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Taking on a new project can feel overwhelming at first, even for the most seasoned project managers. Spending some time writing out a scope statement can make reaching your goal seem that much more achievable. But making a truly comprehensive project scope document can come with pitfalls of its own. Here are five important questions to keep in mind when working on your project scope.

  1. What are the project’s deliverables?

This is the most basic step to creating a helpful scope statement. Before getting into basic organization, you have to be fully aware of what is being asked of you. What’s expected in terms of tangible product, and how does this expectation fit into the larger scope of the project? Having a basic understanding of what is being asked of you on a production level will help you assess how to move forward with assigning roles and setting deadlines.

  1. How much flexibility do you have?

Before you can start setting deadlines, it helps to know what the nature of your deadline is, and how much pushback you’ll be able to get. A scope statement should be realistic overall, and should take into account certain delays and unforeseen complications. When you know how much time you actually have, how much time you need and how much leeway you’ll be able to get away with, you’ll have a much better sense of how to organize your team and prioritize certain steps within the project scope. Once you have a firm sense of the project’s timeline, it might help to consider using project management software like Clarizen to start keeping things in check.

  1. What are the long-term priorities of the project?

Knowing the long-term needs and goals of the client may not directly affect your relationship to the project at hand, but the more you know about these goals, the better equipped you’ll be to deal with the more complex, less tangible problems that might arise. If you have to make a decision quickly, it helps to be aware of the big picture while staying as detail-oriented as possible. If you forget to include a basic understanding of long-term progress in your project scope document, you might be leaving out one of the most helpful tools for coming up with more creative solutions down the line.

  1. What’s out of scope?

As counterintuitive as it might seem, it’s often helpful to know what’s not expected of you on a given project. The clearer the boundaries are, the better. In order to avoid clogging up your project scope document with a lot of excess, intangible goals and deliverables, keep it simple. Ask what’s expected of you, and what’s not expected of you, so you can avoid burdening yourself with more work than is needed or desired by the client, or even helpful to the project at hand.

  1. What is the success criteria of the project?

Each project has different goals. Some of these goals are short term and tangible, while others are more ideological and big-picture oriented. In order to succeed at the project at hand, you have to know what success means in the context of the work. Success is an extremely fluid concept—it can mean lots of different things to different people, and if communication isn’t completely clear, you could lay yourself open to handing your client a different result than they were expecting.

David Goulden
David Goulden, Product Director