What is Scope in Project Management? [Guide & FAQs]

5 min read

Whether you’re a project manager, team member, or stakeholder, you’ll need to understand the meaning of project scope to effectively map out your objectives and ensure on-time deliverables.

What is scope in project management?

In project management, scope encompasses the project’s goals, constraints, and deliverables. A project’s scope is defined during the initiation phase

The many facets of a project’s scope include: 

  • Objectives

  • End products

  • Deadlines

  • Key milestones

  • Motivations

  • Requirements

  • Boundaries

  • Estimated costs

  • Measures of success

What is the difference between scope and objectives? Project objectives are an aspect of the project scope that your team must determine during the planning phase. The objectives are what you hope to accomplish through the project; the scope includes every component of the project.

The project scope also differs from the product scope. The product scope looks at the attributes of the deliverable you intend to create through the project. The scope of the project considers everything involved in making the end product.

Project Scope Statement

Your project scope planning should result in the creation of a scope statement. This document describes the work required to finish the project successfully. It also states the previously listed factors, such as goals, limitations, and success criteria.

Creating an in-depth scope statement will explicitly define your project, so everyone involved understands it. Stakeholders and other company executives can refer to this document when they have questions. 

You can use project management software to create a scope statement. The application will allow you to tailor the document format to suit the project. Plus, you can easily share, modify, and track progress on the file. 

Why should you define the scope of a project before starting it? The biggest reasons include the following:

  • Clearly defining the project so everyone understands it

  • Ensuring the final result matches everyone’s expectations

  • Keeping the project on time and within the budget

  • Reducing the chance of a mid-project change of course

  • Avoiding unnecessary or unplanned work through scope creep

According to the Project Management Institute (PMI), the most common factors in project failures are unclear requirements and improper planning. A project scope statement aims to avoid failure by defining the project’s constraints, assumptions, success factors, and objectives. 

How to Define Project Scope

Follow these steps when you define your scope in project management:

  1. Define the project goals: Create SMART goals that you will use to guide the project.

  2. Gather project requirements to identify constraints: Collect all stakeholder expectations, such as financial and project timeline conditions. Use these to determine the exclusions and boundaries of the project. 

  3. Formulate deliverables: Make a detailed description of the expected end products and record all significant traits.

  4. Identify crucial tasks: List all notable work required to create the project deliverables. Consider dependencies when making the statement of work.

  5. List all needed resources: Determine what you need to complete the project tasks, including equipment, expertise, personnel, and accesses. Have an idea of how you’ll allocate those resources.

  6. Establish a change control process: Create a procedure for making necessary changes to the project plan. 

You should perform all of these steps during the project initiation phase. Document your assessments in the scope document.

Project Scope Management Processes

Once you define the project's scope, it becomes the project manager’s responsibility to manage it. This involves following a scope management plan to monitor scope throughout the project life cycle. 

The PMBOK identifies six project scope management processes: 

  1. Plan scope management: Create a plan document using the project charter. This outlines how you will control the project’s scope, such as receiving change requests.

  2. Collect requirements: Perform interviews and focus group discussions on gathering input from stakeholders, customers, and staff.

  3. Define scope: This is when you create the project scope statement. 

  4. Create a work breakdown structure: Having a WBS makes it easier to analyze project requirements and assign them to team members.

  5. Validate scope: Key stakeholders must sign off before the work can start. You’ll either receive approval or need to make revisions. 

  6. Control scope: Monitor the project’s progress. You must actively work to control the scope, as scope creep can naturally seep in. Make official changes to the project plan as needed.

Additional Tips

Consider this advice when defining the scope to have a successful project:

  • Don’t rush scope planning: This discussion should take more than a two-hour meeting. Set aside multiple days to accurately define the scope, and collaborate extensively!

  • Use a project management tool: Use project management software to document scope, assign workers, and communicate progress. Limiting yourself to a basic program like Excel will be a nightmare. 

  • Follow a project management methodology: Completing a complex project becomes easier if you adhere to a process and established workflow. Choose an approach that suits your needs, like Waterfall, Scrum, or Agile

  • Keep revisiting the scope statement: Don’t just forget about the scope statement once you make it. Refamiliarize yourself with it often to keep its directives in mind. 

A Network of Skilled Project Managers

Defining the scope is crucial for accomplishing your company’s next project — and so is having the right person managing that project. An experienced project manager can give your project the best chance at success by guiding every step of the process. 

Are you searching for project managers with PMP certifications? Contact MVP Match. We’ll connect you with quality candidates you can hire for your next IT project, including freelance project managers and team members.

About the Author

Kate manages content marketing for talent acquisition at MVP Match. Her job? Attracting the best and brightest tech talent into our community where they are matched with rewarding roles they deserve. She's a copywriter at heart, and has spent over 10 years in marketing for tech, healthcare, and consulting firms. An avid traveler and workation pro, Kate both embraces and advocates for a future where everyone is empowered to define work on their terms.