What Is Project Management Scope and Why It Is Important?

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Last updated on
12th Jul, 2022
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12th Oct, 2021
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What Is Project Management Scope and Why It Is Important?

One of the core responsibilities of a project manager is to manage the scope of the project. The PM must ensure that the project is rolled out smoothly from start to finish, and that there are no major budget overruns or schedule delays. This, of course, is easier said than done!  

Even in a project that has been discussed and documented to the last detail, issues with the scope of the project are inevitable. The requirements could undergo a change, which results in a corresponding change in the project deliverables. This results in scope creep—a scenario where the requirements increase over the lifecycle of the project, necessitating a re-evaluation of the project requirements. 

It is the project manager’s job to rein in scope creep and strike a balance between changing requirements, budget and time, while at the same time enforcing quality. In this blog, you’ll read about the various steps involved in project scope management and understand why it is so important. 

What is Project Scope?

“The work that needs to be accomplished to deliver a product, service, or result with the specified features and functions.” - PMBOK®  

By the above definition, the Scope of the project is the effort needed to deliver the project goals, with the features and functionality that has been defined.  

It involves three processes: Planning, Controlling and Monitoring, and Closing. 

1. Planning:  

The requirements for the work that needs to be done are captured and defined. 

2. Controlling and Monitoring:  

This process tracks the scope creep and approves or rejects project changes. 

3. Closing: 

Before the project is closed, a detailed audit is carried out of the project deliverables, and a comparison is made from the final outcomes against those that were originally planned. 

What is Project Scope Management?

"Managing project scope is primarily concerned with defining and controlling what is and is not included in the project.” - PMBOK® 

As we have already established, changes in scope are very common and to be expected, especially if the project is very large. During project scope management, the project goals and outcomes, the tasks needed to complete the deliverables, scheduled deadlines, and planned budgets are clearly identified, defined and documented. 

Importance of Project Scope Management

One of the most challenging (and yet, one of the most important!) responsibilities that you will have to undertake as a project manager is to manage the expectations of stakeholders and customers. If the project scope is well managed, it is easier to stay focused and on track, both in terms of time as well as budget.   

When done right, project scope management gives clarity on the time schedules, resource management and cost outlay.  It helps to mitigate risks and avoid issues like the following: 

  • Requirements that keep changing over the course of the project 
  • Budget overruns 
  • Not meeting time schedules 
  • Need for rework when the project is already halfway completed 
  • The outcome falling short of what was expected, resulting in the customers being disappointed 

The Project Scope Statement

The Project Scope Statement, also sometimes called the Scope Document or Statement of Work, is a detailed document that  

  • Lists the boundaries of the project and establishes clear responsibilities,  
  • Defines work processes and procedures for approval of the finished product, and 
  • Lays out guidelines for making decisions related to the product.  

Essentially, the Scope Statement identifies and documents the work to be done to complete the project successfully. It is important to note that when this documentation is done, team members must be very specific so that scope creep is avoided, and to make sure that the end product closely aligns with the customer requirements.

What are the Steps Involved in Project Scope Management?

Project Scope Management involves creating a plan that defines and maps the project stages, so that it does not stray outside the planned scope. 

It involves the following broad steps: 

  • Step 1: Plan the process to define the work that must be done to complete the project 
  • Step 2: Monitor and control the processes 
  • Step 3: Clearly document and track the work in order to avoid scope creep, even when changes happen 
  • Step 4: Close the project, conduct an audit of deliverables and assess the final outcomes against the initial plan. 

Steps for Defining the Scope of a Project

It is very important to spend time on defining the scope, as a poorly developed scope that is not clear, improperly detailed out or incomplete can be a leading cause of project failure. The scope definition considers all the following parameters: 

  1. Project objectives and goals 
  2. Tasks and Sub-tasks 
  3. Resources 
  4. Budget 
  5. Schedules and timelines 

After clearly establishing each of these parameters, the project boundaries must be set. This will identify all aspects that will—and will not—be included in the project. It makes clear to all stakeholders, to the management and the team what will be out of context for the project and helps avoid any ambiguity in this regard. 

Project Scope Management Processes

There are six processes involved in project scope management. Let’s look at what they are:  

Project Scope Management

1. Planning scope management 

Here, the scope plan document is created, which can be referred to through the course of the project. It is based on inputs that are gleaned from the project plan and the project charter. Stakeholders are also consulted, and their inputs considered at this stage. This document is an invaluable tool that helps to define, manage, validate and control the scope.  

2. Collecting requirements 

Next, the requirements management plan is created and documented. It is based on the scope management plan, and further takes into consideration all the inputs from stakeholders and others. The requirements are understood in depth by conducting interviews with stakeholdersconducting focus group discussions, and holding surveys. 

This step helps to avoid unrealistic expectations from stakeholders and gets everyone on the same page as to what the project entails, and what is not included. 

3. Defining the scope 

During this stage, the project scope statement is produced, and is a detailed description of the end-product or service. It considers the requirements documentation and the project charter, as also the scope management plan. It will henceforth be the basis of all the activities to be carried out and will be used as the point of reference for everyone working on the project. 

4. Creating the Work Breakdown Structure  

The Work Breakdown Structure, also called WBS, is created after a detailed analysis of all the documentation created so far the project scope statement and the requirements management plan. The project is broken down into tasks, which indicate small chunks of work that must be completed to deliver the completed product or service. Deliverables and timelines are listed out. 

To increase efficiency, many teams use project management tools at this stage, that will help to allocate resources, identify bottlenecks and prioritize tasks. 

5. Validating scope

At this stage, the scope and deliverables are inspected and reviewed by stakeholders and their approval is recorded. Before starting the project, unless the scope is validated it becomes difficult to find out where something has gone wrong. 

6. Controlling scope 

Perhaps the most difficult process is controlling the scope. If there are any changes to the project plan, a change control process should be put in place. Project managers should do all they can to ensure that the scope creep is controlled, and the project stays on track. 

Project Scope Management Tips

  • The scope statement must be defined and articulated in a way that avoids ambiguity. 
  •  Incomplete definitions lead to slips in the schedules and the budgets will be overrun as a result. Ensure that all definitions are clear, complete in all respects, and are accurate. 
  • Detail out the Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) as much as possible, so that the work gets broken down into smaller, more manageable chunks. 
  • If there is collaboration while creating the scope definitions, any misinterpretations can be avoided. Everyone will be aware of the boundaries of the scope; what it entails and what it doesn’t. At every stage, the scope document should be shared with relevant stakeholders. 
  • During the validation stage, take care to ensure all the important stakeholders have their say. Once the project scope is defined, it cannot be changed.  
  • Once the scope document is created, it should be frozen, and no alterations are permitted while executing the project. There should be no interim increase in the scope. 

Closing Thoughts 

The importance of project scope management can never be underestimated. It takes a great deal of patience, time and painstaking effort; but when conducted properly, it ensures that the project deliverables are met, without undue risks or unmanageable issues, and that the stakeholders are satisfied with the end product. 

Project management certifications like the Project Management Professional (PMP)® will equip you with the right skills and best practices in Project Management and help you to drive projects of any size or complexity to successful completion. 

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