The Art of Scoping: 5 Lessons to be Learned

Ton Baas en David van Eck
Posted by Ton Baas en David van Eck on Apr 24, 2015

Business Process Management

Everybody scopes in their daily life, at school or at work. Mostly this is done without a second thought. Who is responsible for buying groceries and making dinner? Where should I go on holiday? Who should I go with, and how long for? These are familiar questions to all of us. However, these types of questions do not only apply to daily life.At work, we experience a complex web of responsibilities, actors and political games which means there are lots of questions that need to be answered. 

Project_Scope_TriangleThe same goes for scoping within the area of Business Process Management. When do I start modeling a process, or how do we scope that kind of complexity? It is very difficult to decide where your process starts and finishes or who (roles or systems) and what (data) is involved in the process.   

To create an overview and clarity in the changing environment of an organization, it is advisable to model processes. However, before you are able to design a process model, it is key to scope the process you want to model. You have to think hard about the start and end of the process, every step in between, every actor and every relation. There is no point in wasting effort (and thus time) on things that are beyond/outside the scope of the project. In this blog you can learn from the collective experience of our company, aiding you in becoming a master in the art of scoping. 

Lesson 1: Use scoping models like IGOE

There are many models and theories that can help you scope. The IGOE (Input, Guides, Output & Enablers) model is one of them and is very easy to use for scoping. It helps you map out clearly which entities are involved within the process and where the challenges lie. It gives you the chance to scrutinize and analyze every part individually. This does not mean IGOE is just limited to those four sections. For example, Guides can be both internal and external, which also goes for Enablers. We refer to Roger Burlton and other blogs for more research! 


However be aware when using models for scoping processes. Consider the Input, Output, Guides and Enablers but make sure to also take into account the soft requirements, such as motivation, trust etc.  It is not always quantifiable and ‘hard’ but there is always a need for clear lines and borders. And do not forget the external powers, such as legislation or new developed technologies, when drafting the guides. 

Lesson 2: Register the scoping in your process model 

A key to successful modeling is to make sure that everything you discuss is registered. This prevents discussion and arguments later on in the project and you can justify the decisions. But still it is important to stay flexible because the scope could change over time. For example changing decisions of management or changing legislation.  In our experience it is important to discuss the scope before and during modeling in the project. This is because any changes later in the process will affect the way your model fits with your initial assignment or you have to adjust the scope (see lesson 5). 

Lesson 3: Assign ownership 

Another very important lesson that is making sure that there are people responsible for the scoping. Not only do they need to establish the scope, they also need to communicate this scope and make sure everybody is aware of it. If multiple people are scoping individually you will end up with many mindsets. That will waste a lot of effort and time, and you might end up with bad results. Thus, be aware of what is happening around the project or process. Be conscious about who is responsible for the scope and register it. If you make sure everybody knows what to do and has the same mindset regarding the scope of the process, your model will be fit for use and will be accepted by all that are involved. 

Lesson 4: Talk with the stakeholders 

NetworkingThis seems like an obvious lesson. However, in the past, we have noticed that many process designers simply draw a model that is being described by their manager or the client of the job. This generally leads to a nice ‘picture’ but does not necessarily show what is needed within the scope. As a process designer, it is a good start and very important to talk (or interview) with the key stakeholders. They can give you more information on where your process starts and ends. Also, it clarifies what elements need to be within your model, and, more importantly, what is NOT supposed to be modeled. By knowing this, it will be easier to focus on the essential parts of your model, saving time and increasing effectiveness. 

Lesson 5: Be Iterative! 

In the process of designing a model, many variables exist. We can expect that some of these variables will change over the time. Sometimes it is not enough to stick to agreements made in the past, especially if the landscape changed in such a way that they turned completely obsolete. Make sure that the work you have done after scoping is readjusted to the needs of the project. But always do this in consensus with what stakeholders require! 

Obviously there are many more lessons to be learned regarding scope determination. Do you have any lessons to share, or problems you think should get more attention? Please let us know by leaving a comment!

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