Serious african businessmen managing project tasks on sticky notes, focused male professional coach teacher write creative business idea on post it stickers planning corporate strategy on glass boardDetermining and knowing how to scope a project is a crucial element for effective project managers. This step provides a view of the project as a whole and offers the insight needed to meet project goals and deliverables, keeping stakeholders happy. To get the most benefit, it’s important to understand what scope is, what benefits it provides, and the steps needed to scope your next project.

What Is Project Scope?

Project scope is an outline of all the objectives and goals of a project. All the information gathered is used to create a project scope statement. This is the framework used to determine the tasks required to complete a project and is a useful tool for measuring progression. The scope statement is also a collaborative document that ensures all parties are in agreement before the project begins and gives stakeholders a reference to set realistic expectations for completion. 

Why Is Scope Important in Project Management?

The scope of a project provides project managers with a full view so objectives can be broken down into assignable tasks. Starting with this document ensures an orderly schedule that consistently moves in a positive direction and provides a clear picture of project expectations. This makes it easier for an project services manager to see when there are excessive deviations from the project plan, budget, and deliverables. It also compels all stakeholders to agree on the terms of the project before it begins, ironing out any differences of opinion at a point when the plan can be easily changed.

Although scoping is a crucial element when mapping out a project, sometimes projects are started without this important step. Those projects are at higher risk for scope creep, a term used to describe a project that has strayed away from its initial objectives. Scope creep poses a serious threat to the success of a project, often entailing missed deadlines, unnecessary change requests, and blown budgets. For a project that suffers from scope creep, creating a project scope can reset project goals, restoring lost focus, and improving the eventual outcome.

How to Scope Your Project

Determining the scope of the project is a straightforward process. There are six steps you’ll need to work through to give your project the best chance for success.

1. Determine Project Requirements

The first step in the process starts with who, what, and why. You’ll need to clearly define who the stakeholders are, what results in the client’s needs, and why. Identifying your stakeholders gives you an idea of who you’ll be working with, allowing you to consider their preferences for communication and involvement. Knowing the details of the client’s vision will ensure their satisfaction once the project is complete and prevent wasting time and money on unnecessary action. Understanding why the project benefits them will influence the way you plan the project, giving you insight into the best way to deliver results. This knowledge will influence every step of the project moving forward.

2. Identify Project Goals and Objectives

With a more complete working knowledge of your project’s purpose, now it’s time to layout your objectives and goals. These should be created using the SMART guideline:

  • Specific: Each element should be clearly defined, leaving no room for ambiguity. This will save time by keeping everyone on the same page from the start of the project.
  • Measurable: Goals and objectives should allow you a way to track your progress so you can make adjustments when needed.
  • Achievable: Do you have what you need to meet project objectives and goals? Try to limit yourself to the resources at hand rather than those you may acquire later. This ensures your project doesn’t lose steam waiting on the actions of others.
  • Realistic: Are your intended project deliverables realistic? Consider possible complications and determine whether they will impact the project’s budget, deadlines, and outcome.
  • Time Frame: Make sure you schedule enough time to complete the project and include a cushion for setbacks so they don’t push back your completion date.

3. Create Your Scope Description

Now you’ll begin drafting your project scope statement. Develop a rough description that outlines the requested deliverables and all the elements needed to make the project a success. The more details you can include, the bigger impact your scope statement will have on the project. Consider your resources, such as equipment, budget, and team members, so you know what you have to work with.

4. Manage Expectations

This is an excellent time to check in with your client to ensure you’re on the right track to create and deliver a final product or service that meets their needs. Catching and ironing out miscommunication now is much easier than trying to do so once the project is already underway. This is also a good time to identify any project limitations that could affect the end result. This could include time, budget, or resource issues.

5. Risk Management

Anticipate areas that have the potential to delay your project or go over budget or that depend on someone else for completion. Make sure your scope also considers the unexpected and has some flexibility worked in for surprise setbacks.

6. Finalize With All Parties

Once you’ve completed your scope statement, take the time to go over it with all relevant parties and make sure everyone is satisfied. Have each individual or contractor sign off on the final project scope statement once everyone agrees. This will help prevent arbitrary changes and requests once the project is underway and will ensure expectations are clear from all angles.

Project Scope Management

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Now it’s important to work through a full scope management plan composed of three basic elements. This starts with the creation of your scope document to define everything needed to complete your project. This is considered the planning stage.

The next step is controlling. This involves tracking your goals and objectives, measuring their progress, and making adjustments as necessary to keep everything running smoothly.

Finally, you’ll end with the closing process. This is an opportunity to go over your final result as compared to the initial plans and audit the project as a whole. This phase will give you the best indication of whether it was a successful project and will provide information you can use to improve on future projects. The individual details of your scope management plan may vary depending on your needs, but working through a full management system will give you the best chance of satisfying project stakeholders.