Of all the documents that get created, reviewed and shared over the life of a project—project plans, timelines, budgets, status reports and issue logs, just to name a few—the project scope statement may be the one that has the greatest influence over the project as a whole.
The scope statement describes the goals, deadlines and relationships that will shape the project from start to finish. Creating an accurate, complete project scope document can dramatically increase your project’s chances of success. By including the elements below in your scope document, you’ll be able to build an effective scope statement and minimize the risk that change orders or other disruptions will blow your budget or your timeline.
The Business Case
Large organizations typically spend a substantial amount of time reviewing and analyzing proposals before giving approval for a project to proceed. The scope statement does not need to repeat the proposal in great detail, but it should include a high-level summary of the business needs that the project is intended to address. This can help place the project in proper context for stakeholders who were not part of the initial approval process.
Following the description of the business case, the scope statement should clearly define the goals that the project is intended to achieve. While other aspects of the scope statement, including specific deliverables, may change over time, the basic objective of a project is usually not expected to change. When stakeholders attempt to add objectives or expand the scope after the project has begun, PMs must exercise project scope management, and insist that all changes are made through a formal process.
A scope statement should list the products or services that are to be provided at the conclusion of the project, in order to meet the project’s objectives. Deliverables should be described in enough detail to avoid confusion or misinterpretation by stakeholders. Although deliverables vary from project to project, you’ll likely notice the final list of products or services to be provided will be similar across many of your projects.
If a scope statement lists deliverables but does not define criteria that the deliverables must meet, the result is often problematic. Vendors may feel that they have delivered exactly what the scope statement calls for, while customers may believe that they have received something completely different. Outlining acceptance criteria that must be met can help ensure that each project activity brings the team closer to its ultimate goal.
Just as the scope statement should define the items that must be delivered as part of the project, it should also list any products or services that are not to be included in the project. Here again, the goal is to prevent confusion or miscommunication, so the list of exclusions should be as detailed as is necessary to define the project boundaries to all stakeholders.
Although not typically included in project scope statements, stakeholders and other members of the team may find an introduction or explanation of technology that’s associated with the project to be helpful. Whether it’s information about which professional services you’ll use to find talent or which project management software you intend on using, it’s likely that stakeholders will appreciate the transparency and feel more comfortable with the project moving forward.
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