Project scope management

Practical tips to get a grip on projects and how to manage them. Learn how to define the scope, set a deadline and work together with others.

For each of the projects, define the outcome and deliverables, the actions needed to create the deliverables, and timeline. 

Start with recurring project 1, then 2, etc. Then do the same for the one-off project. Start with one-off project 1, then 2, etc.

Answer these questions for each project to get a clear picture of the project. I’ll share the list of questions with you and then go over each question one-by-one.

  • What is the outcome or definition of done for the project?
  • What are the deliverables?
  • What are the actions to complete the deliverable?
  • How much time is needed to complete the deliverables or project?
  • When is the deadline?

What is the outcome or definition of done?

The sky is usually the limit for marketing projects. That makes the scope of our work murky. It’s hard to define how much is enough. Back in school, life was simple. Any score above 5.5 would mean you’ve passed. Anything below 5.5, means you failed the test.

Let’s make your job as a marketeer simple again. You need to clarify the expectations of the client or your manager.

What is the outcome we’re trying to achieve? If you’re not sure, simply ask them. Are we talking about an incremental 10% traffic growth or 100.000 new sessions for the launch in 6 weeks?

If you’re scared to do so. It’s in everyone’s best interest to ask. “Just to clarify: what are we trying to achieve?”

The company will benefit from the requested clarity. And if that’s not enough, you can always do it for yourself. Chances of keeping the job or getting a promotion are much higher if the hard work you’re putting in actually makes an impact on the shared marketing goals.

The outcome usually is the end state you’re trying to achieve, i.e. the new website is live.

What are the deliverables?

The deliverables are the assets or parts to achieve the outcome, i.e. new website design, updated back-end CMS, new SEO page structure, added 15 landing pages.

Each of the deliverables is a project in itself. Let’s zoom in on one of the deliverables from this large project. ‘New website design’ can be split up into different steps/actions. These intermittent steps are also called milestones.

New website design:

  1. Create wireframes
  2. Approve wireframes
  3. Create design
  4. Approved design by marketing team
  5. Turn design into front-end & CMS code
  6. Implement code
  7. Test code on desktop / mobile
  8. Approved by design
  9. Approved by marketing
  10. Approved my IT
  11. Approved by management

What are the actions to complete the deliverable?

The steps can usually be split up into even smaller parts. These steps are isolated actions you can do within an (1) hour. Let’s look at the example again:

To create wireframes for the new website, these could be steps to take:

  • Do research into wireframes for similar websites
  • Search the internet for wireframes best practices
  • Create a list of all pages that need to be wireframes
  • Create first version of wireframe for category page
  • Discuss with marketing team
  • Implement feedback on category page (create second version)
  • Create first version of product page

Write down all steps you need to take - be as precise as possible. Add the time after each task. Remember: a task is something you can do within 1 hour that doesn’t need another task.

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How much time is needed to complete the deliverables or project?

For each of the tasks, write down how long you think it will take. You will probably get it wrong and that’s OK. People are terrible at estimating how long a task will take. But if you don’t write down how long the task will take, it will take longer.

Add the time for each of the tasks and add this to the to-do list.

Total time estimated: 7 hours and 30 minutes

When is the deadline?

A deadline can be set on 3 levels: the project, the deliverable and the task.

Let’s go back to our example. If the designer doesn’t create the category page in time, the deliverable will not be in time. That puts pressure on the project.

To be more flexible and to contribute to a project in a better way, consider asking the deadline for a level higher, i.e. if you’re working on a task, ask for the deliverable deadline.

Calculate how much time all important projects will take

Once you’ve estimated the time for all tasks of the important projects, it’s time to calibrate and zoom out.

Add up the time for all tasks and see how many hours of work this is. How many weeks of work did you say yes to?

As I’ve mentioned before, the estimations will probably be wrong, so you need to calculate unexpected extra time.

Assess the cumulative time needed for all projects

You will probably have scheduled too many projects. Most marketeers I know are ambitious and full of energy, so they want to get more done. The problem is, you’re spreading yourself too thin. It’s better to focus on one project and do it right, than to do 3 projects at 40%.

With less projects, you have more time for unexpected requests, problems to be solved, an extra feedback round or anything else work will throw at you.

Do less, but better. Here’s what that looks like in the timeline.

Sort the projects in order of importance

For Project List should be prioritised in this order:

  1. Important Recurring Projects
  2. Important One-Off Projects
  3. Less Important Recurring Projects
  4. Less Important One-Off Projects

In the next chapter, we’ll use this list to fill the Master List.

Bonus: Create a not-doing list

Once you’ve made the hard decision on which projects to work on, everything else will become easier. Less busy days, more room for error and more capacity to be creative and help team members out.

To remind yourself (or your team), you can create a not to-do list. Add all the projects that you are NOT working on in the coming time frame. This helps you visualise the decisions made and helps create clarity in the team.

Make sure you cut enough projects to have a reasonable workload. You can work on the project, just not right now. Once the #1 project is completed, you can come back to the list and reprioritise.

Conclusion on project scope management

The goal is to create a clear overview of the scope of each individual project and to see them in relation to each other. Getting clarity on the project properties means you have a better understanding of the time it takes to complete the project. Based on that information, you prioritise the projects again to make sure your workload is not too high.

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About Ewoud

Ewoud Uphof

Ewoud Uphof is an experienced Growth Hacker, certified funnel optimiser and investor.

In the past decade he has co-founded multiple companies. As Head of Growth he has helped grow 50+ companies ranging from start-ups to multinationals. He has worked for Camptoo, NU.nl, Sophia Mae, Koffievoordeel and many more.

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