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Blog post 07 Feb 2022

What is the Project Scope and Why Do You Need One?

Well-planned project scope is a crucial step for successful project execution. It helps with effective management of stakeholders' expectations and ensures all of the project's elements are aligned with the objectives. Here's everything you need to know about project scope to be able to achieve your project goals.

project scope illustration

What is the project scope?

The project scope is a set of boundaries for the project within which there are defined goals the project is progressing towards. Beginning the project with a properly planned scope ensures all the project goals and objectives are accomplished, without any delays.

The project scope is a detailed outline that describes all aspects of the project such as who are the key stakeholders, what are the project's resources, timelines, deliverables and other project-related activities. It explains all the processes and answers questions such as what is the project about or what is or is not included in it.

Besides the project scope, there is also a product scope. They have several differences between them and they should not be confused. Project scope describes the work performed to deliver a product, service, or result. The term “project scope” itself can sometimes imply the inclusion of product scope as a part of it. The product scope should be in a separate statement from the project scope statement but both should be used to establish a clear understanding of what the project aims to achieve. Product scope defines the features and functions of the project deliverables.

Importance of defining project scope

A key step of project planning is defining the project scope as it helps with envisioning the entire project lifecycle and ensures the end goals are achievable. Writing a project scope statement that includes information about the project deliverables is the first step of project planning. It serves the purpose of keeping the project within its boundaries so it doesn't grow beyond what's possible for its completion.

By defining the project scope you are getting the benefits such as:

  • Getting all the stakeholders involved on the same page by providing them a clear understanding of the boundaries of the project and helping them understand their involvement. This way you are managing their expectations and reducing the risk of conflict;
  • It serves as guidelines, providing easy orientation and helping managers assign tasks, schedule work and budget ;
  • It also helps team members focus on objectives;
  • Reduces risk (such as overbudgeting or expanding beyond planned limits), prevents scope creep and helps align the project to its main objectives.

How to define the project scope?

The key to successful project management is creating a properly defined project scope. Having just one person, a project manager, do it is not the best option as the creation of it also requires input from stakeholders. They work together with project managers to define acceptance criteria of the project and its other elements like budget, deadlines and objectives. It is important to gather their requirements and count on their needs. The goal for defining project's scope together is to gather precise information that reflect all requirements. That way, chances of meeting project stakeholders' expectations of deliverables increase.

project scope meaning and its importance

Other key steps needed to define the scope for successful project management is to identify and communicate assumptions. Assumptions are made during the planning phase of the project. They are necessary for providing an estimated budget and schedule for the delivery of the project scope. Project managers need to also estimate constraints and risks of the project. By accounting for them while defining the scope, we are lowering the chances of the risks happening and finding new ways of working around constaints.

What is the project scope statement?

The project scope statement is a document that provides everyone involved with a clear understanding of the importance of a project. Mainly, the project scope statement documents all the essential project information - it explains the project's boundaries, marks each team member's responsibilities and sets up procedures for how completed work will be verified and approved.

Scope statement is the more detailed document that statement of work (SOW). The function of scope statement is to help the project team remain focused on the task by providing them with guidelines for making decisions about change requests during the project. And that's the importance of having an effective project scope from the beginning. While documenting it, everything needs to be as specific as possible in order to avoid scope creep.

What is scope creep?

Scrope creep refers to a situation in which changes occur after the project has been started and the changes are not defined or expected within the scope statement. For example, usually those situations are when part of the project ends up requiring more work due to a bad plan. The occurrence of scope creep can have negative impact on the project timeline, quality of deliverables or budget.

In order to avoid scope creep, management of the project scope needs to be effective and have good communication. It ensures everyone on the team understands the project and agrees upon exactly how its goals will be met. For this, managers need approvals from key stakeholders to ensure all needs agreed upon are met.

Project scope management

project scope management infographics

The project scope management includes all the processes needed in order for the project to work successfully. Managing the project scope is mostly focused on defining and controlling what is and is not included in the project.

In reality, the processes that are a part of managing a project scope are overlapping but usually the order goes like this:

  • Planning—The process of creating a plan for project's scope is based on the input form stakeholders as well as on the project plan and project charter. When the planning phase is done we have come up with how the project and product scope will be defines and controlled.
  • Collecting requirements— requirements are decided upon based on inputs from interviews, discussions, surveys and other ways that provide input. The process consists of determining, documenting, and managing stakeholders' needs and requirements so the project can meet to meet objectives.
  • Defining scope—The process of defining the scope consists of developing a detailed description of the project and product. This will be the basis for all project activity as it is developed based on the project charter and the management plan for the project scope.
  • Creating the Work Breakdown Structure The WBS is the process of breaking down the work into smaller components that are easier to manage. It is built according to the project scope statement and the documentation of requirements.
  • Validating scope—In this stage the deliverables are reviewed and either accepted as complete or revised once more.
  • Controlling scope— As the project is being executed, maintaining the control over project scope is necessary . So, controlling the project's scope is the process of monitoring the project's status and its project and product scope as well as managing the changes. Changes are found by comparing performance reports to project requirements.

Project scope template

The project scope statement, otherwise known as scope document, usually consist of the following elements:

Introduction

The introduction provides overview of the entire project. It is a detailed breakdown of all of the tasks that project team will perform and it contains any important elements that might impact the outcome.

Project Scope

This element is sort of the "main" part to define the project scope statement. The project scope should explain what the project does and does not include, helping managers avoid any confusion from project team members and stakeholders.

Exclusions

Scope exclusions should also be stated. Exclusions can be anything that is not going to be a part of the project or its results. This refers to everything that is not factored in while planning the project.

Deliverables

Deliverables are measurable outcomes indicating successful completion of the project. This part of the project scope statement should also include milestones and the exact due date of deliverables.

Constraints

Constraints are describing possible limits of the project that might have a negative impact on the its outcome. Constraints can include resources, budget, timing, lack of information, etc.

Acceptance criteria

Acceptance criteria is agreement of how the success of the project will be measured. Having a well-defined acceptance criteria is useful for making sure there is no scope creep.

Final approval

And lastly, there should be a final approval. In this element of the scope statement, the customer signs off on the scope statement, confirming that all parameters have been included and the document is complete and accurate.

A lot of these elements in project scope statement are similar to the elements from the project charter but the two should not be confused. The Institute's PMP Passport course helps educate you about all this and much more. Learn how to make project scope and project charter and ensure your future project's success by clicking here .

Project scope example

project scope example