6 Steps to Successfully Define the Scope of a Project

A well-defined project scope is a necessity to ensure the success of your project. Without it, no matter how efficient, how effective and how hard you work, you won’t be able to succeed in your project.

Defining the project scope entails adopting a clear vision and an agreement on the outcomes of the project. This allows each milestone of the project to stay on target.

Easier said than done, isn’t it?

A project scope is the first step in setting your project goals and objectives.

It also allows you to assign resources and forming a reasonable project timeline.

Once you have this established, it will allow you to allocate tasks more efficiently and provide direction for your employees so that you are able to deliver the project within a deadline and budget.

Project Scope



So how do you set up a project scope?

The following steps can help you to effectively define the scope of a project:

Project Scope Step 1:

1. Identify the project needs

When you are clearly able to identify the needs of a project, you are more likely to set a sound benchmark from the beginning.

Understanding the ‘what and why’ of a project will enable you to set specific goals and objectives.  It also sets the groundwork for what tasks are to follow and how they are to be performed.

Project Scope Step 2:

2. Confirm the objectives and goals of the Project

The basis of the project scope should entail your goals and objectives to be one that follows a SMART guideline.  That is, to be Specific, Measurable and Achievable.  It should also be Realistic and completed within a specific Timeframe.

Specific–This involves stating accurately what the project wants to achieve.  That is, what, why and how these will be done. Clarity will reduce the chances of ambiguities and misunderstandings.

Measurable –Are your goals and objectives able to provide feedback and be accountable for?

Achievable –Can your project’s goals and objectives be achieved, given the resources on hand?

Realistic –Are the goals and objectives easy to deliver, especially if you face problems or complications.  Will these reduce the overall quality of the project’s outcome and cause running over budget and not meeting the set deadlines.

Time Frame –Can your project goals and objectives be met within the allocated time frame?  Is it a key criterion to meet these deadlines?


Project Scope Step 3:

3. Project Scope description

You as a leader, need to be clear about the features and functioning required for your product or service.

For example, you are building a website.  You need a list that provides how you will build your website, the type of branding required and so on.  In other words, what certain qualities will increase achieving your project’s success.


Project Scope Step 4:

4. Expectations and acceptance

Successful projects are ones that take into account the satisfaction of the end-user.  Whether they meet the end-users expectations and accept the product, service or process.  The end-users could be your customers or your internal team.

For customers, this includes pricing, value, and quality of products/services as well as availability, delivery and return policies.  For employees, this includes the effectiveness and efficiency of new operational processes.  Ultimately, your project scope is one that should be attuned to giving better outcomes to whoever your end users may be.


Project Scope Step 5:

5. Identify constraints

There are always roadblocks to achieving what you were set out to do.  When being aware of possible limitations along the way, it can help you minimize problems that may delay or constrain your ability to achieve your project’s outcome.

These can be caused by dynamic environmental conditions (internal and external), technological glitches and/or lack of resources. Communicating such problems with your team early on and taking steps to overcome these hurdles will reduce delays in project completion and keep spending within budget.  Whether these are based on assumptions or uncertainty, analyzing their impact throughout the projects timeline further reduces the risk of failure.

Project Scope Step 6:

6. Identify necessary changes

It is always best to avoid reworking the scope of your project, as it means investing in more time, money and resources.

However, at times these changes are inevitable and necessary.Limit changes by taking on the perspectives of customers, stakeholders, and employees involved in the project.  This minimizes disagreements later on.

Projects are launched all the time across organizations whether they are internal or external

It’s important to ensure successful project implementations so as to avoid a loss of a lot of time, money and in some cases reputations.

Successful Project Management takes into account the following considerations:

  1. An agreement on the acceptable quality level of the output of the project. As an example, if the project is to send a person to the moon, the quality requirements would be dramatically high.
  2. budget for the costs that would be incurred to deliver the project.
  3. An accepted time period during which the project should be completed.

The three aspects are all related to each other and as such are set out at the beginning of the project and are tracked in project tracking software all through the implementation of the project. A task management platform would also be of help, If there is a need to improve any one of the three elements, doing so would impact the other two elements. Similarly, ensuring accurate financial documentation, such as through the use of pay stubs, is essential for tracking project costs effectively, offering a clear view of the financial health of the project at any stage.

Everyone in the organization should learn these three basic aspects of projects and define them at the beginning would help save a lot of costs, time and effort, not to mention reducing stress.

There are many project management tools available that help you plan your projects, track and manage them to achieve your desired business goals.

After all, you don’t want your project to reach its final stages and then sadly realize that a whole lot of re-working needs to be done.

Setting a clear project scope would allow your team to manage it well and ensure that you have a happy customer – whether that is an internal or external one.

Start your project off on the right foot by appropriately defining your project’s scope.  The aim of your project should steer in the direction of successfully meeting your project’s outcome in a timely manner, within budget and be able to satisfy the end users expectations.

Setting an effective project scope gives you and your team a sense of focus.  It provides a foundation in which properly guides your project from start to finish.


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