Transitioning from pmbok to agile/scrum scope management

Scope management is about the why, who, what, how and   defining and managing scope throughout the project. How is it performed in agile project management. At the macro level high level scope is defined in the form of a product backlog by the product owner. This product backlog is allowed to grow indefinitely. This may raise many eye brows as scope management among pmbokists is generally considered

as controlling scope and not as facilitating scope. This is a paradigm


shift when someone is transitioning from pmbok or waterfall to agile. Agile is all about partnering with the client to deliver the best for the client. In agile the last thing one may want to do is to deliver a sub optimal product or solution just because some of the vital features are not in the product backlog at the beginning of the project. One of the key aspects of every project as per pmbok is progressive elaboration. That means, when I start a project I have very less information a out the projects scope and as the project progresses we gain more insight into the project. In fact having a product backlog and allowing it to grow freely is just the reinforcement of the progressive elaboration nature of projects. Then, why so much resistance to this idea of keeping the product backlog open throughout the project, especially when someone is transitioning from pmbok or waterfall to agile?

Based on my experience these are the key factors which drives this mental block,

Always we assume that contracts are always fixed price. We assume that even when the scope is changing the value of the contract is non negotiable. This is a very wrong assumption. Application of fixed price contract to any project where requirements are highly volatile is a sure prescription for disaster irrespective of the fact that you are following pmbok or agile. May be a time and material contract  with a cap is ideal in such scenarios.

There are a whole lot of contract types like cost reimbursable, time and material, profit sharing etc apart from fixed price and their permutations combinations opens up the door for better partnership with the client which is in the agile manifesto as well as in the professional ethics and social responsibility of a project manager as defined by pmbok.

So, in agile the valid changes to scope are encouraged if it is going to yield better return on investment to the customer and at the same time the supplier  need not incur a loss due to it. This is achieved through proper contract type selections and better projections of the cost benefit analysis of the changed scope.


One thought on “Transitioning from pmbok to agile/scrum scope management

  1. A project is unique by definition. Identifying processes for all kind of projects may turn out to be overkill in small software projects and may need a steep learning curve, resources and time. But a project with uncertainty has more than one overkill factors. No two projects are created equal. And consequently there is no end to alternatives in Project Management Methodologies, Project Management Frameworks and Project Management BOKs.
    A person, who has done PMP and follows PMBOK for years together starts following Agile/ SCRUM. Does PMBOK get along well with Waterfall? PMBOK is not about Software only and there is no Waterfall in Non-software projects. But for a software project, PMBOK could be used to work with Waterfall/ incremental etc.. This combination has been used and has become matured, when environmental factors (a PMBOK term) facilitate defining the processes. Next, what if environmental factors do not support PMBOK with Waterfall. First drop PMBOK or first drop Waterfall. A Tricky question, Right!
    First, PMBOK is not a SDLC, nor it has a software development model. Outside an SDLC methodology, there are processes of Project Management like initiating, planning, closing which may partially overlap with SDLC methodologies. Other SDLC processes might be comparable with a Project Management body of knowledge. PMBOK gets revised every four years; the next edition may dedicate chapters on how to make PMBOK work with an SDLC or the like.
    Where does SCRUM fit in?

    Coexistence of PMBOK, SDLC and SCRUM may have an interesting intersection, varying from project to project as also as project advances. Initiating, for example, in a project which is on fixed cost basis may well start by PMBOK and may involve SDLC and no SCRUM at all.
    A Software project for in-house development with order of magnitude estimate, may include SCRUM and SDLC so that stories could be defined using tasks. Though PMBOK may not be enforced in such a case, reports matching PMBOK (viz. EVM, S curve, ) may still be extracted for PMBOK friendly top management.
    But, a fresh person in Software Development Management should learn SCRUM, SDLC and PMBOK in the order mentioned, in a phased manner followed by experience in each of them, before going to next phase. So SCRUM will make him more employable and more productive, other two being taken care of by respective leads. However, one person, be it SCRUM Master, Product Owner or Project Manager, Software Team Lead all need not learn all three, as a single project may have several views/ reports matching SCRUM, SDLC and PMBOK and one major focus among them.


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