Validating the scope refers to formalizing the acceptance of project deliverables. It refers to the acceptance of the deliverables once they are delivered, not the common misconception of acceptance of what the deliverables will be (which falls under Define Scope within the Planning process group). In contrast, Validate Scope falls within the Monitoring and Controlling process group.
It is remarkably easy to spend countless hours, weeks, or months completing a project only to have a stakeholder at the project sponsor level decide that something should have been done differently or additional work should be done. Sometimes that can even happen weeks or months down the road. This is a surprisingly common scenario, and to avoid it the project management body of knowledge includes the Validate Scope process.
How Should it Look?
It is irrelevant what format the scope validation is in, or how long it is, or how it looks. The important criteria are whether the project deliverables are accepted, who accepted them, and under what conditions, so that the project can move on or close without fear of cost and schedule overruns when stakeholders dust off their inbox.
As a minimum, an email saying the deliverable is accepted is usually satisfactory, as long as it comes from the right person within the organization who has no potential to be overruled.
Who Accepted Them?
During the stakeholder analysis within the planning phase, each stakeholder should have been identified as requiring approval or disapproval of the deliverables. Their concerns should also have been identified. Thus, upon submission of the project deliverables the project manager must re-visit this list to ensure all the approvals are obtained and project criteria met.
A reasonable review period is normally required, and follow up is often necessary to ensure the project can proceed without taking on too much risk from previous phases.
The project sponsor is a special stakeholder. It is important that the project sponsor approve and “sign off” on project deliverables. Letting project sponsors avoid decisions for extended periods of time presents a major risk to the project, especially since humans tend to delay approval (and communication) on things they are not completely satisfied with.
What if they are not Accepted?
Quite often stakeholders will require changes, or worse yet they do not accept the deliverable outright and send the project back to the drawing board.
This is an unfortunate situation. To avoid it, the project manager should be aware of the stakeholders and manage their expectations throughout the project. Communication is essential. At the project outset the stakeholders should each communicate their requirements and each should receive regular updates throughout the project. This falls under the Project Stakeholder Management and Project Communications Management knowledge areas, but clearly if these two knowledge areas are not sufficiently addressed, the Validate Scope process is impacted.
If the schedule, cost, or other project plans are impacted, the project will require changes. This is part of the Project Integration Management knowledge area.
Validate vs. Verify
In the PMBOK, the Control Quality process outputs “verified deliverables,” which become an input to Validate Scope. Thus, verified deliverables refers to products that meet the requirements, and validated deliverables refers to those that are accepted by the customer.
In plain terms, this means that before submission of any deliverable, you perform internal quality checks to determine if the product meets the requirements. This is called quality control. Validate Scope, on the other hand, refers to the acceptance of the deliverable by the customer.