How to Define and Create a Project Scope

Arek Terpilowski

Updated: June 6, 2024
November 14, 2022
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Missed deadlines, forgotten tasks, and delayed objectives are the nightmare of every project manager. Some say they result from mistakes in planning, but very few wonder why the mistakes are there in the first place. The answer to this question lies in the project scope

Project Scope Management: Key Takeaways

After reading this article, you should be able to: 

  • Define project scope and all its elements. 
  • Follow all the consecutive steps in the process of creating a project scope and create such a document for your projects. 
  • Manage the process while it evolves later on. 

Definition of Project Scope? 

A project scope is an outline of all the activities that need to be done to complete a project. Usually, it includes all the tasks, resources, project timelines, deliverables, and general boundaries. It also specifies the main stakeholders and others responsible for its consecutive parts. The file that includes all the information is called a scope statement or a project scope document.

What is included in a scope statement? 

In general, the scope statement should include: 

  • Project goals, including the main requirements and acceptance criteria. 
  • Project deliverables and main project milestones. 
  • Any exclusions and constraints that apply to the project or its parts. That includes the things that cannot be done on the provider’s part — the customer is not the only person who can limit the project.
  • Initial ideas and general assumptions used as the basis for the project. They should provide the project team with a better understanding of their objectives. 

As a result, the scope helps organize the management process and its elements, such as milestones, resources, and project planning.

Why is the project scope statement so important? 

It’s easy to assume that the project scope statement is yet another pointless document cluttering the project manager’s desk. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth. 

The scope statement is the backbone of the project’s success and ensures that the company has what it takes to impress the customer. For example, it gives project managers an idea: 

  • Whether a given company can complete the project in general. 
  • What a roadmap of the project would look like and what resources are needed to complete it promptly. 
  • What the customer’s requirements and limitations are. 
  • What should not be included in the project, no matter how it progresses. 
  • Who the stakeholders on both sides of the endeavor are. 

As a result, the project scope document helps you create a better project schedule, avoid limitless expansion of responsibilities, and communicate with the customer from day one. 

How to Define a Project Scope: Step-by-Step 

While the idea of project scope may sound simple, it contains numerous key factors that cannot be missed — especially in project management. That’s why defining the scope of work, project objectives, project requirements, and project goals may not be the simplest task. Let’s see how to create a project scope statement without omitting any of these important elements. 

  1. Define the Main Project Goal

The project goal in project management should briefly summarize the project’s final result. It can usually be described in just one sentence. For example, “The objective of this project is to create a website for X company.” This goal will remain unchanged regardless of the circumstances. 

  1. Define Project Requirements and Constraints

After choosing the main objective, try to divide the project into smaller pieces — stages, tasks, or project milestones ensuring the entire operation’s success. If possible, assess how much time is needed to complete each of those steps — that estimation will later be useful for the resource planning process

Then, discuss the proposed project life cycle with the company’s stakeholders and define their requirements for each of the smaller pieces. Focus on general ideas and small details that can affect your project. For example, discuss the features that should be included in the solution, any needed technologies, and budget. 

  1. Define Main Deliverables

After you have determined what to do and what to avoid, you can try to put all of the operations in the project on the timeline and identify their dependencies — all while keeping in mind the duration of consecutive stages of the project. 

At this point, you should also try to predict any risks of delays in different deliverables. If possible, try to schedule some more time for the tasks that may be difficult to complete — you will save your customers lots of disappointment. 

  1. Prepare a Resource Plan 

Using the information you have gathered in a previous step, you can now assign people to the project. By doing so, you will ensure that your company has what it takes to complete the operation on time, and you will help your project team manage their part of the project by presenting them with a statement of work to be done. The best way to forecast resources is to create allocations in a Gantt chart.

  1. Confirm the Scope of a Project and Create Acceptance Criteria

After you have finished analyzing the project for internal purposes, you can now go back to the customer with your findings to confirm that they accept the outline you have created. Confirm that the scope of a project includes all the requirements and details the customer wants to include in the project. Finally, determine what they need in order to accept the work by the end of the project and include that information in the final paragraph of the document.

Project Scope Example 

In general, the project’s scope is a document that closely resembles a typical essay. It is divided into several sections that describe key factors needed for the endeavor to succeed. 

Here’s an example of defining a project scope you can later use it as a template for your own operations and project management.

Introduction

X project, commissioned by The Customer Company Name, represented by The Manager’s Name, is being undertaken to create a dedicated website for the Customer’s online store. 

Main Project’s Scope

The main objective of this project is to create a fully functional website with an online store capable of supporting extensive traffic. The operation will include: 

  • Researching competitors’ websites and presenting the customer with the findings.
  • Creating both the front and back end for the website. 
  • Designing the website using UX/UI best practices. 
  • Implementing the latest security protocols on the website. 
  • Preparing the necessary technical means and launching the website. 

All these activities will be supervised by Our Manager representing The Best Company. 

The project should take no more than 6 months and be finished by the end of December 2024. 

Project Deliverables 

Based on the project’s scope, we have determined that the main project deliverables will include: 

  • The report presenting the results of a competitor analysis delivered to the Customer Company Name within 7 days of starting the project. 
  • The back end for the website, created within 3 months after the results of the report have been accepted. 
  • The front end for the website, created within 3 months after the report results have been accepted.

Project Exclusions 

The project will not include further maintenance of the website or any further updates to its code. 

Project Constraints

The project may include some changes to the scope, provided it won’t impact its main objective. The project must under no circumstances exceed the project budget.

Project Acceptance Criteria 

The Manager’s Name representing the Customer Company Name will only review and accept the project if he is provided with: 

  • Access data for the website. 
  • A fully functional website with all the features specified above. 
  • Security certificates. 
  • Information on the maintenance and subscriptions required for the website to operate properly. 

Can the project scope change later on? 

Project scope management does not end when the project’s scope is sent to all the team members and other key stakeholders included in the project. While project scope should be as close to the final project timeline as possible, there’s no denying that in some cases, it may change — that’s when scope creep occurs. 

What is scope creep? 

Scope creep happens when deliverables, tasks, or requirements change while the project is underway. For example, whenever a stakeholder announces that they forgot to add a feature to the project, your scope creeps slightly in the wrong direction. This is a common occurrence in project and scope management.

Unfortunately, scope creep can be very harmful to the project, as it usually causes delays and disorganizes the work as a whole. Therefore, it should be avoided at all costs — mostly by interviewing the relevant stakeholders as much as possible and discussing even the smallest details of the project. 

However, should you feel something is missing from your project scope, try to leave some room for error while making the allocations — that’s also a part of scope management. That way, you will ensure that your team has enough time to act whenever a new issue arises. 

How to Succeed at Project Scope Management 

A project scope is a critical document that significantly impacts the entire project. Any mistakes made during its creation may take a toll on the success of your operations. Here’s how to avoid them: 

  1. Identify deliverables and dependencies that may put your project at risk. That applies to the operations that may simply last longer and those that may expand as your team delves into their details. 
  2. Focus on the customer. Try to extract as much information as you can from the stakeholders; ask questions and discuss tasks in detail whenever possible. Try not to omit any matter while doing so. 
  3. Gain approval for your ideas. Before you start working, review the project scope with the customer and make sure they understand its implications. Any hesitation should be met with additional questions! 
  4. Determine how changes will affect the project. If you feel things are likely to go sideways, check how the changes will affect the state of the project. Try to prepare for this scenario — make room for error or find someone to help your team members complete their deliverables on time. 
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