Project Scope Management – Definition, Importance, Processes & Tips

Project scope management

A lot is being said and written about project scope management and its importance in delivering successful projects. Whether you are a newbie or seasoned project manager, the knowledge of project scope is essential to make it big in project management.

But before we get to that we need to understand what project scope is. In this post we are going to discuss everything about project scope and project scope management. 

What is project scope and project scope management? 

Let us take a look at the definitions first:

overview of project scope management

Project scope

Project scope can be defined as a part of project planning that includes figuring out and documenting a detailed list of deliverables or features that are to be involved in the execution of the project. 

In other words, project scope is defining the goals of the project and what needs to be done to achieve it

If you’ve ever worked on a project, there are good chances that you’ve heard the term project scope quite a few times. It’s probably the most decisive component of a successful project management. 

Project scope management

“Project scope management refers to the set of processes that ensure the scope of a project is accurately defined and mapped. It must include all the essential project information, not anything else in order to complete the project on time.”

Project scope management mainly revolves around controlling what is and what is not included in the project.

It plays a crucial role in helping project managers, coordinators, supervisors to focus on what’s really important for the project and allocate the right amount of work to team members that could actually help the project to be successfully completed.

To make it simpler to understand, let us compare delivering a project with constructing a building. A fence is raised around the site before the construction happens.

It is done to define the boundaries of the construction so that people involved in the construction part know where to stop. This part is called scoping.

What is scope in project management?

What is scope in project management

When we talk about scope in project management, there are two scopes we are referring to – product scope and project scope. Let’s learn about them briefly:

  • Product scope refers to the features and functions that are to be included in a product. Simply put, it is what a customer wants in a product or service. For example, if the product is a smartphone, the product scope will be its screen size, battery backup, memory, processor speed, etc.
  • Project scope refers to the work that must be done to deliver a product (or service) successfully with the specified features and functions. For example, if you’re supposed to develop a software application, the project scope is the work that has to be done to develop the software application with proper functionalities.

A lot of work such as planning, coordination, and management activities has to be done to ensure that both the product scope and the project scope are achieved.

After these are done, the completed work is compared to the actual scope of the project.

The project scope statement

The project scope statement

There are various documents in project management but the scope statement document is one of the most important project scope documents.

The scope statement is used to indicate the expected results, assumptions, constraints, and other important factors under which the project will be delivered.

It also explains the project boundaries, establishes work responsibilities of each team member, and procedures to be followed during the project lifecycle.

 It can also be referred to as the scope statement, the statement of work, or terms of reference. 

The project scope statement can include:

  • Product scope
  • Project scope
  • List of deliverables
  • Acceptance criteria
  • Project exclusions
  • Limitations
  • Assumptions 

Importance of scope project management

Importance of scope project management

With projects becoming bigger and complex, demands are increasing like never before. With every large project, you need more time, efforts, resources to make things happen. That’s why it’s important to define the scope of both the product and the project. 

It helps you to stay focused on the work included in the scope management plan and be mindful of the fact that if unexpected changes happen, they will affect time, cost, quality, resources, and even customer satisfaction.

As the information is gathered from all the stakeholders and sponsors much in advance, there are fewer chances of gathering incorrect information which could be fatal for the project success.

Thus, the role of scope project management is crucial in determining the success of a project.

Processes of project scope management

Processes of project scope management

According to the PMBOK, scope management has six processes:

  1. Planning scope management
  2. Collecting requirements
  3. Defining scope
  4. Creating the Work Breakdown Structure
  5. Validating scope
  6. Controlling scope

1. Plan scope management process

This is the first step in the project scope management process. Recently added in the fifth edition of the PMBOK, in this process, a scope management plan is created based on the input from the project plan.

The table below shows the inputs, tools, techniques, and outputs of the plan scope management process. 

Project management planExpert judgmentScope management plan
Project charterMeetingsRequirements management plan
Enterprise environmental factors
Organizational process assets

The document doesn’t have to be detailed, long, or formal. It should be well-understood by everyone and solve the purpose. 

2. Collect requirements process 

Once the idea is discussed and finalized, you need to document the needs and requirements while managing the expectations of the stakeholders.

The motive is to make an in-depth list of project requirements that leaves no rooms for confusions, errors, and unpleasant surprises in the future as the project moves through its completion stages.

The table below shows the inputs, tools, techniques, and outputs of the collection requirements process. 

Scope management planInterviewsRequirements documentation
Requirements project management planFocus groupsRequirements management plan
Stakeholder management planGroup creativity techniquesRequirements traceability matrix
Project charterSurveys
Stakeholder registerPrototypes
Diagrams and figures
Document analysis

3. Scope definition process

In this process, the collected information and details are turned into a detailed product description and even as a reference point of what’s in scope and what’s not.

In this document, the expectations and deliverables are clearly stated so that project members know exactly what is to be accomplished in what time-frame.

The table below shows the inputs, tools, techniques, and outputs of the scope definition process. 

Scope management planExpert judgmentProject scope statement
Project charterProduct analysisProject documents updates
Requirements documentationAlternatives generation
Organizational process assetsFacilitated workshops

4. Create the work breakdown structure (WBS) process

The Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) is an essential part of the scope management process. The emphasis is on breaking down the bigger tasks into manageable chunks to have a structured vision of what needs to be done. This results in better coordination and understanding of the process.

The table below shows the inputs, tools, techniques, and outputs of the work breakdown structure process.

Scope management plan DecompositionScope baseline
Project scope statement Expert judgmentProject document updates
Requirement documentation 
Enterprise environmental factors 
Organization process assets 

5. Validating scope process

This process is more about getting a sign off for deliverables from the project customers. It also involves customers giving their feedback, suggestions, and advice on the work. The process of validating the scope usually occurs at the end of each phase.

The table below shows the inputs, tools, techniques, and outputs of the validating scope process.

Project management planInspectionAccepted deliverables
Requirements documentationGroup decision-making techniquesChange requests
Requirements traceability matrixWork performance information
Validated deliverablesProject document updates
Work performance data

6. Control scope process

The control scope process is the last process of project scope management that involves monitoring of the project status and taking care of managing changes to the scope.

The table below shows the inputs, tools, techniques, and outputs of the control scope process.

Project management planVariance analysisWork performance information
Requirements documentationChange requests
Requirements traceability matrixProject management plan updates
Work performance dataProject documents updates
Organization process assetsOrganizational process assets updates

How vital is scope management for project managers?

I will start with an example straight out of our daily lives. 

How many of you buy groceries and then come back only to find that you’ve missed out on some items you really needed, and actually bought some items that you already had in stock? I’m sure most hands are raised up at the moment! 

You end up spending more money on unnecessary things, which blows up your budget. This is what happens when you do not scope the project. If you had made a list of all things you wanted and set out a budget before heading out to a grocery store then you could have saved the extra dollars and time. 

Moving on to the importance of scope management for project managers, it is a fact that some disruptions (scope creep) always spring up in the course of the project execution. Scope creep is a matter of grave concern for project managers. 

However, by managing the scope of the project, the project manager can document all resources that are required to accomplish the project goals and avoid or minimize the possibility of scope creep. 

A well-defined project scope can help project managers avoid problems like: 

  • Constantly changing requirements
  • Overspending that leads to exceeding the allocated budget
  • Delays, time wastage, and failure to meet deadlines consistently 

Poorly managed scope can hamper your project growth severely.  This process helps project managers in determining and regulating what is a part of the project and what isn’t. 

Without it, project managers would fail to make an accurate account of the amount of time, money, and human resources involved in a project. 

Project scope management tips

Taking some additional steps is always a wise decision to ensure successful project completion and delivery. I have compiled a list of useful tips that are worth considering the next time you plan for your project

Read on to know more about it. 

Tip#1 – Dedicate some time for planning the project scope

Projects will take a lot of your time, so it will be better for you and your team to set aside a few days to assess the needs of your project, the availability of resources (time, money, materials) and the goals you plan to reach. 

Tip#2 – Communicate quickly, effectively, and consistently

Choose the best tools for communication via various modes to maintain a smooth flow of communication. Ensure consistent communication between your team and clients to ensure that any updates are conveyed in time.

Tip#3 – Be mindful of essential changes

As your project moves through every stage of the process, you may face a situation where the scope will need some adjustments to be made. You can hold a meeting with your team to discuss if these changes are deemed beneficial to your project. 

Tip#4 – Put yourself in your client’s shoes

When considering minor changes to the project or suggesting suitable solutions, see things from the client’s perspective. Doing this will help to build customer’s confidence in your analysis skills, and they’ll feel their product is in competent hands. 

Tip#5 – Make it visual

Visual representations really help a lot. Customers and delivery teams have a clear understanding of what is included in the scope and what is not. Project managers can use story maps and burn-up charts to get a holistic view of what is being created. 

Last few words

Along with proper scope management strategy, you need a powerful project management software that helps you with planning, tracking, and resource allocation of a project. ProofHub is a project management and team collaboration software that enables project managers to define a project’s scope and objectives, create a timeline, set the project budget, and communicate effectively with stakeholders and clients at one place.

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