What is Project Scope? Its Importance & 8 Steps to Defining It

Project Management is all about handling the tiny details surrounding a project, and it all starts with defining, adhering to, and managing the project scope. Even if a project scope is purely indicative, it does an excellent job of solidifying the baseline expectations and deliverables.

The resulting project scope statement guides the entire development team to perform well-defined tasks within a timeframe, which prevents the project from evolving into something bigger than what is achievable.

On the other hand, the lack of a project scope could result in scope creep, which is one of the leading causes of project failure, according to the PMI.

With this background, we take a look at what project scope is, along with a detailed guide to preparing a project scope statement and a few project scope examples. Let’s get started.

What is a project scope?

As the name indicates, the project scope is all about defining the scope or the boundaries of a project.

It features during the planning stage of the project and contains a series of specific goals, tasks, deliverables, costs, and timelines that need to be followed to declare the project as complete or successful. It acts as a reference point for what can and cannot be achieved during the current project lifecycle so that clients can have realistic expectations of the project outcomes.

At the same time, the project scope serves a two-fold purpose of guiding the project development team and keeping them hyper-focused on the job at hand, as well as ensuring that the project goals and objectives are met without any delays, losses, or overwork. As such, it protects the interests of the stakeholders, be it the client or the development team.

Now that you understand what project scope is, let’s dig in deeper to understand the meaning of a project scope statement and the significance of project scope management.

What is a project scope statement, and what does it contain?

Project Scope

Simply put, a project scope statement is a documented version of your project scope. By articulating and recording the specifics of a project, it ensures that all stakeholders are on the same page regarding the common objective.

A typical project scope statement contains the following elements:

  • Introduction: A broad overview of the what, when, how, and why of a project.
  • Goals and Objectives: The minimum project requirement criteria for project acceptance.
  • Deliverables: The measurable outcomes of a project task.
  • Exclusions: Objectives that cannot be met in the current project and the reasons thereof.
  • Constraints: Control factors that limit project management in a specific area.
  • Assumptions: Initial assumptions made by the project manager or team before commencing work on the project.
  • Risks: Potential risks that may change the outcome of a project.
  • Milestones: Key moments in the project life cycle.
  • Scope Baseline: The original project scope, serves as a project baseline to measure variation in the project scope statement.

Such a record helps project managers identify the feasibility of a change request during the project lifecycle and accept or reject such requests. It also assigns roles and responsibilities for the tasks and describes the procedures and standards that need to be followed while verifying and approving the completed work. A well-defined and thoroughly documented project scope statement will prevent scope creep.

The importance of defining a project’s scope

As mentioned already, project managers should define the project scope during the early stages of project planning. The lack of such foresight may result in your project warping into an impossibility – something so challenging that it is beyond the capabilities of your team or something so expensive or lacking value that the client is not willing to pay for it. Either way, it results in a waste of resources and even results in the non-completion of a project.

However, that’s simply a broader overview of the effect of project scope management. The true value of project scope management reflects in how it achieves this goal, that is, by shielding the project from issues like:

  • Continuously changing project requirements,
  • Overstepping the project budget or timelines,
  • Failing to meet the basic expected outcomes,
  • Changing the primary project goals while it is mid-way,

In simple words, a project scope statement anchors your project so that it does not go wayward, especially during the execution stage. As a result, it maintains customer and employee satisfaction.

A step-by-step guide to defining project scope

At this stage, you may have no second thoughts about the fact that the project scope is mission-critical for the success of your project. However, defining the project scope requires a methodical approach, which broadly follows the steps listed below:

Step 1: Define the project goal and objectives

Before you go about defining the project scope, you need to start with the very foundation – the project goal and objective. These set the tone for the project scope. Do note that goals and objectives are not the same as goals are higher-level while objectives are more granular and specific.

Some useful tips and tricks

  • Involve all the stakeholders while setting the project goals and objectives as every individual can bring a fresh perspective as well as insights into some dos and don’ts that you might otherwise miss.
  • Follow the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely) parameters of defining the project objectives.
  • Stay flexible with the project goal as it may shift during the course of the project. As long as it does not affect the timeline, budget, or resource requirements, honoring changes will only fetch you client goodwill.

Step 2: Identify the potential roadblocks

In the previous deliberations, you may have discovered certain segments that could derail the entire project. Others could inflate the budget, prolong deadlines, dilute quality, etc. Account for such possible roadblocks and assess their impact so that you are already prepared in case of such events.

Some useful tips and tricks

  • Once again, involve all the stakeholders so that you have a comprehensive list of potential issues that might crop up at any stage of project implementation.
  • Write down every possible concern that could upset the entire project lifecycle. Wherever possible, try to predict its impact in tangible forms.
  • Prepare a contingency plan for the identified challenges so that you can mitigate or contain their impact, especially when dependencies are involved.

Step 3: Incorporate additional project requirements

At this stage, you may have noticed some project requirements that may not have been very apparent during the initial stages of planning. If these are strongly tied to your project objectives, budgets, resources, and deliverables, then they must be accounted for and included in your project scope statement.

Some useful tips and tricks

  • Only incorporate those functional and non-functional project requirements that influence the main project boundaries.
  • Use project requirement gathering techniques like brainstorming, nominal group technique, Delphi technique, context diagrams, etc. to identify hidden requirements.
  • Additional requirements must be prioritized so that they do not contribute to scope creep.

Step 4: List necessary resources

Every activity in the project development will require resources in one form or another, be it people, materials, tools, technology, time, money, or knowledge. Mapping the project resources effectively ensures their availability so that the project can be delivered on time and within budget.

Some useful tips and tricks

  • Identify the resources that are short in supply and prioritize them. Also, have a strategy for shared resources to maximize availability.
  • Prepare a resource management plan so that you will be better equipped to handle any resource crunch or non-availability.
  • Have high-level buckets at the project level to manage resource assignments.

Step 5: Chart a project milestone schedule

Chart a Project Milestone Schedule

Once you have taken stock of the objectives, obstacles, and resources, it is time to put them all together to calculate a timeline of the key project milestones. You can add a timeline to indicate the schedule or have a graphical depiction of the same in your project scope statement.

Some useful tips and tricks

  • Have a tentative date listed against every milestone. It will ascribe a priority to the related tasks and also grant insights into the risk of not completing the project as per this schedule. You can even assign milestones to individuals and teams.
  • Prepare a contingency plan that comes immediately into effect if you happen to miss a milestone so that you can get back on track.
  • Share the project milestone schedule and subsequent updates with the external stakeholders as well to keep them in the loop.

Step 6: Define the tasks and deliverables

Every project can be broken down into a set of tasks that will produce corresponding deliverables. Tasks are the smallest divisible unit of a project, while deliverables are tangible or non-tangible outputs stemming from the tasks. As such, they must also feature in the project scope statement so that they do not fall prey to scope creep.

Some useful tips and tricks

  • Depending on your project’s complexities, project deliverables can be classified as internal, external, and planning. Account for each of these to ensure that none get missed.
  • Prioritize tasks and set realistic deadlines against them so that the team can work on the project efficiently. Also, define the approval process for the deliverables.
  • Avoid multi-tasking as it can bring down efficiency by a staggering 40%. Instead, try task batching.
  • Use task management software if necessary

Step 7: Have a change management and control system

Even though the primary purpose of the project scope is to prevent rampant changes to the project, the keyword here is “rampant.” As we have mentioned already, project managers must be open and flexible to changes, which is only possible if you have a change management system in place. As such, have such a change management and control plan for every anticipated and reasonable modification to the project scope.

Some useful tips and tricks

  • Involve the stakeholder in an active dialog to understand the need behind the change. Once convinced, communicate the same across your team.
  • Document the change and work out the implications of the change on the scope, budget, and schedule before getting it approved by the key stakeholders.
  • Keep a record of every scope change request, even if it does not culminate into action.

Step 8: prepare and share the project scope statement

Once you have all the data ready and at your disposal, you need to compile all of it into a project scope statement. The project scope statement could simply be a list of bulleted points or a comprehensive Statement of Work (SOW). Write, rewrite, and edit the project scope statement until there are no ambiguities left and get it validated and approved by the stakeholders.

Some useful tips and tricks

  • Depending on the complexity of your project, the project scope statement can be made a part of your project plan or a standalone document.
  • Keep the language of your project scope statement simple and avoid jargon or technical terms. Remember, the project scope statement is for all the stakeholders.
  • Avoid making any sweeping statements as it could add to the project scope as a creep.

A real-world example of project scope

Since you now have a firm grasp of what is a project scope, its underlying components, and how to go about writing one, let’s seal the deal with an illustration of a real-world project scope example.

ABC App V2.0.1

The project is aimed at making ABC App compatible with the latest Android version – Android 13 (Tiramisu). It should make minimum changes to the application to reach the project objective.

Project Scope Statement

The project will commence once the ABC App V2.0 is released and stable.

At first, the team will analyze the tasks involved in the project to identify and document the minimal project requirements: budget estimates, milestones, and risks, based on which the final scope and timeline of the project will be determined.

ABC App V2.0.1 will offer only minimal support required for Android 13. Only the bugs that crop up during the implementation of ABC V2.0 and related issues explicitly addressed will be fixed. Any SAO issues discovered during testing are not a part of the scope.

Assumptions:

  • For core OS-related issues, the team will try to find and develop a workaround to implement compatibility with a reasonable amount of effort and risks. Else, only a bug report will be issued for Android to fix it from their end.
  • The project requires two software engineers.

Resources:

  • Two software engineers working 30 hours per week for 4 weeks.
  • One QA/QC expert working ad hoc for 5 hours a week.

Constraints:

  • Applications should be released in time for the Android 13 release.
  • There is a possibility that the QA workload from other projects can affect the ABC App schedule.
  • Additional modifications to the ABC software or website can affect the ABC App schedule.
  • Admissible change requests can affect the ABC App schedule.
  • Sheila, one of the software engineers, will be on leave effective from 01st November 2022.

Project Exclusions:

  • Android 13 new features and future updates support.
  • UI/UX changes resulting from the Android 13 update.
  • SOA issues.
  • Tasks/requirements listed under version 2.1

Best project management software for project scope management

Preparing a project scope from scratch can be a daunting experience. Managing it is a whole different ball game altogether. What you need is a centralized solution that helps with end-to-end project scope-related activities – from defining the project scope to communicating it throughout the team. Fortunately, help is right at hand. Here are three of the best project scope management tools that will help you stay ahead of the curve:

1. Nifty

nifty logo

Nifty is a comprehensive remote collaboration hub and project management OS designed to manage projects, tasks, and communications. Its collaborative nature makes it the perfect project scope management tool, as we cannot emphasize enough how it is a collective effort involving all internal and external stakeholders.

By converting all project-related information into a visual format (such as Gantt charts for milestone mapping, and so on), Nifty makes all the activities more visible, traceable, measurable, and accessible.

2. Monday.com

Monday Logo

Monday.com is a cloud-based work OS and project management software aimed at enabling businesses to develop applications. While it packs in quite a punch with a bouquet of modules and features dedicated to project scope management, it’s task scheduler that allows prioritization, shared team calendar, and resource management tools are particularly noteworthy.

3. Asana

Asana logo

Asana is a popular work management platform that helps teams organize, track, and manage their tasks from start to finish. It also serves as a collaboration tool that brings remote teams on a centralized turf. From sharing files to coordinating team tasks – you can do it all using Asana. Given this role, it is clearly a strong contender as a solution for project scope management.

Conclusion

A project scope allows you to establish healthy boundaries and set realistic expectations from a project. It is also a great tool to ensure that your project is on track and on its way to success. With the right project scope management, you can accommodate justifiable scope change requests to enhance customer experience without subjecting your team to burnout! So, what are you waiting for? Try Nifty for free!