What is Project Scope? The Complete Guide

October 12, 2022
6 minute read

Originally Published on 2/14/22 & Updated 10/12/22


We all want to set up our projects for success, and in order to facilitate that success, you’ll need to plan your projects well. One of the most important steps when beginning to plan your project is understanding your project’s constraints, which include the project scope. Let’s dive in and learn all about project scope and manage your projects to successful completion.  manage its triple constraints: scope, time, and cost. Learning and understanding project constraints will help you direct your focus. 


What is Scope of Project Management?

The definition of scope in project management is the work that is required to complete the project. The scope is one of the triple constraints of project management, which also include time and cost. The project scope defines all that is entailed to complete the project, and exactly what is included in the project and what is not. Your project scope will also specify how much time is needed to complete your deliverables and which resources will be required.

Failing to define the scope in project management can strain client relationships, harm team morale, and cause you to lose control over your project timeline and budget.

In this article, we will discuss the importance of clearly defining and staying on top of your project scope, and show you how you can go about doing that. We’ll also take a peek into some project scope examples to illustrate exactly what they are.


The Importance Of Defining Project Scope

As mentioned above, it is extremely crucial to define your project scope before beginning a new project. Here are six key reasons that highlight the importance of defining the scope of your project.


1. Outlines Team Responsibility

Identifying your project scope allows your team to focus their efforts. Keeping your scope visible when you work with self-initiating teams will enable them to function autonomously. You won’t have to worry about them going beyond your area of responsibility.

Showing your team what they’re accountable for can also increase ownership. Because your team knows it’s their turf, they’ll see that it’s their responsibility to make it as effective as possible.


2. Proper Costing And Scheduling

A clear scope gives way to more accurate schedules and project plans. When you know your team's commitment, you can effectively break them down into milestones, deliverables, and day-to-day tasks.

Your cost will depend on the resources you’ll need to finish your project. A detailed plan will help you project this so you can communicate it with relevant stakeholders.


3. Relevant Project Strategy

Your project strategy is the approach you’re taking to accomplish your project objectives. You can define this through specific parameters such as your team, goals, client preferences, predictability, and more.

When you have a firm grasp of your scope, you’ll get to evaluate your project correctly. This will allow you to discern the best project strategy to take.


4. Manage Stakeholder Expectations

Organizing and documenting your project scope will align your stakeholders on what they can expect from you. 

For example, let’s say your client hired you for web development. A good project scope example would specify that you won’t cover the articles in their blog and that you’ll only cover creating the website itself. This will give them a heads-up that they’ll need to hire additional resources (or pay extra) for that.

Failing to indicate important notes on scope such as these can result in miscommunications and conflict.


5. Clarity In Change Management

Change management is how you respond to change requests mid-production.

There are several reasons why changes are considered after project planning. These can be due to the surfacing of new trends or customer information. They may also be because of the preference of key personnel.

If a scope of a project sample does not cover the request, what will you do?

You can use your project scope as an instant filter to change requests. If they’re not part of your initial scope, you’ll instantly have documentation that allows you to reject them. 

However, there will be instances where iterations are necessary even when they’re not part of your initial scope. During those occasions, you will need to go through the process of securing the required resources, adjusting plans, timelines, and costs, and presenting them to the stakeholders for approval.


6.  Avoid Cost Overrun

Inaccurate estimates, bad planning, and poor change management are a few reasons costs exceed a project’s budget. Requests to pivot may come after a significant buildup. Stakeholders might exert pressure to deliver more than what was initially agreed on. Without a clearly defined scope, it will be challenging for you to protect your team’s time and effort.

Simply identifying the project scope will help you alleviate cost overrun threats instantly, as it equips you with the information you need to address these issues.

How To Define The Scope Of the Project

Now that you know the benefits and importance of project scope we will go ahead and describe how you define the scope of your project. Use this guideline of 4 clear steps to define the scope of your project


1. Determine Project Goals And Objectives

Project goals define your project’s business impact. Objectives identify measurable key results your team has to achieve to support these goals.

For example, the business goal might be to increase sales leads by 20%, and your client hired your agency to mount a brand-sponsored cocktail party to support this. One of your objectives could be to invite at least 50 high-quality prospects to the event so their sales executives can mingle.

A good project management scope example will indicate what type of event will be mounted, what success metrics will be observed, and what expenses the project team budget won’t cover (eg. giveaways).

When you know your goals and objectives, you’ll get to identify the most crucial factors to achieve your success metrics.


2. Categorize Project Features

After you brainstorm on your project’s key attributes, categorize them into levels of relevance in achieving your project’s objectives:

  • Core features - most vital requirements to fulfill the objectives
  • Value adds - features that enhance the effectiveness of your core features

  • Nice to have - the quality of life improvements

The criteria for categorizing your project requirements will depend on your project. 

For example, if your client is a luxury brand and their clients are VIPs, booking a classy venue may be a core feature for your event to attract the audience you’re looking for. 

However, investing in a hip band may be more essential if you’re catering to a younger audience whose key motivations are to enjoy good music and have beers with friends.


3. Distill Project Scope

“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing” - Stephen Covey

It’s natural for your project team to feel like every feature is essential. However, project constraints may not always make this feasible.

Working from the categorized features, you know you’ll have to make room for your core features. If it’s still possible, add in your value-adds. Once they’re in, that’s the best time to introduce your nice-to-haves.

A tool you can use to help you evaluate your features is the Impact Effort Matrix from the Six Sigma management technique.

To use this, create four quadrants that categorize your features by impact and level of difficulty:


Features falling into the upper left quadrant would be good to push. As for the lower-right quadrant, it may be good to evaluate if you can altogether remove it from your scope.

This matrix will put you in a better position to decide which features to prioritize when finalizing your project scope.


4. Share And Negotiate With Stakeholders

Once you have your cards ready, it’s time to present them to your stakeholders. Remember that the scope has to be clear to everyone involved in the project, whether they’re internal or external stakeholders. Reiterate the scope of a project if need be to ensure that everyone involved understands it clearly.

When you share your project scope, discuss the definition of out of the scope, and talk about a way to deliberate new requests that will be agreeable for everyone involved.

Expect a bit of pushback and questions, so be ready with your matrix and rationale. Communicate the benefits key stakeholders will get from your project and how the selected features are stepping stones to achieving them.

Solicit feedback and adjust the scope as needed until you arrive at your final project scope.


Tips For Defining The Scope Of Project

Here are a few tips that will help you define your project scope in a way that will be beneficial for all those involved.

  • Be Clear

Indicate the most important pieces of information when writing your project scope statement. Leave nothing for interpretation. Be sure there's enough detail to cover your bases, but not too much that it's cluttered. A simple project scope example would include your requirements, features that are not included, and success indicators, among other things.

  • Collaborate

To create an adequate scope, you’ll need a deep understanding of your problems and the industry you’re navigating. While researching on your own can take you far, nothing beats collaborating with industry experts and experienced team members.

  • Do Not Overpromise

Committing to scopes that leave no room for mistakes can look impressive at the start. But it will come back to bite you when you start to incur overtime costs and missed deadlines. You don’t just risk ruining your relationship with your client for good. Your team’s morale and well-being will also be on the line.

As long as you can afford it, leave room for contingencies. Provide padding for unlikely scenarios. Being reasonably vigilant will always be in style.

  • Keep Your Scope Visible

Make your project scope statement visible and accessible throughout production. By keeping your project scope clear and visible for all you will avoid scope creep and all the issues that come along with it. 

And by using a flexible project management tool for creatives such as  Workamajig, you can track your project at every stage of the process. You can do this through customizable dashboards and see the real-time status which allows for transparency for all those involved. Its many features include resource management, task management, and accounting among others. Workamajig keeps everyone in the loop and saves you time and money with the use of one integrated tool.


More posts in this series:

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project scope baseline explainedwhat is project scope creepwhat is a scope mangement plan

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