Project Management

About Project Scope Management in Finance and Accounting Projects

A project’s scope includes everything needed to get from the objectives to the results – all the work required to complete the project’s deliverables. “Project Scope Management” is the discipline composed of the processes required to ensure that a given project is on track to complete successfully. It involves defining and controlling what is included in the project and what is not part of it.

Clear definition of a project’s scope – agreed upon and properly signed off by all relevant stakeholders – is a critical part of any project’s overall success. It is hard to overemphasize how important it is to get this step of the process right. In the scope management process, the project scope statement is the deliverable and your blueprint for success. The statement includes a detailed project scope description, project deliverables, acceptance criteria and project exclusions.

Best practices for defining and managing scope prescribed by the Project Management Institute include:

  • Creating a scope management plan,
  • Collecting requirements to meet project objectives,
  • Developing a detailed description of the project and the final product,
  • Subdividing project deliverables and project work into smaller manageable components,
  • Validating the project scope and
  • Monitoring the status of the project scope along the way.

Let’s briefly address these components below and illustrate them in practice, using a past Salesforce CRM system implementation as our example.

Creating a Scope Management Plan 

The first step in managing the scope is to create a scope management plan. This step involves determining problems and identifying business needs, as well as eliciting, documenting requirements and stakeholder management to meet these business needs.

It is important to also note that project life cycles range from predictive, where the scope is defined at the beginning of the project, to adaptive or agile, where the deliverables are developed over multiple iterations. In adaptive or agile life cycles, scope is defined and approved at the beginning of each such iteration. Projects with adaptive life cycles are best suited for responding to high levels of change and require ongoing, close engagement of the project stakeholders. The steps of collecting requirements, defining scope and subdividing into components are repeated for each iteration of the cycle. However, in a predictive project these three steps are performed at the beginning – once.

In the Salesforce implementation, this step involved producing a detailed scope management plan based on the requirements collected in steps two and three below.

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Collecting Requirements to Meet Project Objectives

A variety of inputs are useful in accomplishing this second step, such as a project charter, project management plan, business case and various internal and external factors. All findings should be documented either in a free format or a requirements-traceability matrix. Project requirements should be measurable, testable and traceable.

In the CRM implementation, this step involved sitting down with the leaders of the financial reporting team and gathering detailed specifications of the metrics and KPIs that the system was expected to produce, as well as documenting their exact definitions. Further, meetings with asset management and accounting teams helped identify sources of inputs into the Salesforce instance (such as the company’s ERP system).

Developing a Detailed Description of the Project and the Final Product

Third step is to define the scope. This step involves developing and documenting a detailed description of the project and/or product and outline its boundaries and acceptance criteria. This step results in creating a project scope statement.

During this step in the Salesforce implementation, outputs from the first two stages above were integrated into a project scope statement and signed off by all the relevant stakeholders.

Subdivide Project Deliverables and Project Work into Smaller Manageable Components

During the next step, we create a work breakdown structure or “WBS.” The key benefit of this step is to provide a framework for the deliverables. It is advised that the project is broken down into work packages – the smallest units for which cost and duration can be estimated and budgeted. The level of detail is dictated by the size and complexity for each project. 

Going back to the Salesforce implementation project, after deliverables were established, we met with the implementation team and outlined the specifications and timing of the sub-deliverables. Specifically, we documented the required reports with specific data layout, delivery dates and the testing team schedule.

Validating the Project Scope

Next step of validating the scope is the formal documented acceptance of the completed project deliverables by the authorized project stakeholder. This brings objectivity to the acceptance process. This process is performed throughout the project as needed. 

Each report produced by the Salesforce instance was tested, presented to the finance management team and signed off in a timely manner.

Controlling the Project Scope

Finally, the scope is controlled by monitoring the status of the project and managing changes to the baseline. This process is performed throughout the project. It ensures that all requested changes (as well as corrective and preventive actions) are processed and guards against scope creep. 

During this phase in the Salesforce implementation, we ran variance analysis against the budget and schedule of the implementation. Any negative variance was addressed in a timely manner, which contributed to the overall success on the implementation on time and on budget. Scope control was performed throughout the implementation to ensure all change requests were incorporated and properly approved.

By adhering to the structure of the six steps of the scope management process, we were able to clearly define and deliver on all of the requirements of this system implementation and financial reporting upgrade process. We have implemented the Salesforce and integrated it with the existing ERP, delivering superior customer service to the finance management team.

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If you’re interested in learning more about best practices in project management you can download our free infographic below. You can also explore our website to learn more about our financial project management services.

cross-functional project management infographic call to action

About the Author

Olga is an MBA and a CPA with more than 15 years of industry experience, including leadership roles from Controllership to Vice President of Finance and Accounting and responsibilities such as establishing FP&A and accounting infrastructure from the ground up. Her experience spans public accounting (KPMG alumna) to early-stage startups, to international public REITs and national private real estate companies. Her areas of expertise include FP&A functions, budgeting and forecasting, financial modeling, financial process improvement, ERP, CRM and PEO system implementations, treasury operations, and cash flow forecasting, asset management and team leadership. Olga holds an MBA in Finance from Marshall School of Business at USC and a B.A. in Economics from UCLA.

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