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Part of being a successful project manager means understanding exactly what is needed to achieve the objectives in a project and mapping out how to get there. For every project, no matter the size or complexity, it is the responsibility of the project manager to ensure it stays on track the entire time. The simplest way to do so is to define the scope of the project.

What is a Project Scope?

Developing a project scope is the initial phase of the project planning process. It typically involves drawing up a list of everything needed to create the framework of the project. This can include:

  • Project goals
  • Deliverables
  • Features
  • Functions
  • Tasks
  • Deadlines
  • Costs

The statement of what the project objectives are, what they are expected to produce, any limitations, dependencies and assumptions, are all factors that form the project scope. Once the project is accepted, scope management is the first step in planning its success.

Project Scope Management

Scope management ensures a project’s scope is accurately defined and mapped and enables project managers to allocate the proper labor and costs necessary to complete the project. This is primarily concerned with what is and is not part of the scope. The three processes involved in project scope management are:

  • Planning: This includes capturing and defining the work that needs to be done
  • Controlling: This step focuses on scope creep, documenting, tracking and approving/disapproving of changes
  • Closing: This includes an audit of the project deliverables and assessing the outcomes of the original plan

Another critical component for scope management involves defining the scope in a statement. Once the processes are understood, a document must be drawn up to delineate the project.

Scope Statement

Creating an accurate document that outlines the goals, deadlines and relationships that shape the project is called the scope statement. Including specific elements within this document will help build an effective scope statement that will minimize the risk of change orders and disruptions, while staying on budget. The following are some must-haves in the scope statement:

Business CaseWhy the project is required and what benefits are expected to be delivered.

Project DescriptionAn overview of the project’s final deliverable.

Success Criteria- The key components that will constitute a successful project as pre-agreed upon with the clients and stakeholders.

LimitationsAny resources or technology related issue that may limit the project.

AssumptionsAny assumptions that have been made and will affect the final outcome.

Once a project manager has defined these factors within the framework of a project, the scope will be much easier to manage. Staying on top of project scope is critical to success and losing track is one of the biggest mistakes a project manager can make on a job.

Why is Project Scope Important?

Managing the expectations of clients and stakeholders can be one of the most difficult tasks a project manager can face. With a distinct scope, it helps everyone to stay on the same page throughout the life cycle of the project. A well-defined scope can help to avoid common problems like:

  • Requirements that constantly change
  • Requirements that need a rethink mid-project
  • The final outcome not being what the client expected
  • The budget overrunning
  • The project is way behind schedule

Effective scope management can help to avoid some of these issues by clearly defining and communicating the scope to all parties involved in the project. Project scope helps to distinguish what is and is not involved in the project and controls what is allowed or removed as it is executed. Scope management establishes control factors, that can be used to address elements that result in changes during the lifecycle of the project.

Project scope is critical because without it project managers would have no clue what time, cost or labor was involved in a project. It forms the basis for every decision a project manager will make on a job and when it needs to change, proper communication will ensure success every step of the way.