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What is project scope?

Scoping a project resolves questions and issues related to project goals. The scope determines the deliverables, tasks, costs and deadlines. It’s the big picture view of the project.

Importance of a project scope

Project managers need a clear scope for assigning tasks and scheduling deadlines. Likewise, the outline allows efficient budget management.

Project teams also benefit from a clear scope. It keeps the team focused and on-task. As project teams know, clients’ wants and needs often change during the project cycle and when change requests are made, a project scope allows the team to respond.

Therefore, the scope also acts as a boundary. It can block drastic changes that the project can’t accommodate. This is key to managing scope creep.

What is scope creep?

Also known as requirement creep or feature creep, scope creep is when a project requirements has increased over the project’s lifecycle. For example, a project that starts with one deliverable now has five. Or a project with four essential features at the outset now has 10.

Some scope creep is caused by stakeholders changing requirements. It can also be a result of miscommunication or disagreements.

It may not always lead to delays, blocks or a project going over budget. That’s because scope creep isn’t always a bad thing. Customers’ needs will change over time and delivering a project that meets their needs means altering the scope. Enforced, limited scope creep is a reality of project management and one that a manager expects.

How to set the project scope

To set the scope, you need this information before the project starts:

  • Input from stakeholders
  • Clients’ needs and wants of the project, including the objectives or deliverables
  • Budget – in other words, how much the client can pay for it

Writing a scope statement

A scope statement outlines the project, providing key information. This is the springboard for the entire project.

Writing a scope includes:

Information gathering – the project manager gathers precise information so they can set the key elements. These include budget, objectives, quality and project timeline.

Inclusions and non-inclusions – the statement sets out what’s included in the project. It’s also common to note what’s not included. This makes the work easier to define and minimises scope creep.

The scope is shared with all stakeholders and the project team. This ensures everyone involved knows what changes can or can’t be accommodated. For fluid and responsive project management, you can always review and revise the project scope as necessary.