Defining a Project’s Scope

To ensure that the project’s objectives remain fixed, the project team may wish to fill out a scope statement that clearly details the objectives and deliverables that are within scope, as well as those that are out of scope.

Avoid scope creep.

As a project progresses, enthusiasm and momentum may tempt a project team to allow a project’s scope to expand beyond its original parameters, leading to scope creep. Though the changes may seem minor, additional goals cost time and/or resources, and may even hinder project completion.

Define what is in scope.

Create a detailed list of the project’s objectives and deliverables, breaking complex items into individual pieces. (In other words, if the project entails building a website to present digitized historical letters, treat the digitized letters and the website itself as two separate deliverables.)

Define what is out of scope.

Determining what you will not be doing can be just as important as determining what you will be doing, especially in terms of preventing confusion and managing your stakeholders’ expectations. Consider what is not within the project’s scope. (These items often follow the phrase, “Wouldn’t it be great if…?”) List any related tasks that may potentially sidetrack the project or its members.

Determine success criteria and constraints.

What constitutes success for the project’s objectives and deliverables? List the criteria, while taking into account success from multiple angles.

  • Objectives: How will you determine if the goals of the project have been achieved?
  • Deliverables: How will you decide if the deliverables function as intended?
  • Budget: What are the budgetary constraints, and how will you work within them?
  • Resources: What are the resource constraints, and how will you work within them?
  • Timetable: What deadlines must be met?

Making Changes

Change sometimes becomes necessary during the course of a project; however, making adjustments to the project’s scope requires consultation with team members and stakeholders, as well as careful consideration of the proposed change’s impact. Ensure that project resources can accommodate the change, and document the implications for the project’s deliverables, resource requirements, and timeline. (Consider the scope, cost, and time as a triad wherein one element generally may not be altered without affecting the other two.)

Additionally, make sure that it is clear who has the authority to make changes, and what the decision process for making and documenting changes looks like.

Changes should be reflected in updates to both the project charter and scope statement, and new versions of these documents should be distributed to all team members and stakeholders. Alternatively, you made use a change request form and change log to be appended to original project documentation.