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The project scope statement is one of the most basic cornerstones upon which every project is built. Basically, the statement lays out what needs to get done, under what conditions and how completion will be measured. Though that might all seem perfectly logical, unfortunately, project scope management also seems to be one of the most difficult things for PMs to have to get to grips with.

The reasons for this can vary widely but generally come down to both internal and external stakeholders wanting to change the deliverables by:

  • Adding to the scope: It’s easy to assume that since the team is already assembled, what’s the harm in bolting on a few extra objectives they might not even notice?
  • Narrowing the scope: For example, maybe the planned budget for a six-month project has been spent elsewhere in the meantime, so cuts have to be made to the expected outcomes.
  • Changing the scope: Unfortunately, sometimes it turns out that the client doesn’t want what they initially asked for, and you’re tasked with making the adjustments.

Laying the Foundations for Managing Project Scope

No one can predict the future, and not every change can be anticipated. However, project managers can make their lives easier by defining and documenting the project scope from the outset. Creating a project scope statement essential for keeping the project on track and ultimately being successful – but what exactly is it?

The scope statement has a number of features, but should generally always include:

Project charter: A brief statement on the objectives, scope and stakeholders of the project.

  • Project stakeholders: Including the client, project team, sponsors and other stakeholders.
  • Business objectives: The overall focus for the organization as a whole, e.g., “To increase sales by 15% YOY.”
  • Project deliverables: The specific targets for the project at hand, e.g., “To increase Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs) sourced through white papers by 30%.”
  • Acceptance/success criteria: The conditions that must be met for the deliverable to be considered completed.
  • Project exclusions: To avoid project creep and off-scope changes, this section should explicitly outline what the project is NOT trying to do, e.g. “The impact of projected increased sales on operations and production capacity is not the concern of this project.”
  • Project constraints: Any physical, legal or moral issue which limits the solutions available to the project, e.g., “We have made an organization-wide decision not to work with vendors who do not have a carbon offset policy.”
  • Project assumptions: Not to get too philosophical, but some facts need to be taken as a constant to create a baseline for projections. These are the project assumptions, written in the form of “Will be” or “Will not be,” that describe resource availability, client expectations and regulatory compliance, among other things.

Sticking to a Guiding Star

By aligning with the project scope statement and using it as a constant reference point for guiding the project, PMs can better keep everything on track. Change requests, no matter who they come from, need to be evaluated and decided upon with the initial scope statement in mind. Once you begin to lose track of that, it’s easy to lose sight of what the project was about in the first place.

Take, for example, a request to change a restaurant order: instead of fries, a customer asks for a bowl of mixed fruit. No problem. Then, they call their server back and instead of the mixed fruit, they were wondering if it could be made into a smoothie. Again, no major problem. But as their table is passed again, they say that the weather’s too heavy, so instead of a smoothie, could they have a cold beer?

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The change from a smoothie to a beer is at least in the same ballpark, but if it was evaluated in terms of the original scope (i.e., the burger comes with fries) and they asked for a beer instead of fries, the change request would be simple to deny. The key to managing project scope is sticking to what’s been agreed unless there’s a very good reason otherwise.

Project documentation such as the project scope statement is vital to keeping your team and project on track. Using project management software like Clarizen, you can create a single source of truth for each specific project and provide easy access to vital documents for all team members, wherever they are. To see how Clarizen can help keep your projects aligned, contact us to arrange a demo today.

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