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Problem Identification & Scoping

Problem Identification

So what's the problem? Rule #1 of problem identification is don’t have any preconceptions early on. Oddly enough, the problem source isn’t always what it seems. Kind of sounds like the quintessential crime novel where the culprit is never the obvious one. However, I am a steadfast believe in Occam’s Razor theory. When there is more than one explanation for an occurrence, then the one that requires the least speculation is usually best. Another way of saying it is that the more assumptions you have to make, the more unlikely an explanation. That being said, you may be presented with a problem by a person with an agenda. And that agenda is that it’s either not their fault or the fault of someone they like, or it's the fault of someone they don’t like. This can be especially true when dealing with oversight groups like private-sector board of directors or public-sector elected officials.








Problem Identification (Australian Transport - Assessment and Planning

Problem identification provides the platform for investigating a broad range of interventions and generating options. The process of problem identification involves the development of clear, straightforward problem statements that can be linked directly with the specific goals and objectives already identified in Step 1. These statements should clarify how the problem might prevent the achievement of these goals and objectives.

      Problem statements are tested and refined through more detailed analysis undertaken as part of problem assessment and prioritization.

      When identifying problems, the following should be taken into account:

  • Problems prevent the goals and objectives identified in the previous step from being achieved. This should include the full range of objectives identified in the previous step – including objectives for different levels of planning and markets..

  • Problem identification should consider not only ‘problems’ or ‘challenges’, but also constraints on opportunities that are preventing the goals and objectives from being achieved.

  • Identification should be based on empirical observations, such as data and information obtained from surveys, demand modelling, interviews and studies from a wide range of sources.

      Problem identification should result in problem statements that describe the nature of the problem being faced.

Problem Scoping (Potential) 

The following steps can help you to effectively define the scope of a project:


Project Scope Step 1: Identify the project needs

When you are clearly able to identify the needs of a project, you are more likely to set a sound benchmark from the beginning.

Understanding the ‘what and why’ of a project will enable you to set specific goals and objectives.  It also sets the groundwork for what tasks are to follow and how they are to be performed.


Project Scope Step 2: Confirm the objectives and goals of the Project

      The basis of the project scope should entail your goals and objectives to be one that follows a SMART guideline.  That is, to be Specific, Measurable and Achievable.  It should also be Realistic and completed within a specific Timeframe.

  • Specific–This involves stating accurately what the project wants to achieve.  That is, what, why and how these will be done. Clarity will reduce the chances of ambiguities and misunderstandings.

  • Measurable –Are your goals and objectives able to provide feedback and be accountable for?

  • Achievable –Can your project’s goals and objectives be achieved, given the resources on hand?

  • Realistic –Are the goals and objectives easy to deliver, especially if you face problems or complications.  Will these reduce the overall quality of the project’s outcome and cause running over budget and not meeting the set deadlines.

  • Time Frame –Can your project goals and objectives be met within the allocated time frame?  Is it a key criterion to meet these deadlines?


Project Scope Step 3: Project Scope description

      You need to be clear about the features and functioning required for your product or service.

For example, you are building a website.  You need a list that provides how you will build your website, the type of branding required and so on.  In other words, what certain qualities will increase achieving your project’s success.


Project Scope Step 4: Expectations and acceptance

      Successful projects are ones that take into account the satisfaction of the end-user.  Whether they meet the end-users expectations and accept the product, service or process.  The end-users could be your customers or your internal team.

      For customers, this includes pricing, value, and quality of products/services as well as availability, delivery and return policies.  For employees, this includes the effectiveness and efficiency of new operational processes.  Ultimately, your project scope is one that should be attuned to giving better outcomes to whoever your end users may be.


Project Scope Step 5: Identify constraints

      There are always roadblocks to achieving what you were set out to do.  When being aware of possible limitations along the way, it can help you minimize problems that may delay or constrain your ability to achieve your project’s outcome.

      These can be caused by dynamic environmental conditions (internal and external), technological glitches and/or lack of resources. Communicating such problems with your team early on and taking steps to overcome these hurdles will reduce delays in project completion and keep spending within budget.  Whether these are based on assumptions or uncertainty, analyzing their impact throughout the projects timeline further reduces the risk of failure.


Project Scope Step 6: Identify necessary changes

      It is always best to avoid reworking the scope of your project, as it means investing in more time, money and resources.

      However, at times these changes are inevitable and necessary.Limit changes by taking on the perspectives of customers, stakeholders, and employees involved in the project.  This minimizes disagreements later on.

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