As companies increasingly utilize specialized and agile workforce arrangements, clearly defining project requirements has never been more important. Ensuring that everyone involved in a particular project understands what’s expected of them and what lies outside of their responsibilities is critical to keeping the project progressing smoothly.
Therefore, defining project scope and providing a clear project scope statement are prerequisites to project management success. As professionals improve their understanding of how to define and outline projects, it’ll be easier to organize and manage their teams.
This article serves as a guide to these two essential and interrelated concepts, allowing project managers and business leaders to clarify and plan their projects successfully. Here’s what you need to know.
What is project scope?
At its core, the project scope defines what needs to be accomplished throughout the project. It explores what the project is responsible for achieving and what lies outside the project scope. With successful project management, project scope ensures that everyone knows what they’re expected to accomplish.
Without knowing the scope of the project, it can be easy for scope creep to occur. With scope creep, a poorly defined project slowly changes to accommodate different expectations or requirements. This can make it difficult for teams to meet deadlines, avoid frustration, and it can lead to unsatisfactory experiences for everyone involved. A defined scope of work helps avoid this problem.
To help teams create effective project scopes, we discuss the core components of successful project outlines.
Essential elements of project scope
- Functional requirements: A project’s functional requirements should outline what the team needs to accomplish during each part of the project. Brainstorming about what the team needs to reach its goal can help avoid obstacles from arising. Suppose the group needs access to particular databases or other sources of information, for example. In that case, this needs to be outlined so that everyone involved knows what’s needed for the project to move forward.
- Stakeholder input: Project stakeholders should coordinate when developing the scope of work to help the team understand what needs to be accomplished during the project. Their input ensures expectations align, and there are fewer surprises upon project completion.
- Exclusions: The scope of work should include any exclusions not expected to be completed by the team. For example, consider a project that details the creation of a research paper. In this example, the group is only expected to create the actual paper, with another team designated to design campaigns and promote it. An exclusion might be the promotion of the paper. These exclusions define the boundaries of the project.
- Timelines: The scope of work should also detail the expected timeline of the project so that everyone knows when milestones and final project deliverables are expected to be completed. The work breakdown structure (WBS) can help the project manager determine important events and outline the expected timeline. This can help keep the project on track and moving forward.
- Deliverables: Defining deliverables will allow stakeholders to know what to expect at the end of the project. For example, if the deliverables include a website, report, or executed campaign, everyone involved knows what the project team will produce.
What is a project scope statement?
The project scope statement defines what the team will produce and outlines how they will complete the project. While the scope of work defines the work to be completed and the timeline to do so, the project scope statement creates a thorough map of how the team will complete the project.
This document provides more detail about not only the project’s purpose but also how the team will successfully navigate the project and produce the final results. When creating a project scope statement, there are a few key elements that project managers, stakeholders, and other leaders need to consider.
You should include these key elements in your scope management strategy to ensure that everyone understands what’s involved. Use them to create a template that can guide the project plan now and in the future.
What to include in a project scope statement
- Purpose and justification: The purpose and justification outline the reason for the project. Teams won’t be assigned projects without them fulfilling a particular need, so this portion of the statement should work to understand and define project objectives. Answer “why” in this portion so that everyone understands the goals the company wants to accomplish. For example, the purpose might be to improve customer feedback, leverage new capabilities to improve market share, or build an online presence on a new platform.
- Description: The project’s description will have considerable overlap with the project scope. In this portion of the statement of work, the team should define what the project will consist of and what it’s not designed to do. This includes the type of work included and what the team members should accomplish by the project’s end.
- Success and evaluation criteria: The success and evaluation criteria should outline how the team will evaluate the project and how key stakeholders will officially accept it. For example, suppose the project consists of collecting data and analyzing it for a research report. In that case, the evaluation criteria might include reviewing the methods used to collect and analyze the data. Other projects might require review and sign-off from someone at the company or a project functionality test to ensure that the final deliverable works. You should also note measurable and trackable data points. The guidelines used for the acceptance criteria should be clearly outlined and defined. Similarly, knowing how stakeholders might submit a change request can improve communication.
- Known constraints and risks: Identifying likely challenges or obstacles that might arise during the project also plays an important role in creating a project scope statement. If the team has predetermined likely challenges, it will be easier to brainstorm solutions to these obstacles, account for likely problems in their timeline, or otherwise prepare for potential risks. This improves the chances of keeping the project on track and moving forward. It will also help stakeholders prepare for potential problems so that they aren’t taken by surprise.
- Milestones and deliverables: Finally, the statement should outline the milestones that the team is expected to meet, the timeline, and what will be produced at each milestone and for a final deliverable. Outlining and defining milestones keeps everyone on the same schedule and reduces miscommunication.
Get the talent to succeed at any scope
For project teams and stakeholders, project scope and a project scope statement provide immense benefits. These interconnected pieces of project management and project planning ensure that everyone involved knows what’s expected of them and how they’ll progress. This reduces misunderstandings, improves communication, creates timelines, and helps avoid frustrating project creep.
The more that project managers understand the importance of these concepts and how to incorporate them into their leadership, the easier they’ll find it to keep everyone on track and set project goals.
As you work to build highly skilled teams to manage the various elements of your modern business, Upwork can connect you with the independent professionals you need. Our platform makes it easy to sort through a global talent pool, review portfolios, and find the workers who’ll best complement your team for your specific project. By combining this potential with project scope and project scope statements, you can accomplish even more with your organization.
Get This Article as a PDF
For easy printing, reading, and sharing.