What is the contractual scope in an Agile project?
Updated on 28.01.2022
The Agile method is based on fundamental principles, enshrining the flexibility and scalability of projects. These characteristics may seem contradictory with certain basic rules of contract law concerning the contractual perimeter.
The delimitation of the contractual perimeter illustrates this possibility.
What is the “classic” vision of the IT contract?
The contractual scope of an IT project is defined in the IT contract, in order to ensure legal security and budgetary predictability. This requires a rigorous preparatory phase to establish the project specifications. All these characteristics will then be translated into a set of specifications integrated into the contract.
If the specifications are well defined and the objectives of the project well integrated, this approach allows a solid legal framework.
However, the disadvantage of the method lies in the fixed nature of the specifications, which lock the execution of the project into a predefined path.
Any modification during the execution phase will result in « change requests ». These are more or less easy to implement depending on the contractual procedures agreed upon. Changes made in this way expose the project to a renegotiation of prices, which can make the project’s budget management more uncertain.
What about the contractual perimeter in Agile mode?
When the project is conducted in Agile mode, the contractual scope is defined in an open manner. It is subject to discussion and adjustments during each iteration of the development phase.
Beyond the legal question that this great flexibility of the contractual object poses, it is also necessary to take it into account in the implementation of the contract.
The key elements of the Agile process must be carefully established, so that the customer’s expectations and the conformity of the work delivered can be assessed on a clear basis. Thus, the « Product Backlog » must be the object of particular attention since it will be used to mark out the entire development process. Its structure and the clarity of the points to be developed must therefore be carefully considered.
The « Product Vision » allows you to:
- define the major objectives of the project and, therefore
- potentially guide the interpretation of a point that is not clearly defined.
These two documents are essential in the Agile process and their initial drafting is therefore important. The position of these documents in the hierarchy of contractual documents must also be specified.
Finally, the evolving nature of the contractual object requires increased vigilance throughout the development process, in order to ensure that all decisions concerning the definition of the object and its adjustments are clearly documented in the minutes validated by both parties.
Agile methods offer a great deal of flexibility in order to achieve the objectives of the contract.
It is therefore possible to change certain aspects of the final product during the execution of the contract.
In order to secure the development process in relation to the client’s expectations and their understanding by the provider, it is essential to integrate the Agile process into the contract (in particular the steps and the role of the parties during the key moments when the Product Backlog update is discussed).
If you want to know more about this subject, please visit the page dedicated to Agile methods!