Project Scope Management: What It Is and How to Do It (in 6 Steps)

by Jon Ogden
, 4 min read
project scope management

In today’s fast-paced, modern workplace, work is increasingly done and managed digitally, and communication gets spread across multiple mediums. In the midst of all this chaos, it is imperative to have an effective project scope management plan in place.

Project scope refers to the total amount of work that must be done in order to deliver a product, service, or result with specified functions and features. It includes everything that must go into a project, as well as what defines its success.

Without a comprehensive project scope management plan, there’s a good chance your team is doing work that’s unnecessary to complete the project at hand, or even wasting time thinking about what they should be doing next.

To help you get your team working on more of the right work, here are some of the key processes involved in effective project scope management as suggested by the Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge. We’ve added our own commentary to each step.

1. Plan Your Scope 

In the planning phase, you want to gather input from all of the project stakeholders. Together you will decide and document how you want to define, manage, validate, and control the project’s scope. The scope management plan also includes information on how you will handle unforeseen circumstances throughout the project, how the deliverables will be accepted, and how you will come up with some of the other key elements including a work breakdown structure (WBS) and a scope statement.

2. Collect Requirements

This process will give you a clear idea of what your stakeholders want and how you’re going to manage their expectations. You will document exactly what is wanted out of the project as far as status updates and final deliverables. This information can be gathered through focus groups, interviews, or surveys, and by creating prototypes. Your requirements management plan can help you avoid many frustrating hurdles throughout the project.

3. Define Your Scope

Once you know how you’re going to create your scope statement and you understand what deliverables are expected, you’re ready to clearly define exactly what is in scope and what is out of scope for your project. A project scope statement will serve as a guide throughout the project. Team members should be able to refer to it and easily be reminded of what is and is not involved in that specific job.

It may seem odd to list what is not involved in the project, but that is a crucial step. It can be hard to remember what is explicitly excluded from the project scope. If someone is asked to work on an area that is outside of a project’s scope, they should be able to refer to this statement and explain why they can’t work on that at the moment.

The project scope statement does not need to be long and drawn out. In fact, you may be able to get it down to one line. In his book, Done Right, Workfront CEO Alex Shootman describes how Sean Pederson with Trek Bicycles thinks about project scope. Pederson says, “When I’m leading a team and we’re talking about establishing a new process or planning out the design and development of a new product, I try to lead the team down the path of ‘keep it simple.’ One sentence: define it. And one question: is it measurable?”

Shootman writes that for Pederson, it all comes down to writing one sentence to guide the project. It’s a statement that will be the basis for all project activity.

4. Create a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)

Based on your project scope statement and the documents created during requirements collection, you’ll want to build a WBS, which is essentially the entire project broken down into smaller individual tasks. Deliverables are clearly defined, providing the project manager and the team with several more manageable units of work.

A streamlined operational system of record makes creating a WBS simple. In Workfront’s enterprise work management platform, for instance, it’s easy to standardize and automate forms, tasks, and workflows. Your team can work faster and more efficiently, knowing they are working on the correct tasks in order to complete a project.

5. Validate Your Scope

This is where your deliverables are reviewed by whoever needs to approve them, whether it be a customer, a stakeholder, a manager, or all three. It’s important to have a plan in place for exactly how project deliverables will be accepted as complete. At the end of this process, you’ll accept deliverables, change requests, or project document updates.

With an operational system of record, you’re able to set up the scope validation process ahead of time so that each deliverable is automatically submitted for approval by whoever needs to see it. You can skip the long, confusing email chains and avoid unnecessary meetings. Stakeholders can see completed tasks for a project all in one place, and be immediately notified when a task is awaiting approval.

6. Control Your Scope

A project’s status should be monitored from start to finish to ensure that it is being executed according to your project scope management plan. You never know when the scope may need to change or a customer may add new requirements. In order to control the scope, project managers should compare performance reports with the project requirements. Using Workfront, any gaps will be easy to spot and change, quickly getting the project back on track.

Implementing these project scope management processes takes a fair amount of time and effort, but in the long run they will save you time, money, and headaches. A good scope management plan involves open communication between all the stakeholders and team members involved in a project, so there are fewer surprises and miscommunications throughout. Everyone knows and understands exactly what work is involved, and can easily stay focused on the right deliverables.

In this digital age, Workfront makes it even easier to craft your project scope management plan. Our system of record for work allows you to document all six of these processes in one place. Stakeholders can view, edit, and manage a project’s scope in real time, at any time. If you’re ready to increase your team’s efficiency, contact us today.
 

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