How to write a project scope (a short but compelling approach)

Outlining the boundaries of your project is a vital part of project management. Knowing where your project starts and ends clears the path for your team and other stakeholders to achieve success. An effective way of doing that is by defining your project scope.  

If you have been struggling to keep your team on track, stay on budget and meet your project’s deliverables in time, it’s time to define your project’s scope. This has the power to decrease the uncertainty of your project’s timeline and keep all stakeholders and team members well-informed of their roles. 

In this article, you will learn how to define and manage your project scope.

What is the scope of a project?

The scope of a project outlines the goals, deadlines, and project deliverables that your team has to fulfill. Clarifying your project scope ensures that no one will miss deadlines or be forced to overwork. 

A document that defines the project scope is called a scope statement and can be treated as an instruction manual for your project plan. 

However, you can’t prepare your project scope document in isolation. Instead, gather the input of all the project stakeholders to ensure everyone is on the same page. An effective scope statement explains the project boundaries, establishes procedures, and sets responsibilities for every project team member.  

What is scope creep? 

A good understanding of project scope can help prevent scope creep. When scope creep occurs, revised requirements and needs are repeatedly introduced to the project while it’s already in progress. This creates more work for your project team, demotivates them, and ultimately reduces 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. Therefore, project managers must clearly communicate with both their clients and stakeholders to understand their requirements and get a crystal-clear idea of the objectives to avoid the risk.

Once these requirements are settled, the project can efficiently move forward without any surprises along the way.

How do you write a project scope?

We’ll take a look at some effective project scope templates later, but for now, we’re going to learn more about the steps of writing a successful project scope. They’ll serve as the perfect starting point for your project planning. This project scope will also reduce unnecessary confusion that is caused by scope creep.

Writing a project scope

Step 1: Collect purposeful information

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 project’s goals and overall purpose, giving you and your project team a sense of context.

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: Outline the goals of the project

Now that you have an idea of the “north star” for the project, you’ll want to think about the various project goals you’ll aim to fulfill upon completion.

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

Step 3: Explore deliverables 

The biggest challenge of project management is to stay on schedule. But your team cannot do that without defining deliverables. So, with the assistance of the key stakeholders, a project manager prepares a list of project deliverables. Then, they articulate the specific items that they will produce and deliver to their clients. Document these items at the top of your scope statement, keeping them measurable and tangible. 

Prepare a separate document with the work detail structure and outline the specific activities that need to be performed to achieve the deliverables within the project budget. 

Step 4: Define exclusions  

As important as it is to know what’s included in the project scope, you also need to define what is excluded. Exclusions consist of deliverables that are not part of the project. Defining exclusives ensures that everyone working on the project has a clear idea of what not to expect as the project outcome. So, when defining exclusions, be thorough about what you have to offer and what your in-house team or agency might mistake as part of the project. This clarity helps prevent scope creep.

Step 5: Draft your project scope statement   

Now that you have sorted all the details of the scope of your project, you can start drafting your scope statement. The list will include the project justification, primary project objective, and project assumptions. 

Additionally, it will account for all the involved stakeholders, project deliverables, roles and responsibilities of every individual, project constraints and boundaries, exclusions, and all other necessary information. Don’t forget to mention all of the risks that can cripple the successful completion of your project.  

Step 6: Collect feedback from stakeholders

Now that you’ve written the project scope, you’ll want to share it and secure approvals 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. It drives accountability and protects you and your team from the consequences of scope creep.

Filestage helps you share files and collect clear feedback from stakeholders in an organized way. 

Filestage - collect feedback from stakeholders

Step 7: Include a change control process. 

Large projects have multiple moving parts that might not always work as you plan. Despite all of your efforts to keep the project on track, there is still a possibility that you will need to make last-minute changes to the process. Project managers submit change requests to stakeholders to make edits to the pre-defined project scope. Then it is up to the stakeholders to approve or deny the requests.

Step 8: Share with the team for final approval. 

Once you have drafted your project’s scope statement, you will need to get the final approval of your team to ensure you haven’t forgotten anything. It might sound like a hassle to connect with all the team members separately and then note their feedback. 

However, you can simplify and automate this process using online proofing software like Filestage. Filestage provides you with a structured, easy, and fast way to get feedback and approvals on files. 

What is included in project scope statements? 

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

Project scope statement outline

Project objectives 

Before you start your project, do you know what outcome you intend to get out of it on completion? Well, that is exactly what your project objectives are. They tell your team what they need to achieve by the end of your project. 

This might include deliverables and assets or more intangible objectives like increasing productivity or motivation. Your project goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-bound.

Project justification 

When you define project justification in your scope statement, you explain to your stakeholders why your organization needs to implement a specific solution to a problem. Moreover, you will also describe the process of implementation. 

As a project justification, you provide an analysis of your project and give an evaluation and interpretation of all the deliverables of the project.

Project deliverables 

You’re obviously planning a project because you expect to achieve certain outcomes. These items are called project deliverables, and they are equally important elements as project objectives. 

Project deliverables can be either services or products. For instance, project deliverables of a construction project could include: 

  • Engineering report
  • Proposal
  • Design drawings
  • Blueprint

Either way, it is essential to define them because your team will have no direction without them. In addition, a work breakdown structure can effectively help you understand the deliverables.

Exclusions 

Exclusions consist of a list of everything that lies outside the scope of your project. Project managers create this list with the assistance of stakeholders and their team members. 

This helps the project sponsors to know what they shouldn’t expect as a deliverable of the project. So, only the items mentioned in the deliverables are part of the project, and the ones mentioned as exclusions are outside of the project’s scope.

Project constraints 

Constraints are the limiting factors that might impact the delivery, quality, and overall success of your project. There can be dozens of project constraints to consider. However, the six most well-recognized and accepted ones are cost, risk, benefits, quality, scope, and time.

Project assumptions 

While you’re outlining all the factors and possibilities that will be a part of your project, you also need to list the factors that can occur during the project life cycle. Project assumptions include any event that is not a part of the process yet but could be in the future. Hence, it is important to communicate these possibilities to the stakeholders and your team members. 

Three compelling tips for a project scope management process

Project scope management ensures that your team effectively understands and delivers according to the scope of the project. Here are several ways to ensure that’s the case for your project. 

Write a clear and concise scope statement

Your scope statement needs to give a precise idea of the project to your team and stakeholders. So, you cannot afford any ambiguity when explaining different elements. The language should be clear and concise, focusing on all the requirements, processes, and outcomes of a project. 

Collaborate with your project team

Any member of your organization who is part of the project should be consulted while drafting the scope statement. You never know who can provide the input that you and the others may have missed.

Always remember that ten brains are better than one. So, no matter how sure you are about your project scope, collaborate with your project teams to gain valuable input. It’s better to ask them to show up with individual research on the project requirements. 

Consult all stakeholders before finalizing 

Remember that your stakeholders are essential contributors to your projects, so there’s no finalizing the project scope without their reviews and feedback. Their input only makes the workflow better and the result more reliable. Their input can also help you to prioritize work and tasks within the project

Moreover, stakeholders might give suggestions that help the project run more smoothly and result in better outcomes. Otherwise, you might end up with a flawed or incomplete project scope statement.  

Consult stakeholders before finalizing

Three project scope document templates you can use

Looking for a project scope template that can inspire you as you create your own? Here’s a look at some of the additional resources available out there.

1. Free scope template by Filestage 

To help you define successful project scope, we’ve put together this free project scope template. You’ll find that all of the key areas are covered by our template, as well as some key tips. By using this template, we hope you can create a truly effective project scope statement in less time and with less effort. 

FREE TEMPLATE

Get the free project scope template

2. Scope statement template from MyPM

Scope statement template - MyPM

You can download this template from MyPM as either a Word or PDF document. The variety of fields they offer differs 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 isn’t included in other templates. By leaving no stone unturned, you can secure an even deeper consensus on the concrete specifics of a project.

3. Project scope statement from Examples.com

Project scope statement - Examples.com

This resource from Examples.com collates a range of quality samples and explores the concept of project scope in further depth. The deliverables are outlined in simple bullet points, while the project acceptance criteria use 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 in reflecting on how each particular example might relate to your needs. It also provides a lot of potential best practices to incorporate into your work.

What is a project scope example? 

So you can understand the look of a final project scope statement, here is an example of project scope for “building a new office block”. 

Project scope for building a new office block

Project objective: 

In this project, ABC construction company will be building a new office block for XYZ company’s office with the objective to accommodate more employees in the building. Furthermore, ABC will ensure that the design of this block is built to fit the maximum number of employees.

Project justification:

Since XYZ’s current office space is small for the growing number of employees in the organization, XYZ requires more space to accommodate them. 

Project deliverables: 

  • A blueprint for the new office block 
  • Construction of 4 rooms, a shared bathroom, and a spacious hallway 
  • Installation of flooring and windows

Exclusions: 

  • Painting of the exterior and the interior walls 
  • Separate bathrooms for every room
  • Installation of the electrical system

Project constraints: 

  • The project has a defined budget and cannot exceed it.
  • The construction needs to be completed within two months.
  • Snowfall might interfere with the construction.

Project assumptions:

  • The project might extend to 15 more days. 
  • The construction company might need to hire additional workers.

Conclusion

Your project scope needs to explain every bit and aspect of the work involved at every step of your project. Missing any element can compromise the efficiency of work. 

Moreover, since the team will refer to this document as a guideline, it needs to be easy to understand and scannable at a glance. Be sure to share the draft of the project scope statement by distributing copies amongst the team and stakeholders in the early phase of the project. This way, you will get everyone on the same page before you start.

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