Mastering Project Scoping for Legal, Risk and Compliance Projects


In the intricate world of project management within legal, risk, and compliance sectors, the linchpin of success often lies in effectively defining project scope and objectives.

This vital insight came to the forefront through a survey I conducted on LinkedIn, where an eye-opening discovery was made: nearly half of the respondents, professionals in these fields, expressed their struggles with this fundamental aspect of project management.

Motivated by these responses, in this article I highlight the challenge and provide practical, actionable solutions. Drawing upon proven methodologies and years of practice, I will delve into strategies that promise clarity and precision in project scope and objectives.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Strategies for precise scope definition: Uncover how to articulate project scope in alignment with operational needs, business strategy and regulatory frameworks.

  2. Objective alignment with organizational goals: Explore ways to set effective project objectives that resonate with your organization’s broader mission.

  3. Leveraging PMaaS and BaaS: Learn how Project Management as a Service (PMaaS) and Business Analyst as a Service (BaaS) can bring external expertise to enhance project outcomes.

  4. Agile adaptation to project changes: Gain insights into navigating dynamic changes within the sector, staying responsive and effective.

Join me in transforming the insights gathered from the LinkedIn survey into actionable knowledge, elevating your approach to project management in these demanding and crucial sectors.

Project scope is the work required to output a project’s deliverable. Change happens, and project scope management includes the process to manage scope changes and make sure the project will still come in on time and within budget. Scope is often defined by a work breakdown structure, and changes should take place only through formal change control procedures.

Understanding the challenge of scoping projects in legal, risk and compliance functions

Understanding the challenge of scoping projects

The Crucial Role of Defining Project Scope and Objectives

Defining the scope and objectives of a project is akin to setting the GPS for a journey; it determines the destination and the path to reach it. In the realms of legal, risk, and compliance, this becomes even more significant.

The Project Management Institute (PMI) emphasizes that a well-defined scope provides a clear understanding of what needs to be accomplished, thereby shaping the project’s entire course. It outlines the boundaries and deliverables, ensuring that all stakeholders have a common understanding and preventing scope creep, a notorious cause of project overruns and failures.

Objectives, on the other hand, are the specific, measurable outcomes that the project seeks to achieve. They are the benchmarks against which project success is measured. In legal and compliance projects, where precision and adherence to regulations are paramount, well-articulated objectives are the cornerstone of ensuring that the project not only meets its legal mandates but also aligns with the broader strategic goals of the organization.

Common Challenges in Scope Definition

When it comes to legal, risk, and compliance projects, the challenges in defining scope can be particularly complex. The first hurdle often lies in the nature of regulatory requirements themselves – they are frequently changing, sometimes vague, and often open to interpretation. This fluidity can make it difficult to pin down exact project requirements from the outset.

Another significant challenge is the integration of different operational elements – people, processes, technology, and data. Each of these components brings its own set of variables and uncertainties. For instance, technology projects in compliance may involve new software that needs to be integrated with existing systems, a task that is often easier said than done. Similarly, projects involving people, such as training or organizational change, must contend with the unpredictable nature of human behavior and resistance to change.

Furthermore, in these fields, projects often have multiple stakeholders with differing priorities and expectations. Balancing these diverse interests while staying within legal and regulatory boundaries adds another layer of complexity to scope definition.

In the next sections, we will explore how to navigate these challenges effectively, ensuring that your project’s scope and objectives are not only clearly defined but also strategically aligned and compliant with all necessary regulations.

Steps to define effective project scope and objectives

Steps to Effectively Define Project Scope and Objectives

Here are three steps to define concrete and useful scope and objectives of a project.

Step 1: Comprehensive requirement gathering

  • Importance of stakeholder engagement: As per PMI’s practices, engaging stakeholders early and often is crucial. It helps in understanding the diverse needs, expectations, and potential constraints from various angles, including legal, operational, and compliance perspectives.

  • Tools and techniques:

    • Interviews and focus groups: Direct interaction with stakeholders to gather detailed information.

    • Surveys and questionnaires: Efficient for collecting data from a larger group.

    • Document analysis: Review of existing documentation for legal and regulatory requirements.

    • Observation: Understanding real-time processes and identifying potential gaps.

Step 2: Clearly defining the scope

  • Techniques to articulate scope:

    • Utilizing SMART objectives: As per PMI, objectives should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. For instance, instead of saying “improve compliance,” a SMART objective would be “achieve 100% compliance with the new data protection regulation by Q4 2024.”

    • Scope statement development: This includes project justification, objectives, deliverables, boundaries, and constraints. It serves as a reference point throughout the project.

  • Using Visual Aids:

    • Work Breakdown Structure (WBS): A key tool from the PMBOK® Guide that breaks down the project into manageable sections.

    • Mind mapsUseful for brainstorming and visualizing the scope and related elements.

Step 3: Identifying Project Objectives

  • Aligning with organizational goals: It’s essential that project objectives dovetail with the organization’s broader vision. This includes:

    • Understanding the big picture: Comprehend how the project fits into the organization’s long-term goals.

    • Collaboration with strategic planners: Ensure objectives are aligned with overall strategic planning.

    • Continuous alignment check: Regularly compare project objectives with evolving organizational goals.

  • Integrating legal and regulatory compliance:

    • Identifying compliance requirements: Pinpoint legal and regulatory benchmarks relevant to your project.

    • Setting compliance-focused objectives: Directly address these requirements in your objectives, such as implementing GDPR-compliant processes.

    • Compliance as a strategic objective: Treat compliance as a goal that aligns with broader organizational aims like enhancing customer trust.

  • Documenting project objectives:

    • Clear and accessible documentation: Create a document listing all objectives, accessible to all stakeholders.

    • Utilizing digital tools: Use project management software for tracking and updating objectives.

    • Regular updates and visual tools: Keep documentation updated and use visual aids like Gantt charts for clarity.

Best practices for managing scope and objectives in legal projects

Best practices for managing scope and objectives in legal projects

By involving the right peopleregularly reviewing and adjusting the project plan, and leveraging technology and data, project managers can effectively manage project scope and objectives, ensuring alignment with the ever-evolving landscape of legal, risk, and compliance areas.

Involving the Right People

  • Role of cross-functional teams: Successful project execution often hinges on the diversity and expertise of the team involved. I will emphasize the importance of assembling cross-functional teams. These teams bring varied perspectives and skills, crucial for navigating the multifaceted nature of legal, risk, and compliance projects. For instance, a team for a data compliance project might include IT specialists, legal advisors, and data analysts.

  • Harnessing collective expertise: I encourage open communication and collaboration, enabling the team to identify potential issues early and propose comprehensive solutions.

Regular Review and Adjustments

  • Adapting to Change: Projects, especially in dynamic sectors like legal and compliance, are not static. I emphasize on change management. Change management processes advocate for regular reviews of the project’s progress against its objectives. This includes assessing the impact of any operational, legal or regulatory updates and adjusting the project scope and objectives accordingly.

  • Staying Agile: Implement an agile approach, allows for flexibility in response to changes without losing sight of the project’s end goals.

Leveraging Technology and Data

  • Tools for Tracking and Managing Scope:

    • Project management software: Tools like JIRA, Trello, or Asana (at Swiftwater we use Asana and make it available for our clients as well) can be instrumental in tracking progress, managing tasks, and maintaining communication among team members.

    • Data analytics: Utilize data analytics tools to analyze trends, predict potential risks, and make informed decisions.

  • Continuous improvement: Its just not me saying it, all leading process improvement methodologies prescribe regularly evaluating and refining legal project management processes. This might involve adopting new technologies or updating existing methodologies to enhance efficiency and effectiveness.

Real-world examples of managing scope and objectives in legal, risk and compliance projects

Real-world examples of managing scope and objectives in legal, risk and compliance projects

Success Stories

  • 24 Hour contracting center of excellence: When engaged to assist in setting up and running a 24-hour around the world contract center of excellence our professionals helped the legal function in running the legal project management office (PMO). The PMO comprised of the client’s staff members and our team. Since it was a demanding operation we worked with the client to setup and monitor individualized scope and objectives for each team and member. These were further translated into roles and responsibilities for each staff on a day to day basis.

    To provide the magnitude of the project, the team comprised of internal attorneys, legal professionals staffed by alternative legal service providers (ALSP), vendor services, law firms, leadership, etc. They would field requests from internal and external requestors across numerous transaction and contract types.

    A robust KPI tracking mechanism was layered on top of the contract lifecycle management and workflow tools. The client was able to run a 24 hour global contract center of excellence processing millions of pounds worth of contracts with a reduced cost and faster turn around time.

  • Matter & e-billing system implementation across 70+ jurisdictions: A global manufacturing organization hired me to help them select and implement a matter management and ebilling system. The complexity of the project scope arose from the organizations footprint, its myriad of accounts payable systems and that its processes were disjointed. I sat with my project manager and helped the company create a comprehensive project plan.

    The project was phased and scoped in a manner to allow the company to crawl, walk then run. The initial phase’s objective was to help the company conduct a detailed requirements analysis and harmonize its processes. This resulted in us helping them select the appropriate matter management and e-billing system. The second phase then involved implementing the system. Again, the project management team and the business analysts sat down with all the stakeholders including, IT, finance, treasury, tax, etc. to define the scope and objectives.

    We (project managers and leadership stakeholders) were able to identify a big showstopper i.e. the accounts payable system was undergoing replacement at a global level. While it made sense to wait for that to happen the legal team still needed a system to help them automate their e-billing processes.

    Our project team worked with multiple stakeholders and created a termed set of solutions (short- and long-term). The client was able to achieve efficiency in reducing manual tasks and gain control over their burgeoning spend as promised in the objectives. The project was delivered on time and cost because of the experienced PMO and business analyst team as they were able to anticipate and work through the gotchas.

  • Here are a few others Fortune Tech FirmGlobal Oil and GasFortune Telecom, and Global Pharma.

Failure lessons

  • “Danish, you are our fifth project manager… is something wrong with us,” said the DGC. It was ages ago but it still rings in my ears. This was a client whose global matter management and e-billing system implementation had fallen off the rails. It was a classic case study in scope and objectives mismanagement. On top of that they had chosen a brand new tool in the market with whom the vendor resource were still getting used to.

    Regardless, of what had happened earlier, the first task of the day was to get an A-team assembled. A team that was experienced in project management, business analysis, and were versed with the magnitude of a global deployment in a regulated and growing company.

    Then, I sat down and meticulously worked on the scope and project with the client. Key to it was understanding what ultimately needed to be accomplished. The lesson there was that as stakeholders and locations were added to the project each brought their own “non-negotiables” to the table. And, the project had ballooned to where it seemed it will not get completed within time or budget.

    After the scope and objective was re-aligned with the help of leadership and senior decision makers now we were ready to go further into detail and look at the tasks that needed to be calibrated. So, a comprehensive update of the work breakdown structure, project charter, risk and issues log, design documents, gaps, etc. was undertaken. While it seems like a lot of work, the harder part was managing the expectations and change that the organization would have to go through.

    Ultimately, with minor timeline modifications I was able to lead the client to a successful go live to 400 legal department staff along with robust training, processes, and change management.

  • A large technology company’s IP & AI challenges: A large tech company recently requested our help to project manage their intellectual property management system upgrade. While they had hundreds of project managers and technicians within the organization they realized that it was going to be more efficient to hire an expert who had been there and done that.

    Our project management resource who had the background in managing such implementations plus an extensive AI background was able to help the client speed up the upgrade. Our resource was able to pull other lacking resources on demand to make up for lost time in the project. The client was happy in regaining time and liked the flexibility of expert on-demand project and analyst support.

Enhancing project scoping and project objective setting with PMaaS and BaaS

Enhancing scoping and objective setting using PMaaS and BaaS

By incorporating PMaaS and BaaS into project management practices, legal, risk, and compliance organizations can enhance their project delivery capabilities. These services offer specialized skills and perspectives that are critical for accurately defining project scope and setting effective objectives, ultimately leading to more successful project outcomes.

What is PMaaS – Project Management as a Service?

Project Management as a Service (PMaaS): PMaaS refers to outsourcing project management tasks to external experts. This service provides access to skilled project managers who bring specialized expertise and methodologies to ensure project success. While project managers may be good at their primary job an excellent project manager is one who also possesses domain knowledge. Therefore, it is very important to hire the right project manager who has the breadth of experience you need. For example, in legal transformation projects, you may have a lead project manager who works with your IT project manager, your finance PM, and your legal legal operations team to help create a scope consensus to keep trains running on time.

What is BaaS – Business Analyst as a Service?

Business Analyst as a Service (BaaS): BaaS involves leveraging external business analysts to offer in-depth market, operational, and strategic analysis. These analysts provide valuable insights that help in aligning project scope with business objectives and market realities. If hiring for legal, risk or compliance then these business analysts need to possess the relevant background. They need to understand the psyche and the intrinsic motivations to help manage the change. They should then be able to put them into requirements, process harmonization, design, change communications, user acceptance testing, and support. BaaS provides experts that have gained the relevant experience in the field and can work according to the situation at hand.

What is the differentiator between a contractor PM or BA vs being backed by “-as a Service”?

PMaaS and BaaS professionals are also enabled by tools they bring to the job. For example, they will offer you their project management, document management, work intake, assessment systems, etc. So, they hit the ground running. Similarly, they are backed by the network of experts, when and as needed. And, a great provider will enable all its staff by providing them accelerators e.g. they may have templates for requirements document or they may already have design best practices you can leverage.

The role of external expertise (PMaaS and BaaS) in project scope management

  • Experienced project managers (PMaaS): PMaaS professionals bring a wealth of knowledge in project management methodologies, such as PMI or Agile, customized to fit the specific needs of a project. Their external perspective can offer new insights and approaches to complex challenges.

  • Skilled business analysts (BaaS): BaaS experts specialize in analyzing business processes, identifying areas that need improvement, and ensuring that project objectives are aligned with business strategies. They play a crucial role in requirement gathering and scope definition.

PMaaS benefits and BaaS advantages in scope and objective management

  • Aiding precise scope definition: Both PMaaS and BaaS services contribute to a more accurate and comprehensive definition of project scope. They help in identifying potential risks and opportunities that internal teams might overlook.

  • Objective setting and project success: These services ensure that project objectives are realistic, measurable, and aligned with both internal strategies and external market conditions. They bring a level of rigor and specialization that enhances the probability of project success.

  • Cost-effectiveness and efficiencyOutsourcing to PMaaS and BaaS can be more cost-effective than developing in-house capabilities, especially for specialized or one-off projects. It also allows organizations to focus on core competencies while external experts handle specific project management and analysis tasks.

Conclusion: Moving towards operational excellence in scoping and objective setting in legal, risk and compliance projects

Conclusion: Moving towards operational excellence in scoping and objective setting in legal, risk and compliance projects

As we conclude our exploration into mastering project scope and objectives within the challenging realms of legal, risk, and compliance, it’s clear that the key to success lies in a strategic and methodical approach. The insights and strategies discussed, drawn from methodologies (like PMI and Agile) and personal experiences of managing projects, provide a robust framework for navigating these complex projects.

I want to underscore the importance of comprehensive requirement gathering, where stakeholder engagement plays a pivotal role. Clear and precise definition of project scope, utilizing tools such as SMART objectives and visual aids like the Work Breakdown Structure, is crucial. Equally important is the identification and documentation of project objectives, ensuring they align with organizational goals and are compliant with legal and regulatory standards.

The role of cross-functional teams, regular review and adjustments, and leveraging technology and data are best practices in managing project scope and objectives effectively.

Moreover, I also recommend the emerging offering of Project Management as a Service (PMaaS) and Business Analyst as a Service (BaaS), emphasizing their value in enhancing project delivery through external expertise.

Now, as you move forward in your project management journey, I encourage you to apply these methodologies and consider the benefits of PMaaS and BaaS solutions. These approaches not only provide access to specialized skills and broader perspectives but also offer adaptabilityrisk mitigation, and efficiency in resource utilization.

Remember, the path to mastering project management in these specialized fields is continuous and evolving. Embrace the learning curve, stay adaptable, and leverage the tools and resources available to turn challenges into opportunities for success. Your commitment to excellence in defining project scope and objectives will undoubtedly lead to more effective and successful project outcomes.

– The End

P.S. Note / Disclaimer / Insight

I have written about this earlier in my LinkedIn posts as well. Recently, as I was attending the Running Legal Like a Business Conference, I heard the same exact theme from so many legal leaders and operations experts. It was that …

.. a lot of “strategery” ishappening but not a lot of “delivery”

Since then I have been on this quest of narrowing down what is causing this trend and how do we help each other.

Then I saw the ACC survey saying ~ 70% of legal stakeholders expect to be labeled as a road block by their business counterpart. And, eerily it was the same percentage of respondents saying they wanted to improve but did not have the bandwidth.

So, being lucky to have the Swiftwater and Company platform, I have been able to offer PMaaS and BaaS to the peer community. My team and I have done a lot of homework and research in hiring the top experts in their fields. Similarly, we have spent and continue to spend lot of time in tech enabling them. Unlike other corporations we can provide the right skill at the right time instead of trying to force fit teams or provide unskilled labor at the bottom rate. Leading with Value and Trust is our mantra.

For example, we have adopted and trained the resources on Asana, a project management service. In so many years of consulting, I have always longed for an enterprise project management system – I have seen experts shuttling between what the client had, excel sheets, smartsheets, MS Project, or you name it.

Another example, is that we have created accelerators. So, if one of our PMs or BAs need requirement documents, we have those at the ready. Or, if someone wants to leverage the best practice IP or ELM system design we will make it available.

And, lets say we haven’t developed an accelerator yet, I am ready to invest in that value-add as we feel that it elevates not only the client’s operation but our industry as a whole.

Hopefully, this resonates with you and if it fits your need you can leverage this service for all the reasons stated.

~~ Danish

Take the first step today!

  1. Contact us (using the form below) to know more about PMaaS / BaaS

  2. Or, enroll in a PMI certification course

  3. Or, begin redefining your current project scopes with the techniques discussed

Disclaimer: This article is provided for educational and information purposes only. Neither Swiftwater & Co. or the author provide legal advice. External links are responsibility and reflect the thinking of their respective authors – those are provided for informational purposes only.

Danish Butt
Danish Butt

Danish is a visionary leader with 20+ years in transforming global enterprises. An advisor to chief legal officers, he excels in merging business growth with strategic vision and risk management. His impactful roles at Huron Consulting, Siemens, and Morae Global highlight his diverse expertise