What Is Project Scope Management? An Overview

Matthew George | Tuesday, August 3, 2021

What Is Project Scope Management? An Overview

You have a clear idea of what you need. You know how you're going to achieve it and the time you have available to pull it off. Everyone involved uses their resources as allocated, follows the plan to the letter, and finishes their part of the project on schedule.

At least, that's the dream.

Unfortunately, as many project managers know, that's often not the case. Scope creep--adding objectives after the project has already commenced--is one of the most common causes of project failure, and it happens all the time.

The good news? You can conquer scope creep. It just takes a bit of planning--and project scope management. Here's what you need to know to get your project off on the right foot.

What is Project Scope Management?

Project scope management is the earliest phase of project management, the process in which you document all the goals, deliverables, tasks, deadlines, and budgets involved in the whole project. More specifically, it clarifies the project scope.

Your project scope is what the project is about--and what it's not about. Basically, you use your project scope to set clear boundaries for the project's deliverables and expectations so that you know what you're working toward. Project scope management is the process of defining your scope during the planning process.

Project Scope in the Project Life Cycle

In the project life cycle, the project scope is your first concern.

Let's say you're planning to debug your software. This is business, of course, so you need to be efficient as well as effective. Project scope allows you to clearly define what rabbits you're chasing and which ones you're letting go. That way, you can focus on what really matters in a project and demonstrate clear success.

Why is Project Scope So Important for Project Managers and Stakeholders?

Whether you're facing tight deadlines or a yearlong project, project management is absolutely critical, and project scope management is what keeps you focused.

Project management provides clear objectives, insight into the entire project process, and a toolkit for optimal efficiency. Project scope management gets you organized before project management can begin in earnest. This is the time when you set your objectives and metrics for success--which makes it easier to know what success looks like.

With successful project scope management, you can avoid a number of common project management issues, including:

  • Constantly changing deliverables and deadlines
  • Falling behind on deadlines
  • Pivoting a project when you're already halfway through
  • Going over budget
  • Completing a project only to realize you didn't create what you planned

Project scope management clears the air in advance. Before you even begin, you'll clarify what is needed and what isn't, what is expected and what isn't. Rather than cobbling time, labor, and cost as you go, you can clearly lay out all three. That way, you can refer to those expectations throughout the project to stay on track, eliminating costly revisions along the way that result in a project that wasn't part of the original plan.

To put it bluntly? Scope creep is expensive, and it almost always happens because of unclear initial expectations.

3 Steps in Project Scope Management

There are several processes involved in project scope management, but they can be boiled down into three basic steps:

  1. Define your needs
  2. Define your objectives
  3. Define your scope

First, you define your needs. This is the time to do market research, to figure out what product is missing from your toolkit, to figure out what problem you're trying to solve.

Next is your objectives, i.e. your deliverables. Once you know what you need, you can decide what deliverables will address that need. Be as specific as possible in explaining what you want from the deliverable and how it will meet your needs in the minutest sense.

After that, you're ready to define your project scope. This is when you calculate the time and resources needed to create the deliverables and meet your needs. Like your deliverables, your scope should be as specific as possible.

How is the Project Scope Defined?

Since the terms of the project all boil down to the project scope, you have to define your project scope successfully. Your scope statement is the tool that makes it possible.

A scope statement defines the work you're getting paid to do. This is the project's universal reference document--if anything is unclear, the scope statement is what you use to clarify it. When things go off the rails, the scope statement gets them back on track. So if the wording isn't clear in the scope statement, you're going to run into issues further down the line.

It's easy to write a bad scope statement, but good scope statements take some legwork.

How to Write a Great Scope Statement

Every good scope statement has the following elements:

  • Business case
  • List of deliverables or product description (or both)
  • Success criteria
  • Project exclusions
  • Project limitations (resources, budget, time--any parameter that cannot be adjusted)
  • Assumptions

Like your needs and objectives, your scope statement should be as clear and specific as possible. This eliminates any margin of error or misunderstanding that may arise further down the line.

The Training You Need for Outstanding Project Management

To put it simply, project scope management is what sets your projects up for success. But in order to pull it off, you need the right training and tools to get started.

That's where we come in, with IT project management training that helps you deliver quality results every time. Whether you want to pass a PWP exam or just help your next project run smoothly, we have training that can help you meet your goals. Check out our available courses and learn what you need to make your next project a runaway success.