Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Historical Information and Scope Definition

Norman Cousins—writer, editor, and renowned Federalist—once said, "History is a vast early warning system."

Information from past projects can serve as an early warning system for your current project by giving you considerable insight when you're defining project scope. This type of scope definition input is referred to as historical information. Information from past projects that will be helpful in defining the current project scope includes the following.

1. Previous project documentation
You can find previous project documentation in the form of outputs from other planning processes. When collecting historical information, you should limit your search to documentation generated from similar projects.

The emphasis should be on identifying areas in which other similar projects were particularly successful. This information is easily found in the project development data that is included within a project's scope specifications.

You also should look for information that may have caused problems, such as scope omissions. This information is commonly found in the lessons learned output created during project wrap-up.

2. Personal experience
You also can gather historical information from personal experience. For example, the first working experience with a client provides insight into that client's preferences. Since you already know the client's likes and dislikes, you can apply this knowledge to your next project and make scope definition changes in advance.

You also can draw on the personal experiences of your co-workers. For example, a person who has worked on a project similar to the one for which you are defining the scope may provide you with useful information.

The lessons learned from previous projects provide early warning signs for potential project scope problems. Using historical information as an input to scope definition will result in more successful projects and happier clients.

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