What Is a Project Scenario?

Mary McMahon

A project scenario is a description of what proposal will look like when it is completed. This allows planners to identify potential problems that may occur along the way so they can be addressed in project planning for a smooth and productive outcome. The planning process can involve several scenarios to allow people to determine the best course of action, given the goals, financial limitations, and other considerations. Developing a complete scenario can take weeks as people conduct careful research to identify costs, potential pitfalls, and other issues that may need to be incorporated into the scenario presentation.

Within a project scenario, planners may specifically discuss particular challenges.
Within a project scenario, planners may specifically discuss particular challenges.

There are a number of settings where a project scenario can be helpful. They are common in development and redevelopment planning, where members of the public want to be presented with several options for using or repurposing land, as do civic leaders and other people who may play a role in decision making. They can also be used in research and development, education, and other fields where people may identify specific goals and work on projects to achieve them.

A teacher, for instance, might want to develop an environmental science curriculum with a project scenario that includes student outcomes like increased familiarity with the natural sciences, a final project like an essay or presentation, and an opportunity to visit sites in the field to learn more. Scientists might develop a project scenario for research as well. In business, these scenarios can be critical for product development by showing what kind of product the company wants, including necessary features and functionality.

Within a project scenario, planners may specifically discuss particular challenges. People talking about how to develop a former industrial site, for example, would indicate that the site may need environmental cleanup, the buildings may need to be taken down and removed, and the zoning commission may need to approve a new use. By outlining challenges in the scenario, planners can show how those issues will be addressed, providing evidence that they have a complete plan for accomplishing final goals.

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Resource use can also be a subject covered in a project scenario. This includes discussions of costs as well as manpower and natural resources that may be needed to bring a project to completion. A scenario comparing conventional and ecologically friendly development plans for a proposed housing site, for instance, could contrast resource use during construction and in the long term to allow people to see the lifetime costs. These scenarios can also probe into how much money it will cost to maintain the project in the long term, factoring in operating and maintenance costs.

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