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Meeting The Infrastructure Moment: How Owners of Projects/Programs Will or Won’t Succeed – Part 4


Scope Considerations and Planning

In an institution in the northeast, there was a bit of a joke that at least three initial planning studies needed to be completed prior to a project being ready to go forward…into planning. While this may make some cringe, the fact is that most Owners struggle with planning and executing an effective planning process that encompasses a comprehensive and defined scope and includes all stakeholders in the organization.


A well-run planning process and scope development starts with defining the program requirements at a macro level. This first step requires clearly defining a problem statement and definition of project or mission success.  By doing so, Owners will increase the likelihood that the outcome will align with the mission or solve the problem that the project or program was intended to address. These clearly defined requirements serve as a north star for the planning process, and throughout the rest of the phases of project delivery.  Once the program requirements are defined at a macro level, the next step is to take that definition to a level of greater detail: Scope.

Embrace Iteration

Most organizations that have both well-defined organization structures and well-trained staff/consultants, in agreement of their structure and processes, are well on their way to having defined program and mission requirements. Yet, much more detailed definition is needed to take the next step towards successfully delivering the program and mission.


To establish this detail, it is important for Owners to recognize that properly defining scope often requires an iterative process which evaluates cost and schedule associated with the scope and back checks those against program and mission requirements.  By embracing the iterative nature of planning, each iteration will better define the work, the risks, the schedule and cost impacts, and necessary mitigation plans.


Yet, just as the inside joke at the northeast institution implies, there is a risk that embracing an iterative process can go too far and lead an organization to be stuck in an infinite loop of planning. To avoid this infinite loop, Owners can develop a clear checklist to help guide discussions and considerations during the planning process, and they can rely on the organizational work to have identified internal stakeholders that should be included in those discussions.

Don’t Forget Externalities

Where we see the most pitfalls occur, is often around clearly identifying external stakeholders or impacts and considering how to engage external stakeholders and plan for external impacts. Some of the most often overlooked impacts include:

  • Considering contamination issues and proximity to support services (e.g., public transportation) during site planning
  • Assessing utility availability & reliability
  • Identifying Security/Protective and protective needs, including anti-terrorism/force protection, stand-off/setback, design-basis threat, and risk assessment
  • Considering current and future Technology: compatibility with existing systems, cybersecurity, low voltage and other complex needs
  • Regulatory (federal, state, local, program-specific)
  • Sustainability considerations such as: LEED, climate change & resiliency (e.g., flood and natural hazard changes), utility redundancy/backup systems
  • Timeline to meet programmatic or mission schedule: impacts may include long lead times for materials, lack of qualified or minimum staffing to meet deadlines, supply chain issues for qualified labor & general materials
  • Proximity to other hazards or threats

With a comprehensive checklist that assist in identifying all the unique considerations needed for mission success, a detailed scope can be developed.  That scope, along with the budget and schedule that were iterated during the scope development, create a three-legged stool that is the foundation of delivery success.

In Part V of our series, we’ll explore important considerations when developing a comprehensive budget with contingencies, escalation factors, and considerations for procurement and risk.

This is an 8-part series called Meeting The Infrastructure Moment: How Owners of Projects/Programs Will or Won’t Succeed. In this series, Anser’s own subject matter experts share their perspectives on what owners can do to succeed, including best practices for receiving and spending these funds.

Contributing authors: Jennifer Holcomb is Senior Director – Security Solutions based in the Anser Advisory Virginia office and Julia Parker is Executive Vice President based in the Boston office.