What is a Project Scope and How to Write it
Writing a project scope is an important part of a project planning process. It helps to define key activities, tasks, main goals, budget and timeframes. Anyway, not all the project managers know what the project scope consists of and how to make it valuable.
In today’s article, we will learn what a project scope is, how to write it and what difficulties you can face while making it.
What is a Project Scope
Basically, a project scope is a document, where all the activities, goals, deadlines and budget are outlined. In most cases, the key stakeholders and audience are also defined in a project scope.
You might think that the only person responsible for writing a scope is the project manager, but in fact, there are more people involved in this process. Project stakeholders also play a role in defining a scope, as they define timeframes and affect key activities. A proper project scope helps not just define the main path, but also follow it on the whole project lifecycle.
The most valuable information from a project scope becomes a project scope statement.
What is a Project Scope Statement
A project scope statement is a document, where all the key activities of a project are established. You can add it to your project plan or make it an individual document.
The project scope statement is directly connected with the workflow breakdown structure. It means that after all statements are established, project managers and departments take all statements and create a work plan with particular activities, milestones and deadlines.
For a regular project scope statement, you should include the following points:
- Milestones that define deadlines for each stage of a project. In most cases, a milestone ends with a stakeholder’s meetings.
- Final goal and expected deliverables. This part of a project scope statement is one of the most important because it helps stakeholders understand what to expect from the outcome.
- Possible struggles that might affect the deadlines or final result. It also includes negative outcomes, such as significant financial losses
- Budget and expected outcomes.
- Criteria for estimating the success of each activity.
After a project manager finishes the final draft of a project scope statement, it has to go through the stakeholders’ review process. After stakeholders approve the statement, it can be implemented in the final project plan or formalized in a written document.
Moreover, a project scope statement can become legally binding. It means that you can create a statement of work for agents or freelancers based on project scope statements.
The project scope statement is ready and has been approved by stakeholders, so what’s next? A project manager takes the final version of a statement to work and starts to delegate activities to departments and give team leaders an understanding of what they have to do next to stay on deadlines and within budget while working on a project.
Project Scope Management
A good project manager should understand that it’s impossible to follow the project scope flawlessly. It means that a project manager should know how to implement changes to the project scope and avoid creeps.
The process of avoiding stumble rocks and creeps is change management. Since you know that it’s impossible to avoid unexpected issues, you have to be ready to use all of your change management skills to quickly spot when changes have to be made.
How to manage a scope?
- Try to predict possible challenges and think of ways to overcome them. Identify possible changes and find ones that will do the least damage to the project.
- Think of amendments and how they’ll affect the final or interim outcomes.
- Discuss possible changes with stakeholders and gain their approval. It becomes much easier to implement amendments when they’re already approved.
- Find better timeframes to implement changes. For example, after each iteration.
How to Prevent Project Scope Creep
Scope creep occurs when the amount of work exceeds the time constraints of your project. For example, it might happen if you didn’t define the project scope statement. Stakeholders begin to request more context and add extras to your work. Your team didn’t expect such overtimes, which turned into delays.
Scope creeps can negatively affect not only deadlines, but also budgets and the quality of the final outcome. It can also reduce team motivation because a large amount of unexpected work is a major source of stress for employees.
You can simply avoid project scope creeps just by writing a proper statement. When all the key activities are established, stakeholders won’t aim to add more and more detail to the project and the team can focus on the project plan.
How to Write a Project Scope: Key Steps
- Step 1. Define goals and objectives
Before starting to work on the project, you should clearly understand what to expect by the end. Think of your main goals and objectives. It is critical to focus on one thing because it allows you to deliver better results without wasting resources on unattainable goals.
- Step 2. Plan budget and resources
Establish how many financial and human resources you have for the upcoming project. Without understanding how many resources you have, you can easily run out of them. Moreover, the size of a team does matter. You can’t assign thousands of tasks if you have a team of ten people.
First of all, count your current resources and then split them to match each activity. Resources are an important part of a scope statement because your stakeholders have to know how much of their resources will be spent on the projects.
- Step 3. Make a project scope statement draft
As it was mentioned, a project scope statement defines what you’re going to do during the project and what you’re not going to focus on. Such a statement doesn’t have a strict plan, you can make it a checklist, a paragraph, or the entire document.
Simply put, your stakeholders and team should understand what they’ll receive at the end of the project, how long it will take to complete everything and how many resources you’ll spend on it.
- Step 4. Get an approval from stakeholders
Once the draft is ready, you can show it to your stakeholder for their approval. They may have their own vision, so be ready for some changes. Anyway, it’s better to discuss all the additional details and extras before starting to work on the project.
- Step 5. Prepare for possible changes
As a good project manager, be ready for possible changes throughout the project lifecycle. Change management is a powerful skill, because you can’t predict outcomes such as negative customer feedback or changes in your team.
The best way is to discuss the approval process with stakeholders before starting work on a project. In that case, if changes are necessary, you can easily decide what to do. You can create a specific form so that stakeholders can conduct a thorough review if a change request is made.
- Step 6. Show a project scope to the team
After stakeholders approve the project scope, it’s time to present it to your team. They will get familiar with all the upcoming activities, possible changes, deadlines and key tasks. Furthermore, they’ll get a clear understanding of what stakeholders expect as the final outcome.
Example of a Project Scope
We know that it’s may be a tough task to write a project scope for the first time, so you can use our template to prepare your brand-new scope:
- Introduction. Full overview of an upcoming project to clarify how and for what this project is started.
- Project scope. What is going to be done during the project. Define key activities and the schedule. It will help your team to focus on what they really need to do and reach milestones in time.
- Expected deliverables. In this section, you have to define what it’s going to be made by the end of the project. For example, the marketing department could prepare a promotion article of 3000 words and a 5-minute YouTube video with a product review.
- Criteria. What has to be done for the project to be approved. It can be a simple list with checkmarks. Once all the checkmarks are filled, the project is ready.
- Exclusions. Along with what you need to do, it’s better to clarify what’s not included in the project. It will help the team stay focused on the key activities, and stakeholders won’t expect results that are not yet expected.
- Constraints. In constraints, you should point out the most vital limitations: what can’t be changed or added. Constraints can refer to any part of a project: budget, tasks, marketing activities, etc..
A project scope is an important part of the project planning process. You can avoid this step, but in that case, don’t wait for your project to have clear results and be ready to face tons of unexpectedness. With a project scope, you can be prepared for any changes, and your team will know exactly what to do.
Seeking the best practices to improve your project management skills? Learn more about PM in our blog posts:
- Project Management vs. Work Management: What’s The Difference?
- How To Become A Project Manager
- What is a Project Stakeholder?
- A Guide to Critical Chain Project Management