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01st Jun 2021
As project managers, we’ve all been there to some degree. Having a solid project scope and using it to keep your project on track can avoid such disasters. It’s a critical piece of the project management puzzle.
A project scope is created during the planning stage and it defines the project goals, objectives, deliverables, tasks, resources, costs, and deadlines. Importantly, once approved, it becomes a constant point of reference and the guiding light for the project, informing stakeholders and keeping project teams focused.
Creating an effective project scope is a key skill in any project management career, so we’ve put together this ultimate guide to help you drive better project outcomes. Read on to find out exactly what makes a good project scope, why you need one, and what to include in it. We give expert tips, touch on scope creep, and provide a template to help you craft your next project scope.
The project scope is an agreed summary of all the important parameters of the entire project. A well-written project scope includes things like goals, deliverables, tasks, costs, and deadlines. Usually, it establishes project boundaries, responsibilities, success criteria, and procedures for how work will be approved. It outlines key stakeholders, assumptions, and constraints. Importantly, it describes the project in a way that all stakeholders can understand.
The project scope is sometimes called a statement of work, scope statement, or terms of reference document. It is usually included in the overall project management plan.
“In simple terms, the scope is what a client or sponsor wants delivered. It sums up the work that needs to be done to get the desired result.”
Graham Watt LFAIPM
Your project scope is a key communication tool. A project scope should be developed for every project, regardless of its size or the project management methodology used. It tightly defines all elements of a project and helps deliver successful projects. Writing project scopes is an essential skill for any project manager.
The project scope helps ensure clients, key stakeholders and the project team have the same understanding of the project. It keeps teams on task and helps prevent projects from expanding beyond the established vision. It gives a baseline when scope change is necessary, and it provides the team with guidance when making decisions about change requests during the project.
The project scope is important in every phase of a project:
“By gathering and documenting accurate details, the project scope will reflect all requirements of the project. Project leaders are more likely to be able to deliver products that meet stakeholder expectations on time and on budget with a great scope behind them.”
Graham Watt LFAIPM
Scope management is an overview term used to describe the process of scope definition, scope verification, and scope change/control. Scope management plans are a useful tool to help project managers anticipate the need to update the project scope as the project progresses, carefully control what changes are made, gain approvals to the change, and document the agreed changes.
There is some cross-over in what is in the project scope and what is in the scope management plan. Ultimately, it all feeds into the overall project plan. Remember, the key purpose is to keep the client and stakeholders informed, engaged, and involved throughout. Having a defined project scope and a plan for controlling your project scope will help you finish your project on time, within budget, and to the level expected by your stakeholders.
The term scope creep is often used to describe the continual extension of the scope of a project due to poor planning, miscommunication, or inadequate change control. It happens when more and more work is added to projects as they’re underway. It can lead to poor outcomes like budget overruns, missed deadlines, and under-delivering on core project objectives. It is mostly thought of as something to be avoided at all costs, but if it’s managed well, scope creep isn’t all bad.
Scope creep is not always an obvious problem at first. In fact, it rarely becomes visible until the later stages of a project, wasting a company’s valuable time, talent, and resources. With more than half of all projects experiencing some form of scope creep, this rampant issue is best solved before it begins.
Let’s explore some of the factors that can impact project scope, as well as practical steps for avoiding it in the future.
Scope creep is often caused by accident, primarily through weak documentation, corner-cutting stakeholders, tight timeframes, and limited resources.
There may be one or several factors influencing the scope creep on a project. In all cases, it must be stopped immediately. This must be done via good planning, regular meetings, and excellent scope statements.
Prevent scope creep before it occurs by framing your project in the best possible way.
Managing scope creep is not a simple task, and in the field of project management, it can be a tall order indeed. By leveraging your talent, team, and highly-specific project documents, you may be able to keep the project and your deliverables in check. To help ensure your total success, consider partnering with the expert team at the Australian Institute of Project Management (AIPM).
We’ve created a template to help you write your next project scope. Depending on your organisation, industry, and chosen project management methodology, you might choose to include some of the below in other documents. Use it as a checklist to guide your thinking, ensure you’ve covered all bases, and customise your project scope to suit your needs.
A solid project scope is an essential foundation for a successful project. The scope summarises every important aspect of a project. It provides a clear vision for the project, so that everyone involved has agreed on the outcomes. It ensures the project team is kept on task, on time, and on budget. Building your skills in writing effective project scopes will set your projects (and you) up for success.
As Australia’s longest-serving project management body, the AIPM is a proud provider of project management (PM) resources, certification, and continued professional development. We are more than 8,000 members strong, using our combined experiences to better shape the outcome of our futures. Hone your aptitude, nurture your skills, and prepare to battle scope creep on as many fronts as possible.
Get a membership with us today to take advantage of our national project management certifications, accrediting your skills in a painless, streamlined process that unlocks your fullest potential. Have some questions first? Simply contact us at your earliest convenience to learn more about the AIPM difference. We’re looking forward to connecting with you soon.
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