Project Scope 101

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Defining the project scope is a critical part of the project planning process. That’s because the project scope defines the boundaries of what will and won’t be part of the project work, which is very important when making the project budget and schedule.

So, naturally, scope management is a very important area of project management and there’s a lot to learn about it. But before we jump into that, let’s start with the definition of project scope.

ProjectManager's Gantt chart showing the project scopeProjectManager's Gantt chart showing the project scope

Manage and execute your project scope with ProjectManager’s Gantt charts. Try it out with a free 30-day trial!

What Is Project Scope?

The project scope is the total amount of work that needs to be done to complete a project. It’s also one of the triple constraints of project management. Defining scope is part of the project planning process and helps project managers determine what the project goals, deliverables, tasks, costs and deadlines are.

The project scope is usually defined in a document called scope statement, while the scope management plan explains how it will be controlled. Let’s learn about these important project management documents.

Project Scope Statement

As mentioned above, the scope statement is the project management document that describes the scope of a project.

A scope statement usually includes the following elements:

  • Project Goals & Objectives: The project requirements or acceptance criteria.
  • Project Deliverables: The outcomes of project tasks.
  • Project Exclusions & Constraints: As a project manager you need to explain what can’t be done and why.
  • Project Assumptions: Some inital assumptions that the project management team has before executing the work.
  • Project Milestones: These mark important moments in your project life cycle, such as the end of a phase.
  • Scope Baseline: Your original scope as you planned it. The scope baseline allows you to compare actual results against what it’s in your scope statement.

The scope statement is also a guideline for the project manager. It helps them make decisions about change requests throughout the project life cycle. Change is an inevitable part of any project, no matter how thorough your project plan is, so you want to include the likelihood for change in your scope statement to better manage it later.

Scope Management Plan

The scope management plan is an element of the project plan. It includes the scope statement as well as the action plan that the project team will take to monitor and control the project scope.

How To Define Project Scope

Defining project scope means more than just identifying all tasks, deliverables, milestones and dependencies. Follow these steps to have a more holistic view of your project scope.

1. Define Project Goals & Objectives

Project goals and project objectives are not the same thing. Goals are higher-level than objectives, which are more specific. They must be defined in a project charter during the project initiation phase.

2. Collect Project Requirements

Project requirements can also be found in the project charter. Stakeholders have quality, financial, and other types of project requirements. Those requirements will help you define what can and can’t be included in your scope.

3. Project Exclusions & Constraints

Project exclusions refer to anything that will not be done. Determining that is just as important as defining the scope. That will help you avoid any misunderstandings with project stakeholders. It’s also important to note any important constraints such as costs that might affect the project scope.

4. Define Tasks & Deliverables

A work breakdown structure (WBS) is a planning tool that helps project managers visualize all the tasks required to complete a project, organize them by hierarchy and identify dependencies and deliverables.

5. Make a Resource Management Plan

Now that you’ve identified your project tasks, it’s time to determine what resources will be needed to execute them. This includes team members, equipment and materials. You’ll need to allocate those resources to accomplish every task in your project scope. Estimate these costs and add them to your project budget.

6. Change Control Process

The project scope can be negatively impacted when changes such as new project requirements go unnoticed. That’s because they create extra work which is not accounted for. That’s called scope creep. To avoid it, you need change control procedures such as change requests so that the project team can adjust the scope management plan.

Now that you have defined your project scope, you’ve completed the first step in the scope management process.

Scope Management Process

Scope management is one of the most critical areas of project management because managing a project is really managing its scope. That’s because scope management consists in achieving the goals of the project within the time and budget approved by the stakeholders. But those decisions are not necessarily binding. Things change, of course, but you have to make sure those changes are aligned with the stakeholder’s project goals.

3 elements of project scope including definition, training, and communication3 elements of project scope including definition, training, and communication

Managing project scope means from the start that you and the stakeholders have a clear line of communication. You have to know their vision to know what they’re expecting in a project. That way, when change happens you can direct it to meet the project’s goals while keeping the overall project on track. But that’s just the beginning.

To manage the scope of the project, you have to do five things:

  1. Define the Project Scope
  2. Write a Scope Statement
  3. Create a Scope Management Plan
  4. Define a Scope Baseline to Control Scope
  5. Monitor and Control your Project Scope During Project Life Cycle

Pro tip: Scope Management is defined as a project management knowledge area by the project management institute (PMI).

How to Manage Scope with ProjectManager

ProjectManager has a bevy of tools to help managers track their project scope. First and foremost, from a project manager’s perspective, is our online Gantt chart. Use our Gantt chart to create a project plan, where all of your scoped tasks are scheduled with assignees and deadlines. Plus, our Gantt charts feature progress bars that update in real time as team members complete their tasks, so you have utmost transparency.

gantt chart for managing scopegantt chart for managing scope
ProjectManager’s Interactive Gantt Chart

Task Management Features for Doing the Work

ProjectManager comes with three different views for working on tasks. The Gantt, which we mentioned, kanban boards and task lists. All three views can be used to work on the same project, which means team members can work on the project tasks their own way. This flexibility improves productivity across the team, making sure that you avoid the dreaded scope creep.

task list for managing project scopetask list for managing project scope
Task management tools for enhanced collaboration and productivity.

Project Dashboards for Better Tracking

Dashboards are your best friend when you’re trying to spot scope creep. Our real-time project dashboard gives you a live look at critical metrics across your project. This live data lets you spot bottlenecks and issues faster than you would have thought possible. Plus, it’s all displayed in simple graphs that can easily be shared with stakeholders or team members.

Dashboard for tracking scope creepDashboard for tracking scope creep

The best way to manage scope in a project is to have an online project management tool that gives you real-time data so you can act when issues arise and before they become problems. ProjectManager is cloud-based, so when your team updates their statues, from wherever they are and at whatever time, that information is immediately updated and you can monitor the progress of your project more accurately. See for yourself by taking this free 30-day trial

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