Project Scope

How to Create Robust Project Scope (and Avoid Scope Creep)

As a project manager, it’s your responsibility to guide projects from inception to completion in an ordered way, while keeping your team updated and on course. An accurate project scope is an essential first step to achieve this goal. Let’s look at what it should look like, how you can create one, and how you can manage it.

What Is Project Scope?

Project scope refers to the shape and boundaries of a project. It encapsulates the entire requirements, as laid out by the client or relevant stakeholders. All of the specific goals, deliverables, tasks, costs, and deadlines fit within the project scope.

A clear understanding of the project scope can empower project managers to create an accurate plan and steer the project as required. It’s also critical to keep the team informed and working in a cohesive, uniform fashion.

What Is Scope Creep?

A good understanding of  project scope can help prevent scope creep. When scope creep occurs, revised requirements and needs are introduced to the project while it’s in progress, which can create more work for your team, demotivate them, and ultimately reduce the quality of your output.

Scope creep is most likely to occur when the project scope is poorly defined due to mismanagement and/or poor communication, and it can be very dangerous. To avoid the risk of scope creep, project managers must clearly communicate with their clients and stakeholders, so they can understand their requirements and get a crystal-clear idea of the objective.

Once these requirements have been agreed upon, the project can efficiently move forward without any unexpected surprises along the way.

How to Write a Project Scope Statement

We’ll take a look at some project scope templates later, but for now, we’re going to learn more about the steps you should take when writing a winning project scope. They’ll serve as the perfect starting point for your project. This project scope will also reduce the confusion caused by scope creep.

Step 1: Collect the information you need to define the purpose.

The first step is to collect the brief and communicate with the relevant stakeholders. Then you can gather all of the high-level information you need about the project. This information will help you define the overall purpose of the project, which will give you and your team a sense of context and drive.

Ideally, you should be able to articulate the purpose in one sentence. If not, your ideas might be too spread out, which can lead to scope creep.

Step 2: Write down the precise objectives of the project.

Now that you have an idea of the “north star” for the project, you’ll want to think about the various objectives you’ll aim to fulfil after you complete it.

Let’s imagine that your marketing team has been tasked with developing a new explainer video for your service. You should define a series of precise objectives that can help you assess how successful the project is. These objectives  could include a certain number of views, a conversion rate, or boosts to your bottom line. The possibilities are endless.

Step 3: Explore the tasks you must complete to achieve the objective.

Now that you have an understanding of why you’re embarking on the project and what you hope to achieve, it’s time to think about the tasks you’ll need to complete along the way to secure success.

Using the same example above, you’ll want to ensure that your team accomplishes a series of key tasks along the way. These tasks might include creating a script and securing the appropriate voice talent.

Step 4: Define what won’t be included in the project.

At this stage, it’s also important to stop your project from snowballing out of control. Here, you should explore what isn’t included in the scope of the project.

Let’s say the explainer video needs to include an intro and outro for your branding. Will that be a separate project, or will it be included within the original project?

To make sure everyone is on the same page and your project has a predictable scope, you’ll want to answer all of these questions as soon as possible .

Step 5: Strategize to outline specifics.

Now that you have an idea of exactly what you’re hoping to achieve, it’s time to think about specifics. They’ll vary according to the specific team members, your management style, and the client you’re working with.

During this stage, some organizations will want a detailed budget proposal, in addition to a rigid project timeline. You should judge which information you’ll need while you’re consulting with your stakeholders.

Step 6: Collect input from stakeholders and agree on success criteria.

Now that you’ve written the project scope, you’ll want to share it and secure buy-ins from your stakeholders.

Many templates include a section that requires signatures from the parties who are commissioning the project. This step ensures that everything has been clearly read and understood, drives accountability, and protects you and your team from the consequences of scope creep.

Step 7: Refine and share.

While the consultation process may continue, you’ll eventually have a rigid project scope that will guide your project. Congratulations!


How to write a project scope statement

Now it’s time to think about the channels you have available to you for sharing your project scope and securing buy-ins from your team.

Project Scope Management

So you’ve developed a robust project scope. What’s next?

In theory, the project scope should clarify that your project will be clear, so you can easily guide your team to success. But you’ll understand that the reality is often very different.

The need for ongoing project scope management

Even in the face of the most robust project scope statement, complex projects, multiple stakeholders, changes, and developments are to be expected.

To avoid scope creep, you’ll have to carefully manage your project scope on an ongoing basis. By keeping a vigilant eye on the progress of your project scope, you’ll be able to notice exactly when your project could deviate from the established route.

By acting quickly, you’ll be able to resolve these moments before they become issues, and rescue your project before it seriously gets derailed.

How to manage your project scope

Here are a few techniques you can use to monitor your project scope and ensure the project is in harmony with it:

1. Conducting regular assessments

With this tactic, you can compare the status of your project with the initial project scope. A team can quickly get derailed by a new task or piece of feedback, so if you constantly review everything, you can see how your course is developing.

2. Establishing frequent milestones

Imagine milestones as high-altitude points that allow you to review the landscape. By establishing these points at regular intervals, you’ll encourage yourself and your team to assess your progress and define the exact ways you’re moving toward your final goal.

3. Managing your managers

Since all of your team members value their time, you’ll want to make sure you have regular facetime with them to get  updates. Then you can determine whether the project is still moving according to their needs, and that no high-level conversation has changed the context you’re working in.

What Elements Should Your Project Scope Statement Include?

As a minimum, project managers should include a series of key information in their project scope statement. While the focus can be widened according to specific needs of an institutions or project, each statement should at least include the following:

Project Purpose

The purpose statement should succinctly outline what the project hopes to achieve.

Project Objectives

The objectives of the project should be listed in a logical order.  

Project Tasks

The tasks involved in executing the project should also be outlined as succinctly and comprehensively as possible.

Excluded Scope

The tasks and objectives that are outside the scope of the project should be clearly outlined.

Approval

To give stakeholders space to confirm the project scope statement is correct, the approval provisions should be included here.

Filestage’s Project Scope Template

To help you develop a robust project scope, we’ve put together this free project scope template for you.

project scope template

(To get your Google Docs copy, simply click the Google Docs button that appears after leaving your email address, then create a copy of the file in Google Drive or a similar program.  At this point, you’ll have complete control over your copy, which will free you up to make adjustments according to your needs.)

You’ll find that all of the key areas are covered on this template, as well as some key tips at the bottom of it. By using this template, we hope you can create a truly fruitful project scope statement.

4 Project Scope Templates You Can Use

Looking for some more project scope templates that can provide you with some more inspiration and help you to create your own? Here is a look at some of the additional resources available out there.

1. Scope Statement Template from MyPM

Scope Statement Template

You can download this template from MyPM as either a Word or PDF document. The variety of fields they offer differ from the other options on this list, which demonstrates the way the best project scope statements can be specifically adjusted to your needs.

This particular template includes a section for project assumptions that frequently aren’t included in other templates. By leaving no stone unturned, you can secure an even deeper consensus about the concrete specifics of a project.

2. Simple Project Scope Statement from ProjectBliss

Simple Project Scope Statement

While this Word document from ProjectBliss is pretty basic, it helps you ensure you hit all of the key points in your project scope statement. And there are additional tips at the bottom of the template. Generally, it also demonstrates that concise, accurate content is more important than flashy designs or overly verbose language.

3. Project Scope Template from NHS Education for Scotland

Project Scope Template

This project scope template from NHS Education for Scotland (direct download) is a simple template that hits on the key areas we’ve already explored.

You’ll find that it also demonstrates how project scope templates can be adjusted to meet the specific needs of a given organization or project. The final two sections in this template reference similar projects, which illustrates the way the project will impact initiatives for equality and diversity.

To meet the needs of your organization and team, you can integrate similar considerations into your project scope template.

4. Project Scope Statement from Project Management Docs

Project Scope Statement Template

Another project scope statement  as a Word doc, this option from Project Management Docs is free to use and adapt.

This template is interesting to consider, as it shows just how verbose and lengthy some project scope statements can be. The diversity and amount of information here is an intriguing aspect of it that gives you an alternative viewpoint of a project scope statement.

Each section comes with an explanation and sample information that helps you  complete the statement according to your specific needs.

3 Project Scope Examples

Ready to check out other examples that will provide inspiration for your project scope? Here’s a closer look at templates provided by third parties:

1. Project Scope Statement from Examples.com

Project Scope Statement

This resource from Examples.com collates a range of quality samples and explores the concept of project scope in further depth. The additional information can help you refine your expertise in this area, while the supplementary examples will help you compound your knowledge.

One such example is the downloadable “Pathways Initiative” file.  You’ll see that this example begins with a succinct, clear description. The deliverables are outlined in simple bullet points, while the project acceptance criteria uses quantifiable goals.

The exclusions and constraints related to the project are also outlined in bullet points, so every stakeholder can understand the factors that will limit and define the project.

This resource covers a lot of ground, so be sure to take your time and think about the way each particular example might relate to your needs. It also provides a lot of potential best practices to incorporate into your  work.

2. Project Scope Example from Template Lab

Project Scope Example

You’ll find that Template Lab’s deep dive into project scope is prefaced by 11 examples in various formats. These documents can be downloaded and studied at your leisure. You could even incorporate elements of these docs into a template you develop yourself. Template Lab also provides an alternative perspective about what a project scope statement is, as well as the steps required to create one.

3. Project Scope Statement from Wiley Online LIbrary

Project Scope Statement Example

Looking for a more literary explanation of a project overview? The Wiley Online Library hosts this wonderful resource that takes a more academic approach.  

If you enjoy learning by reading, you might find this resource resonates more deeply with you. They’ve created an evocative scenario that really helps you put yourself in the shoes of a project manager tasked with creating this kind of statement.

Conclusion

The ability to create a robust and effective project scope can have huge impact on your project’s progress and lifecycle. Getting it right means building a robust project foundation. Hence, you should make sure that you spend enough time writing your project scope statement.

If you’re looking for additional insights about project management, be sure to check out our blog.

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