What Is Project Scope?
Last Updated December 20, 2022
If you’ve worked in project management for any length of time, you’ve probably heard the term “project scope.” However, you may be less familiar with the concept of “scoping” a project. Understanding the complete scope of any project is essential for remaining on track to meet your objectives.
What Is Project Scope?
The word “scope” refers to the overall goals and tasks involved. As taught in Villanova University’s Mastering Project Management course, “the project scope is the amount of work or deliverables that is planned for a project.”
Scope is also known in the world of project management as one of the “triple constraints,” a framework that is used for evaluating competing demands and requirements. Scope, along with schedule and budget, are the three core limitations imposed on a project that directly impact each other and must be managed in a balanced, efficient manner to achieve objectives.
That’s why scoping a project is so important. Project scoping is the process of determining what goals you’re trying to meet and what needs to be done to accomplish them. If the scope changes too much, the project’s duration and budget can suffer.
At its core, project scoping asks two questions:
- What is the project’s success criteria?
- How do you plan to manage the triple constraints, of which one is project scope?
Those two questions generate many more. That’s why project managers need to dedicate time to answer them at the start of any project. Without a firm grasp of what the project entails, accomplishing your team’s goals are difficult.
Difference Between Product Scope and Project Scope
Project scope is often confused with a related concept: product scope. Although project scope and product scope are both essential considerations, they cover different concepts.
While project scope refers to the end goal of the project, a product’s scope includes the features or characteristics of the product itself. For example, it can cover what the product is made from, what it’s supposed to do and how it works. For example, an iPhone’s product scope may include the screen dimensions, processing speed, storage capacity, camera quality and battery life.
Product scope can also refer to services. In a service industry, product scope focuses on the actual tasks and responsibilities of the personnel delivering the service. It often suggests the ways that the service can be measured and improved for future customers or clients.
Project scope is the process of manufacturing a product from start to finish. The project’s scope doesn’t necessarily require the team to understand how the individual components work together. Instead, it requires you, as the project manager, to determine where to get the necessary components and how to deliver them to the people who will put them together.
In some cases, scoping a project may require a basic understanding of a product’s scope. For example, in product development, a project’s scope would have to consider the goals for the end product. Even then, the two types of scope serve different purposes.
Benefits of Defining a Project’s Scope
Managing project scope takes time, but can provide multiple benefits, including the following.
Preventing Project Scope Creep
The most crucial benefit of scoping a project is preventing “scope creep,” which is sometimes called “feature creep.” While changes in scope are to be expected, projects without a defined scope often expand over time to include deliverables not found in the original plan.
For example, suppose you’re working on a marketing project. The original plan may have covered producing and displaying a set number of digital ads. However, without a project scope statement, halfway through the timeline, someone may request that you convert some of the ads for physical displays. This extra work was not in your original plan. The scope has “crept” up. Unless change requests are properly formalized and managed, the result is often extra stress and the potential for missed deadlines.
Scoping your project prevents scope creep. With a project scope statement, everyone involved knows exactly what the project includes. The scope statement and its deadlines should be revised to include the new tasks if additional work is added, and new scope should only be added if managed by a formalized change request process.
This is more important than you might think. According to the 2021 Pulse of the Profession® report by the Project Management Institute (PMI), preventing scope creep was identified as a top-three driver of project success among respondents in every industry surveyed.
Scoping your project also helps manage everyone’s expectations. Creating a project scope statement clarifies the goals. You can present the report to stakeholders to explain precisely what you’ll be doing with your time.
If stakeholders expect the project to accomplish something different, your scope statement lets them know what they will receive. This prevents you from reaching the halfway point of a project only to find out you’re not accomplishing what the stakeholders wanted.
Even if feature creep doesn’t occur, an unscoped project is more likely to suffer from waste. Team members with an ambiguous grasp of their role may do unnecessary work. Similarly, you may order too many supplies or misuse them on redundant tasks. According to the PMI Pulse of the Profession report, these kinds of inefficiencies lead to an average wasted investment of 9.4% across all projects.
Defining your project scope helps reduce such waste. Your project scope statement will explain exactly what needs to be done, who will do it, and what you need to meet your goals. You’re less likely to lose time or resources to preventable mistakes or miscommunications.
What Is a Project Scope Statement?
The simplest way to document a project’s scope is with a project scope statement. This document covers what the team wants to accomplish during the project and how it will be done. Project scope statements include details such as:
- Objectives: the goals the team intends to reach.
- Deliverables: the results the team plans to deliver.
- Deadlines: when the team will accomplish each deliverable or objective.
- Constraints: the limitations the team needs to work around.
- Assumptions: an overarching description of the conditions the team believes the project will be performed within, such as staff numbers and access to resources.
- Exclusions: things that are specifically out of scope.
When all this information is included, you can structure the statement in any way that makes sense for a project. Most scope statements also include a summary explaining the broad details of the plan.
How to Create a Project Scope Statement
Scope statements take time to compile, largely due to the data collection process. The best time to complete a project scope statement is during the planning stage.
Creating a scope statement at the same time allows you to immediately document your expectations, objectives, and goals. Here’s how to develop a comprehensive scope statement while planning your project.
- Name your goals and objectives: Goals are high-level ideas, whereas objectives are specific, quantifiable accomplishments. If you’ve put together a project charter, you can use the goals and objectives you’ve listed there.
- Gather and list project requirements: You will have to complete your project with a certain budget and by a specific date. Stakeholders may have other requirements as well, such as quality standards. Collect all these requirements and list them in one place.
- Define deliverables: This is the product you’ll deliver to accomplish the specific goals you’ve just named while meeting all project requirements.
- Specify exclusions and constraints: Name what you won’t provide and what limitations you expect to face during the project. This is important for managing expectations.
- Break down objectives into tasks: If your goal is to produce a deliverable in one month, list the tasks necessary to make this happen. Be specific; it’s better to break tasks down into tiny steps than to be overly general and risk confusion.
- List required resources: Once you know the tasks you need to perform, walk through each step, and list the resources required to accomplish it. Ensure you include staff, materials, and equipment because each of these details will affect your required budget.
By following these steps, you can collect all the information to develop an effective project scope statement.
Project Scope Examples
A project scope statement example might look like this:
- Summary: This project is a social media advertising campaign performed internally to drive site traffic for [Company Name]. The project has a $[Budget] budget and will be completed by June 30, 2022.
- Project scope: This project will include audience and platform research, advertisement creation, and publication on chosen ad platforms. It will also include ad performance monitoring for the duration of the marketing campaign. All activities will be performed by the general marketing coordinator at [Company Name].
- Deliverables: Deliverables will include five related advertisements to be run on selected platforms across June 2022 and a statistical report on the performance of these ads.
- Exclusions: The project will not include physical or print ads, nor will it include video media.
- Constraints: This project may experience technical difficulties or changes in budgetary requirements related to the chosen advertising platforms.
- Materials: To accomplish project objectives, the general marketing lead will require access to photo editing software, research resources and 10 hours of weekly paid time in May and June 2022.
- Acceptance criteria: Before running ads, the chief marketing officer at [Company Name] will review and approve them for publication.
Scoping Projects Keeps Teams on Track
Determining a project’s scope is fundamental to successfully planning a project. By researching the requirements and constraints of your project and merging them into a single project scope statement, you can manage expectations and prevent scope creep.
Learn more about mastering project scope management with Villanova’s Certificate in Applied Project Management program.