Keys to Effectively Define the Scope of the Project

Keys to Effectively Define the Scope of the Project

A clear project scope is essential to the success of any project. Without this first crucial step, all subsequent hard work—and there will be much more than necessary—will most likely end in failure.

Project Scope is not the same as knowing what the project is supposed to accomplish. It’s more than that. It’s creating a clear vision and agreement on the ultimate outcome. It’s the road map that allows the entire project to stay on target.

Steps ensure a well-defined Project Scope:

  1. Identify Project Needs
    Understanding the “what and why” of a project will allow you to set specific goals and objectives. It enables the team to easily identify tasks and timelines when the Project outcomes are clear.
  2. Confirm the Objectives and Goals of the Project
    The foundation of Project Scope are the objectives and goals. It is essential that these are crystal clear because it eliminates the potential for getting off track, also known as scope creep which delays projects and can lead to budget increases. The best way to do this is to follow the SMART process, ensuring that goals are:
    • Specific—State exactly what the project is to achieve. All the what, why and how tasks will be done. This greatly reduces misunderstandings
    • Measurable—Can you provide feedback and results for the goals and objectives listed? If not, rework them.
    • Achievable—Is this project possible? Given the budget, timeline and resources allocated, can it get done?
    • Realistic—What if problems arise? Is this project sensible enough that it can be delivered easily regardless of the unknown? And will these unknowns reduce the quality of the outcome like budget overages and long delays?
    • Time Frame—Can they be met within the time frame allocated? Is it a locked timeline or is there any flexibility?
  3. Make a Resource Plan
    In project management, a resource is anything you’ll need and have available to complete a project. This is everything from budget to physical equipment to human capital. The resource plan defines these resources and also how they’ll be used. Skipping this step could cause you to find out you do not have an essential resource for your project you need down the road.
  4. Draft a Project Scope Statement
    Once you’ve done all this hard work, don’t shove it in a drawer. This statement will be the guiding beacon for your project’s progress from start to finish. It will be the touchstone you come back to when questions or problems arise. It may just be a long paragraph, a bullet list or several pages depending on the complexity of the project. owever it comes out, it should answer the following questions:
    • Why is this project happening? What are the ultimate deliverables?
    • What are the parameters? The budget, the timeline, human and other resources available. Knowing which team members are available for the project.
    • What timeline is required? When is everything due? Is this a hard and fast timeline?
    • Is there anything in the statement that is out of scope?
  5. Identify Constraints
    If you know of anything that might trip up the project in progress. Even if you aren’t ready to tackle these limitations before the project begins, knowing them going into to the project will help you with not being blindsided by these constraints. Some examples of these may be technological glitches or lack of resources.
  6. Establish a Change Control Process
    If you are managing a complex project, there will be changes. It’s guaranteed. It could be an overly-ambitious timeline or customer feedback that indicates a new business direction. Doing the balancing act between the flexibility for change when necessary and avoiding scope creep is critical. Creating a process to handle evaluation of requested changes and implementation of them will save you a lot of time and frustration down the line. It will also give you a documented process if any changes affect the timelines or budgets set in your Project Scope.
  7. Share your Project Scope Statement with the Team
    Once the stakeholders have seen and approved the Project Scope Statement it’s time for the unveiling to the team. They should have this at their fingertips at all times so they can reference it if t hey have questions about the overall goals and objectives.

Defining your Project Scope will set the foundation that your project will build upon. It ensures the quality of outcome you want to produce as a project manager as well as ensuring meeting all stakeholders and customer requirements. It focuses the team from the outset which will be invaluable through the entire project.