8 Steps to Defining Project Scope for Business Success

Organizations typically know what goals they want to accomplish and have grand ideas and intentions from a high-level, big-picture perspective. However, organizers often overlook the detailed, actionable steps in achieving these big ideas defined in the project scope.

“Ideas are cheap. Ideas are easy. Ideas are common. Everybody has ideas. Ideas are highly, highly overvalued. Execution is all that matters” — Casey Neistat

According to Lucid Chart, there are four phases in a project management life cycle: initiation, planning, execution, and closure. Even though the phases have distinct qualities that overlap, this article focuses on defining the specifications within the first phase, the project scope. 

Project scope is a process that helps determine the overall project goals, tasks, deliverables, deadlines, and budgets as a part of the initiation process. Your project scope helps your business envision the entire project’s lifecycle to ensure the end goals are achievable and worthwhile. 

Below are eight steps to defining your project scope and effectively deploying within your organization.

1. Establish Objectives

Before defining your project scope, you first have to establish objectives. Project objectives describe and measure the “what” of a project. Eventually, your project scope will get you there, but first, we must determine what “there” is. 

Great questions to ask at this stage include:

    • What does project success look like?
    • What factors are involved in this project?
    • How will we measure performance? 

A project objective can act as a guidepost while always reflecting the project’s overall purpose. If a goal is to increase website traffic, an objective would be to increase pageviews by 10% over the next 90 days, recording results every two weeks.

Without project objectives, an organization doesn’t have a straightforward way of communicating goals to members over the project life cycle or even verifying if they are hitting their target. Objectives provide a measurable process to evaluate success.

2. Parameters and Limitations

Understanding what a project will not do is essential to create boundaries and meet expectations before beginning this venture. Determining what the project will not cover will ensure your team members aren’t wasting time on irrelevant tasks. 

In the beginning, decide which assignments are necessary to complete the project and who is responsible for the respective duties. Document everyone’s jobs so that employees stay on track. 

If you do not document the necessary steps, confusion is imminent, and some workers may assume specific tasks will get done. Still, since no one was appointed, these unexpected duties will eat up more of your timeline and budget. As the leader, it is your job to provide clarity to all members who play a role in the project. 

3. Project Scope Requirements

It is vital to discern exact requirements to estimate costs and timelines. This knowledge will require you to work with the project stakeholders to understand their needs. If you don’t know what the customer and users need or want, project success cannot be achieved.

Without doing your due diligence in this critical step, you may find yourself running into the following issues:

    • Requirements that constantly change
    • A complete rethink of deliverables mid-project
    • The outcome not being what the client expected

By conducting interviews, customer surveys, and personally call your users to gain the information necessary to understand there is a need for the project. Understanding the requirements will bring you closer to establishing resources, deliverables, and a timeframe to complete while maintaining the project margin.

4. Scope Documentation

A project scope statement puts all of your research to use in detailed documentation describing the justification for the project. This statement explains the individual project deliverables objectives and how to accomplish them.

This documentation ensures the stakeholders and team members are all on the same page while maintaining expectations and staying on track.

5. Train Team Members

Once you discuss the project scope with your team, you must ensure these employees can complete their assigned tasks. Additional specialized training or education may be necessary, and it is important to anticipate these costs and time requirements before beginning the project. 

6. Institute Deadlines

To ensure your project is completed within the allotted time, create weekly or bi-weekly deadlines while checking in with each team member or department to ascertain they are meeting these deadlines. 

7. Change Management

If certain members or departments are falling behind, it is essential to reallocate resources rapidly. There will always be roadblocks or limitations you didn’t expect. By swiftly identifying these constraints, you can quickly minimize the problems and overcome hurdles.

Scope creep occurs when additional features, functions, requirements, or work is added beyond the original parameters. Project cost increases, time delays, and low productivity are examples of potential causes for scope creep. 

Establishing an effective change management process can help avoid scope creep. Change control is a methodology used to manage any change requests that impact the baseline of your project. It is a way to capture a change, such as weather delays or low staffing levels, and evaluate the request with the stakeholders who will approve or deny the change, along with any necessary adjustments to your budget.

8. Communicate Well

Good communication is the single most crucial component to the success of your project.

The best method to ensure effective communication within your project is to develop a communication plan. This plan documents all communication activities and provides alerts to ensure you have an adequate follow-up plan for your stakeholders team members, and anyone else involved. 

During the project management process, unexpected events are sure to pop up eventually, which is why it is critical to have a well-researched plan in place. By managing the project’s scope, the PM can document all required resources to accomplish the project goals within the timeframe while staying on budget. 

Overall, setting a defined project scope ensures stakeholders are happy as their project will be completed on time, team members are empowered to manage their workload, and project managers have the flexibility to restructure as needed.



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