Scoping & Working Agreements


Scoping is a way of defining what we'll work on. You spend time identifying, clarifying, and documenting core program requirements. During program initiation, this should stay relatively high-level but give some firm boundaries to the program.

Your specific responsibilities around scoping are to:

  • Drive clarity around who has scoping decision rights

  • Drive clarity on the problem/opportunity

  • Drive clarity on in-scope vs. out-of-scope

  • Document and communicate the results in the program charter

Scoping decision rights

Early on, you need to identify who has the authority to make final decisions about what is in and out of scope. This is often an executive sponsor, product manager, engineering manager, another domain expert, and sometimes yourself.

Leaving this ambiguous causes issues later in the program's life. If the program runs into major challenges around the timeline and a decision about objective priorities needs to be made, you'll want to know who to turn to. This person needs to be ready for those situations as well.

Problem or opportunity clarity

Clarifying problems or opportunities will enable high-quality scoping efforts. Understanding them is the first input to a successful program. Early on, create an elevator pitch to summarize the reason for the program's existence.

As you craft and refine this elevator pitch, it will help guide your program. You can utilize this elevator pitch when seeking buy-ins from other teams. Your elevator pitch should be able to summarize the program in 1 tweet or less (280 characters).

This information often comes from your partner domain experts, such as a product manager or engineering manager. Ask follow-up questions to make sure you understand the root reason for the program's existence. The better your understanding, the better you'll be able to drive the program.

In-scope vs. out-of-scope

As the technical program manager, you must ensure high-quality scoping. As important as it is to determine what is in scope, it's equally important to clarify what is out of scope.

For example, you're driving a data migration program. Let's examine what in-scope vs. out-of-scope might look like.

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