Project Managers Aren’t the Only People Who Define Scope

The Importance of Scope on a Documentation Project

According to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), the scope of a project is the work to be done on that project. The scope of a project is generally defined using a work breakdown structure (WBS) allowing the user to set goals, objectives, priorities, and deadlines making a project manageable. Knowing the exact scope provides the ability to create detailed cost estimation.

Defining the scope of a project so that all aspects of the project are determined and tracked to completion is not only important to make sure the project is on time and on budget, but also that all changes are properly managed. Change management can make or break a project as it can affect costs, schedule, and the deliverable itself. This may sound like a lot of work, but on large projects with extensive resources, tracking a project makes all the difference in how successful the result is.

What does this have to do with technical writing? All documentation projects need project scope clearly defined. A clear and detailed definition of the deliverable, especially larger projects such as extensive manuals, websites, and long-term documentation changes can help eliminate project overages and decrease project failure risk. What does that mean?

Scope creep and Project Completion Risk – Even Small Projects Can Suffer

If a documentation project, especially a larger one, isn’t clearly defined and tracked, it can lead to scope creep. According to the PMBOK, scope creep means adding features/functionality (to the project scope) without addressing the effects on time, costs, and resources. Scope creep can lead to project failure. If expectations for the project owner and all stakeholders are clearly agreed upon, stakeholders will know what they are getting upon project completion, which means it is easier to keep a project on time and within budget.

“Scope creep: Adding additional features or functions of a new product, requirements, or work that is not authorized (i.e., beyond the agreed-upon scope)” (Larson, & Larson, 2009, para. 4).

What should a technical writer watch out for? Lack of planning. Problematic project definitions such as incomplete requirements, lack of communication between stakeholders, lack of resources, failure to reach project milestones, schedule issues, lack of change management, quality control issues, indecision regarding the deliverables, and unrealistic expectations increase project completion risk.  

Defining project scope is important on any scale documentation project because it provides a clearly defined baseline plan of project objectives, schedule targets, and budget estimates negotiated at the start of a project. Preventing scope creep on documentation projects, or preventing your projects from going over budget and overtime without controls, helps you achieve your goals of completing the project as agreed. Once a documentation project scope is determined, get sign-off on the written scope statement from the primary stakeholders. Follow up by staying on top of changes, schedule, budget, and resources.

Additional Reading

Project Management Institute: Top five causes of scope creep … and what to do about them – https://www.pmi.org/learning/library/top-five-causes-scope-creep-6675

References

Larson, R. & Larson, E. (2009). Top five causes of scope creep … and what to do about them. Paper presented at PMI® Global Congress 2009—North America, Orlando, FL. Newtown Square, PA: Project Management Institute.

Fantastic Time at the SCBWI LA Working Writer’s Retreat

This year I attended the LA Working Writer’s Retreat in September generously run by SCBWI. Lots of one-on-one work and I found some great new friends. I highly recommend this retreat if you have something written and want feedback or just general improvement in your writing in either picture book, middle grade, or young adult.  This year Stephanie Guerdan (Knight Literary Agency), Nephele Tempest (Assistant Editor at Harper Collins) and Victoria Wells Arms (Wells Arms Literary) provided incredible input and dicussion. Thanks for all the crits and warm feedback. Slots fill up very quickly so if you plan on attending next year, be ready to apply. If your not a member of SCBWI, join!

You can review more at the SCBWI page.

Lu Kondor now a Member of AWP

Lu Kondor is now a member of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs. AWP provides community, opportunities, ideas, news and advocacy for writers and teachers of writing.

AWP provides support and advocacy with their podcast series on writing and making a living as a writer as well as other topics such as women writers, gender in writing, and finding voice.

Details at https://www.awpwriter.org/

Try Technical Writing by Taking the Advanced Tech writing Course at CSUDH

IMG_0720 Do you like to write and would love to do it for a living? Try technical writing. No need to be a ‘techie’ or scientific guru. With practice, you can find out how technical writing is a great tool in a writers tool box.

Students who want to take the Advanced Technical Communication course so they can get right to creating portfolio pieces (before they take the Introduction course) are welcome to do that. The class is immersive. I teach the Advanced course and we focus on creating a portfolio of pieces (which is normally requested by potential clients and employers) and are a great way to learn how to write even if you want writing as your secret weapon in your job. We write a lot.

Some of the things I cover in the advanced class include presentations, reports, proposals, and step-by-step instructions. Check out my FAQ page for answers to the most asked questions I get in the course. The class is totally online and you will come away with several portfolio pieces. I’ve had students get jobs before they finish the program.

For more detailed info, check out California State University Dominguez Hills’ web site at:

http://www4.csudh.edu/ceie/Technical-Writing/