them, but a good consultant isn’t a mere order taker. An experienced consultant will go deeper to offer the best way to fulfill each requirement. To do that, you have to ask more of the client. 

Here are some questions you should address if the client hasn’t already:

– What is a realistic timeline and what are your expectations? Does this involve UAT, continued support, etc.?

– What will we do, what will the client do, and what will we not do?

– What are the acceptance criteria and what does “done” look like?

– Is training needed?

– What are the requirements, limitations, and deliverables?

– Does anything require a proof of concept?

On top of all that, make sure you are asking “the question after the question.” Follow up after you get an answer. Insist on more detail and a fuller picture because now is the time to get everything cleared up. If you take the time to gather the assumptions and constraints now, you’ll protect yourself from scope creep down the road.

 

5. Use demonstrations and examples

One of the best ways to spend your time during scoping is with demonstrations and examples. Ask your client to walk through, step by step, the current state of their business. Say “show me your process as it stands today and explain how you want it to be different in the future.” 

A step-by-step walkthrough is often the perfect way to make sure both teams are on the same page about what the problem is and what we want to do to fix it. Request whiteboarding, process maps, diagrams, workflows, etc. The more insight you can get into every step they go through now, the easier it will be for you to understand how the project alleviates that current state. 

 

Project success requires a keen sense of what’s at stake, the objectives, and all possible outcomes. It demands lots of insight from the client and persistence from the consultant to get it. It’s a lot of work, but the upfront time spent during this scoping stage can help blossom a successful partnership and project—if you do it right.

 

Shane HowardShane is the VP of Global Operations at Simplus. With his expertise in Professional Services, Operations, PMO, and Software Development and his experiences in partner, C-level, VP, and Director positions in a variety of industries, Shane thrives in operational excellence. He solves complex internal and client-facing problems with scalable solutions.

shaneh@staging.simplusaustralia.com