Project Scope

Keeping your projects focused and on-budget requires a well-defined scope of work.

Get Started with Mavenlink

What is "Project Scope"?

If you’ve ever worked on a project, odds are you’ve heard the term “Project Scope.”
It is possibly the most crucial element of effective project management. It’s the blueprint for success. Here are the most essential things that you need to understand about ‘scope’ and what it means to your projects and your business.

Let’s start by defining project scope.

What is Project Scope?

The word scope is defined as “the extent of the area or subject matter that something deals with or to which it is relevant.” In relation to a project, it can be defined as all of the activities, resources, and other factors that are to be involved in the execution of a project and its deliverables, to be considered a success. In other words, the project scope defines what is to be included in a project and what is not.

Why is Project Scope Necessary?

Project scope ensures that all stakeholders, including project teams, sponsors, vendors, and customers, have a clear understanding of their roles and expectations. Without project scope, there is a significant amount of room for uncertainty, misunderstandings, conflict, and scope creep. All of which increase the chance for project failure. One of the most important documents in solidifying your project scope is the Statement Of Work (SOW). This document is used to define your project and all of the criteria that will be measured to determine if the project has met the intended objectives.

Statement of Work (SOW)

This document outlines the work to be completed, the purpose, and all of the requirements at a high level. The goal for the SOW is to provide clarity concerning the nature of the work, timing, location, each participant’s role, how to reduce disputes, and how to increase success rates. There are some key elements that should be included that help to set expectations, provide assurances, improve accountability, and remove any ambiguity that might exist.

Here are some of the key pieces of information you should incorporate in the SOW.

  • Nature of work to be completed and desired goals Within an introduction, there should be a summary of the type of work to be completed within the project. Outline the start and end date of the project, the purpose of the project, and all of the goals. This is intended to give a high-level view of the project and should not be extremely detailed. It should, however, be clear and concise. It should provide all participants with a core understanding of what the project is about, goals, and the approach used to meet the deliverables.

  • Names and roles of all key stakeholders All participants and the roles that they will play in the project should be outlined in this section. Include each person’s full name, their position, their department or functional unit, and the role they will play within the project. Make sure to include what output (product or service) they are expected to provide.

  • Deliverables This section should give a brief outline of precisely what needs to be delivered to the client. Make sure to provide an accurate description of the intended deliverable. This determines the criteria for success and must be accurate. Include not only the deliverable(s) but also any other criteria, such as the measure of quality and methods for delivery.

  • Timelines On-time delivery is a key factor in project scope and successful delivery. Clearly setting out the due dates of key tasks and milestones is essential to being able to deem a project successful. Make sure to set out a detailed schedule to set expectations.

  • Payment or other terms Payment due dates, terms, and methods of payment should be identified in this section to ensure all parties are on the same page.

  • Success criteria This is an important section of the SOW and should be used to provide all parties with a solid understanding of what success means. Carefully document all of the factors that determine the successful delivery of a product or service as this will be used to measure whether the goals of a project have been met or not.

  • Assumptions There are always other factors that might impact the true definition of success such as timely communication, productivity levels, labor or supply shortages, changes to a company’s internal or external environment, and so on. Identify the factors that might have an impact on meeting your project goals and document the necessary assumptions around these. As an example, a common assumption might be that all stakeholders respond to emails within 24 hours.

  • Other information Depending on the nature of the project, it may be necessary to provide other information such as the location of the work to be completed, the equipment to be used, or other optional factors that might impact the success of the project.

In addition to the Statement of Work, another important document is the Scope of Work. Here’s what you need to know about it.

Scope of Work

Once a company has selected a vendor or contractor to complete a project, the Scope of Work is completed by the vendor and signed by both parties. As a more comprehensive aspect of the Statement of Work, a Scope of Work document details each of the tasks that a vendor has agreed to perform to meet all of the identified objectives, as well as how the work will be completed. Addressing the elements in the SOW, the Scope of Work is a more thorough and detailed breakdown. Specifications, resources, and methods are spelled out in this document. It is, in essence, an agreement between a company and the selected vendor. The Scope of Work contents can differ depending on the specific project goals or requirements agreed to between the customer and vendor.

Project Scope Management involves so much more than just developing these documents. From the start of a project to the close, the scope of a project must be effectively planned, managed, validated, and controlled. Here’s how.

Project Scope Management

In order to meet a project’s deliverable(s), it is vital that a project manager and his or her team effectively manage all aspects of the project scope from start to finish. Project Scope Management involves six steps that each include specific inputs, tools, and techniques to create a Scope Management Plan.

1. Planning scope management - In this step, the scope management plan is developed to provide guidance for the project. The plan outlines how a project will be defined as well as how it will be validated and controlled. The Project Charter and Project Management Plan are used as inputs to create the Scope Management Plan.

2. Collecting requirements - To accurately meet project goals, you and your project team must identify, document, and manage project and business requirements. Similar to step 1, the Project Charter and Project Management Plan are used as inputs as well.

3. Defining the scope of your project - This step involves defining the scope of a project and provides the foundation that guides all tasks and project activities by setting out the deliverables, quality, schedule, costs, and much more. Project scope identifies what is to be included in the project, or not included. All the project parameters are outlined in this document. Inputs for defining the project scope include the Project Charter, Project Management Plan, Scope Management Plan, and other documents.

4. Creating a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) - To effectively manage a project and its deliverables, all project work is divided into smaller and more manageable components, referred to as a Work Breakdown Structure. Inputs for the WBS include the Project Management Plan and Scope Management Plan, in addition to other documents.

5. Validating project scope - Knowing whether your project is on the right track means being able to validate project scope by being able to formally accept deliverables. Inputs for validating scope include the Project Management Plan, Scope Management Plan, and Requirements Management Plan.

6. Controlling project scope - Being able to control the scope of your project and avoid scope creep means you must stay on top of any and all changes that might impact the quality of the deliverables, project costs, and delivery timeline. There are multiple essential inputs required to effectively control project scope, including Project Management Plan, Scope Management Plan, Requirements Management Plan, and Change Management Plan.

Developing a solid Statement of Work and Scope of Work, as well as an effective project scope plan, requires that you understand your client’s needs and incorporate key elements such as the nature of work, participant names and roles, deliverables, timelines, success criteria, terms, and assumptions.

The first step toward success is using a comprehensive and flexible Statement of Work template.

Download our SOW template and start finding your success today.