Defining a Project Scope​: Overview

Defining a project scope is the process where the project manager defines and documents the project’s objectives, deliverables, and boundaries. In addition, the project manager identifies tasks the team needs to accomplish to meet the project goals and sets clear boundaries.

Further, the project scope definition statement includes a description of any risks or assumptions that may impact the project. Also, the project scope provides useful information about the roles and responsibilities of the team. It also defines in-scope and out-of-scope aspects of the project. Consequently, it minimizes any ambiguity and misunderstandings, ensuring that the project stays on track and within its scope.

Defining a project scope
Scope defines in-scope and out-of-scope aspects of the project

Key Components to Define a Project Scope:

  1. Project Description:

    An overview of the project’s purpose, objectives, and high-level goals.

  2. Project Deliverables:

    A detailed list of all the products, services, or results that the project will produce. We clearly define and describe each deliverable.

  3. Project Boundaries:

    Clearly defined inclusions and exclusions in the project. This helps manage expectations and prevent scope creep.

  4. Scope Objectives:

    Specific goals and outcomes the project aims to achieve.

  5. In-Scope Items:

    Items in scope include a list of features, functions, and components that will constitute the project’s final result.

  6. Out-of-Scope Items:

    Identified features, functions, or components that stakeholders might expect but are not part of the project’s scope.

  7. Constraints

    Factors that might limit the project, such as budget, resources, time, and technological limitations.

  8. Assumptions:

    Statements about aspects that are considered to be true but haven’t been fully validated yet. These can be important considerations as the project progresses.

  9. Dependencies:

    Identified external factors, events, or deliverables that the project depends on.

  10. Risks:

    Potential issues or challenges that might arise during the project.

  11. Approach:

    A high-level description of the methodology or approach used to achieve the project’s objectives.

  12. Milestones:

    The project timeline identifies key points where the team expects to complete certain deliverables.

  13. Acceptance Criteria:

    A project is successful when it meets specific conditions and requirements and stakeholders accept them.

  14. Project Exclusions:

    The project does not include these items or activities.

  15. Stakeholder Roles and Responsibilities:

    The roles and responsibilities of various stakeholders involved in the project.

  16. Change Control Process:

    It outlines the procedure for handling changes to the project scope, including the evaluation and approval process for change requests.

  17. Communication Plan:

    It describes how stakeholders will communicate project-related information.

  18. Sign-off:

    Indicates the process by which stakeholders will formally approve the scope document, demonstrating their agreement.

Creating a comprehensive and well-defined scope document is essential for project success. Consequently, it provides a clear roadmap and reference point for all parties involved. Further, it helps to prevent misunderstandings, scope changes without proper evaluation, and unmet expectations. Remember that you can evolve the scope document over the course of the project, but you should manage any changes through a formal change control process to maintain control over the project’s scope.

Steps to Define Project Scope:

Defining a clear and well-defined project scope is essential to prevent scope creep (uncontrolled expansion of project scope) and ensure that the project stays focused and achievable.

  1. Gather Requirements: First, identify stakeholders’ needs and expectations through discussions, interviews, and surveys.
  2. Prioritize Requirements: Next, rank requirements based on their importance and impact on project success.
  3. List Deliverables: Specify the tangible outputs or results the project will produce.
  4. Detail Requirements: Outline specific requirements for each deliverable, including features, functions, and quality criteria.
  5. Develop a scope statement: A scope statement is a document that outlines the project’s goals, deliverables, timelines, and risks. The team can refer to this document for decision-making as the project progresses.
  6. Create a work breakdown structure: The project manager should hierarchically list the tasks and milestones and organize them into logical groups. This is the Work Breakdown Structure or WBS.
  7. Set Boundaries: To manage stakeholder expectations, you need to define what is not included in the project scope.
  8. Review and Approval: Finally, share the scope statement with stakeholders for review and approval to ensure alignment.

Additional Tips:

Asking the right questions to get the right information before defining the scope of the project is very important:

  • Stakeholders:

    What factors led to the decision to initiate the project? How did the idea originate—from customers or other stakeholders? Who will approve the scope of the project?

  • Goals:

    What is the goal of this project, and what are we trying to accomplish?

  • Deliverables:

    Which process is being targeted? Does the process need a remodel?

  • Resources:

    What kind of resources do we need to successfully complete the project?

  • Budget:

    What is the project’s budget?

  • Schedule:

    Are there time constraints on the project?

  • Flexibility:

    Is the project accommodating enough to include any changes that can occur during later phases of the project?


In summary, defining the project scope is the foundation for a successful project. It sets the direction, boundaries, and expectations for the project. Further, it also helps to prevent scope creep, ensure alignment, allocate resources effectively, and manage risks. Overall, by following a structured approach to defining scope, project managers can enhance project outcomes and stakeholder satisfaction.

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